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Relationship Issues after partners relapse

Possible Trigger warnings for bipolar, affairs, drug use and self harm - no one in immediate risk of harm though


My Wife was dignosed 5 years ago with bipolar after some very destructive behaviour mainly in the form of a spate of damaging affairs. We managed to repair our relationship for the most part. The fact she was undiagnosed and untreated at the time going a long way to help me reconcile her behaviour. We spent a couple years in counselling and she was (at least initially) proactive in her own treatment.

Recently I have discovered she has been having another affair for at the last couple months possibly longer with someone who was a mutual friend. She quickly divulged that she had stopped taking her medication regularly, had experimented a couple times with marijuana(which she had never had any experience with before) and had stopped attending her appointments. She is now back on medication and attending her meetings with her pschologist and booked in with her psychiatrist soon. 


She wants to repair the relationship again and doing "all the right things" but I am having a lot of reservations. On an emotional level I still love my wife but am strugglng to see a way forward to feeling safe in the relationship again. I always knew relapses would happen but was told that they wouldn't be anywhere near as severe as her first big episode because of meds and the fact that shes aware of her condition. This is the second time going through this so some things hurt less but some hurt more too. First time I was suicidal and angry punching walls etc. but haven't experienced anything like that this time round mainly just anxiety and big bouts of sadness and dissapointment.


I'm still my wifes primary support and she's obviously still going through a lot too but I'm really resenting having to carry her through so much of this.


I'm booked in to speak to a psycologist myself and we are both looking at some couple counselling in a months time. I'm mainly venting but very open to any tips or advise from anyone who has been down a similiar road



Re: Relationship Issues after partners relapse

Hi @SleepyDad 

Welcome to the SANE forums!   It's great to have you here.  Thanks for posting about your situation.   I'm sure that the forum members will be able to offer you support, information and connection.  I'm the moderator this afternoon.  Feel free to ask the SANE forum team or the members if you need help with how to use the forum.  The Guidelines are also a very useful doc -


Re: Relationship Issues after partners relapse

Hi @SleepyDad  and welcome to the forums.  Good on you for sharing so openly what's going on for you.  I have bipolar 1 myself, tho' haven't been married (now 56 so it's pretty unlikely I will).  But I have been in a long relationship (15 years) that never progressed to living together at least partly of my episodes of either being accelerated and elevated or majorly depressed.  When we were good we were very good, but he would step back if I went into an episode.  He had a clear boundary about not being around when I was being irresponsible.  I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you to manage with your wife's behaviour.  Unfortunately, hypersexuality is quite often part of what people with bipolar experience.  I've been there myself.   

I see that your wife has been diagnosed for 5 years - Part of learning to self-manage bipolar is learning to maintain insight into where you're at in terms of mood (high or low) and adjust your behaviour accordingly.  This takes a level of acceptance and responsibility on the part of the person with bipolar (pwb).  As does medication compliance.  I've been diagnosed for 10 years now (but probably bipolar since a child) and it took at least a few for me to develop the ability to do these things and to get the meds right.  And a total comitment to being stable  Unfortunately some pwb love the highs so much that they don't want to be medication managed.  It's true that when high a pwd feels super-human, often has grandiose delusions and flight of ideas, over spends, gets so angry they rage, and much more.  There's a lot of research available on the net these days.  


I think you are taking the right steps with seeing a psychologist yourself and going to counselling together... it does sound like she wants to stay with you.   


So what am I saying ... only you can decide how long you stay in the relationship for, given that your wife doesn't want to stay on meds, has affairs, smokes pot (it can trigger bipolar episodes in some people - did for me), and doesn't attend her therapy appointments.   Your mental health is as important as hers.  In the past I've been given an ultimatum to get responsible about self-managing or lose someone and looking back I can see that it was fair of the other person to reach that point.  And we managed to stay together but in a different way.  To me trust is the most important quality in a healthy relationship, and I don't want to be the one to break it.  It's so hard to get back.


