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Marriage may not survive daughter’s bi polar disorder

PinkSoap1960's picture

First time posting here. DH and I have been together for 12 years, married for 6.  A year after we were married my BD25 began to have serious depression her second year in college. I have two grown kids, and two skids. SD23 and SS 19. BD's depression went misdiagnosed for a few years, I finally had to have her hospitalized and she was diagnosed with bi polar type 2 and started on the right meds. The more I learn about this form the more I realized her Dad had it too, he is deceased for 20 years. DH has never had any time for her depression and would get annoyed and say things like she is lazy etc. when she couldn't leave her bed. In full disclosure, I am financially supporting her but now she does work full time and likes her job although it is low pay but she does contribute. She lives in an apartment and is very attached to her two dogs. Recently she went off her meds (this seems to be a common thing with bi polar people when they see they are doing well) and had two bad crazy episodes, for want of a better word. She is not easy to manage, the highs and the lows persist. I try to understand DH's lack of sympathy because she is not his bio kid but lately I find his lack of emotional support for ME is just pissing me off so much. I have a good job and can manage financially to help her witho9ut ever using any of our joint finances. My parents passed and left me a significant amount of money and I bless them for this as it helps. When we argue he always brings up the money. I have tried to tell him of the agony it is worrying that your daughter may harm herself or the grief I feel at seeing my own child so ill she has a hard time keeping friends and relationships. But I can also see his point of view, that she does cause me worry and upset. He recently told me he wants me to "cut her off" and I told him that will never, ever happen. I don't know if our marriage can survive this as it is a constant source of arguing. Would love to hear your advice!

tog redux's picture

It's a delicate balance with a mentally ill child - to help and support while still encouraging them to be as independent as possible. It takes people with bipolar a while to accept their diagnosis and learn to live with and manage the symptoms. Can you work with her therapist to be sure you aren't enabling her, even if you end up providing some level of support forever?  As hard as it is to see your child struggling, you also don't want to inadvertently rescue her from the consequences she needs to grow. 

Maybe marriage counseling would help you and DH discuss this in a more productive way. Sounds like he feels you are enabling her.

KC is not the stepmother's picture

Can you tell her that financial assistance will stop if she goes off her meds?  

Loxy's picture

I would ask your husband if he would be acting the same way if your BD had MS or ASL? I imagine he would answer no. I would then tell him that bi pilor is no differnent, it's a disorder that your daughter has through no fault of her own. People with bi polar need lots of help to adjust and navigate the new norm and I think it's unbelievably callous the way your husband is acting.

I like the suggestion of tying your financial support to your daughter staying on her meds and maybe also work with her GP and therapist to develop a plan to get her back into full-time (or close to) work and back on her feet and living successfully with the disorder. 

My question to you is do you want your marriage to survive with such a cold man who clearly has no empathy?

TwirlMS's picture

My DH has a daughter with a personality disorder in the same "cluster B" type as bipolar.  She has histrionic personality disorder which causes her to have nasty temper tantrums and always needs to be the center of attention.  It is so draining to be around her we actually moved away in order to escape the havoc she would cause to our marriage.  She survived and even became more self sufficient by us not coming to her rescue all the time.  I even turned off our answering machine and stopped answering the phone so her latest drama wouldn't take over our home.  

Now that we are in our mid 60s we have done our time in raising kids and our spouse must be our first priority.  

Survivingstephell's picture

Get the books by Julie Fast.  She has FB groups and Instagram.  You'll find great help in them. 

NYCEastside's picture

Her illness manifested itself in her early thirties. She was an extremely challenging patient because she is a PHD biochemist and was sure she knew more than the doctors. After a couple of hospitalizations, and with the help of a pschyopharmocologist, she has been stable for many years. This is truly an illness that can be managed