Hoping some of what I've written is helpful, I can only talk from my own experience.  I am sure you will find people with similar experience to you if you stick around on the forums.  Tagging @Shaz51 @Faith-and-Hope  here in case you know other people who might join this discussion.

Take care @SleepyDad 


Re: Relationship Issues after partners relapse

Thank you @eth, I appreciate your input. It's obviously a tough time for all involved and everythings quite emotionally charged,I hope that nothing I share causes any offence or hurt to anyone.


My wife stopping meds was quite a shock, she works in health and would be the first to tell anyone else that medication compliance is important. She is back to taking them regularly, we invested in one of those pill organizer trays with the days of the week so its easy to see if shes missed a dose.

Honesty is quite the sticking point for us, she obviously lied to cover up her behaviour and that includes in and out of manic times. There is also a lot of keeping things to herself which is on par with outright lying. For example the other man approached her over a year ago and "hit on her" when she was still taking meds and in an ok headspace and she kept it to herself instead of telling me and considering our history she knew the importance of this.

Also it's quite obvious that she will only give out details if asked/confronted directly, I know it's painful for her to talk about her negative actions but I can't seem to get her to understand that she needs to get everything out and into the open now rather then letting me stumble upon them later.  I struggle with what is due to bipolar and what is due to her character and thats making it hard to reconcile. 


I would rather know a painful truth then be blissfully ignorant but she keeps acting as if the lies are to stop me from hurting but without fail each lie makes things 100x worse


I love her and want to make it work but am scared to death that I will lie to myself to excuse bad behaviour and open our children and myself to more hurt.

Sorry to sound so negative, I hope to have happier musings to share soon.



Re: Relationship Issues after partners relapse

Hi again @SleepyDad  I really wish I could give you more ideas on what to do, but want you to know I'm still here listening.  Your posts are brave and open, not a problem in any way.  That's what we're here for.  

It's very difficult to discern what's character and what's happening because of  the bipolar.  I tried to do that for a long time, but these days I feel like the bipolar manifests in ways that are totally connected to who I am at a more wholistic level.  Hope that makes sense.  I cannot separate them as 2 aspects of self, I have accepted that bipolarity is an integral part of me and me as a whole has to be responsible about how it manifests, recognising triggers, recognising when things are starting to change and putting strategies in place for if it escalates or takes me down ... as much as possible.  I 'flip' (switch moods in an instant)  much less often - but the medication is part of why most likely.

Very glad to hear she's back on her meds - hope they really help stabilise things for you both.

Hearing you about the need for total honesty and full disclosure.  Loud and clear.  Trust is the most important quality in a relationship for me (think I said that before).  I'm impressed that you are so clearly dedicated to working things out with her.


Re: Relationship Issues after partners relapse

Hi @eth and everyone else following,

I often think It must be so much harder with society so fixated on the negative aspects of bipolar, I know there is also much that would often be considered a boon to most people, increased energy, creativity and the like but it seems like with a lot of things people focus on the negatives and things quickly become stigmatised. I say this because I understand most people kicking around the forums are likely here(at least initially) because somethings gone wrong and I don't wan't anyone reading my situation to feel that I am deliberately fixating the bad points and tarring everyone in the community with the same brush because I have/am struggling with a bad situation. I appreciate the perspective you bring from your experiences with bipolar and recognise that everyone is different and in their own unique situation.

I think I understand what you mean about bipolarity being a part of the whole.
I am under no illusion that my wife wouldn't ever contemplate an affair, I am often an overly moralistic person and I still have wondered what it would be like to sleep around myself so it would be a bit rich of me to expect more of others. Difference in this case being I've never acted on or given more then a passing thought to the urge. I guess what I mean by struggling with what is due to "character vs bipolar" is not to do with whether she wanted to step outside our marriage but more to do with would she still have acted on it even if she didn't have problems with impulse control. BP can contribute to poor decision making but it's not exclusive, plenty of people find themselves making bad decisions without it. I know theres never a way of really knowing but the struggle persists.

She has never tried outright to blame her behaviour on bipolar but she has often shielded herself behind individual symptoms, poor memory etc. And that is hard for me to balance it in my head, At times I feel awful for ever doubting her and then times I feel like she is playing on BP to get away with bad behaviour.


I guess I'm an eclectic man with some new and old fashion ideas, I took my commitment to marriage as the most serious thing in my life second only to the responsibilities I have to my children. I never thought of marriage as a promise to be perfect and not ever stuff things up but more of a promise to keep trying to do your best even when its hard. But even then I still know there are limits to what is healthy to put up with and I'm scared we are pushing it.

On positive notes I am eating and sleeping a little better and putting back on some of the weight I've lost this last month. Things are quiet at home and there is no real contention between us other then the elephant in the room.

Thanks again everyone for the support,


Re: Relationship Issues after partners relapse

Hey there @SleepyDad  thanks so much for updating us on what has been happening within the relationship. I think your values around raising children and the commitments you have to relationship are really solid and beautiful. Above everything else, you possess a high degree of self-awareness and an objective approach to reflection.


Heart Communicating in relationship is not always easy, sometimes moreso with complex mental health issues in the mix -  reach out here whenever you need some input from peers. The community is always here to listen


Re: Relationship Issues after partners relapse

hello @SleepyDad  and welcome to the forum my friend

My husband has bipolar 11 and other diagnosis

he has stopped his meds and goes back on them after a week

we are herre for you and let you know you are not alone xx


Re: Relationship Issues after partners relapse

Hi @SleepyDad and welcome.

Just want to echo what @nashy said about the strength of your commitment in marriage and to your children. I admire that, and I'm thinking of you.

I am both bipolar and have been on the wrong end of unfaithfulness and marriage breakdown after sticking it out in a bad marriage for 20 years. 

You mentioned some important things in a few of your posts about self care and limits. What ever happens in the relationship, these two things are crucial for your wellbeing. You sound like a caring, giving person and it's important that you extend those qualities to yourself. It took me a long time to work that out - decades. Things are better for me now. Wishing you well.


Re: Relationship Issues after partners relapse

Thank you @nashy@frog & @Shaz51 for the kind words.

At the moment it feels a bit like we are in limbo. Waiting on appointments with proffesionals(hers and mine)  before we can move along with things. We are at a stage where we are kind of repeating the same stuff, usually me with questions that shes unable to answer yet.

There's a lot i feel she needs to work out/on with her Psychologist that she won'tever be able to figure out with me but I'm a little worried she will avoid it without being pushed. In the past I really tried my hardest to be hands off with her proffesional support team, attended one or two meetings initialy and then gave her some privacy. Now I feel like I need to march her into the appointments and give her a set agenda to work on otherwise she might just spend the time only working over superficial/surface issues. I know a good Psych will see past delaying tactics and get her on track eventually, I guess I'm just feeling anxious and impatient.

The first time she was unfaithful there wasn't any people in our social circle involved so apart from her moving areas at work we didn't have to change lifestyle much at all. This time though it was with a long time mutual friend right in the middle of our biggest social circle and the secret is out. She is desperately avoiding bumping into anyone she suspects has heard the rumours. She has little meltdowns every time the reality sinks in that she can't go to our regular events or places without seeing someone who "knows", I really hate seeing her upset but It's also hard for me to be sympathetic when she is upset about consequences of her actions.

A huge thing for us is our martial arts club, It's like a second family.  My wife, kids and I all train there. We met at the club, and have trained there over a decade together. I run the kids classes so we often end up there 3-4 nights a week. This is is also how we know and met the other man, he's left town so no longer in the picture but obviously this has complicated things a lot for us at the club. Most of it I know will settle down and be fine in time, people love drama but when they aren't directly involved they eventually forget and move onto the next thing.


Time, helps but not in a hurry Smiley Frustrated

Thanks again,

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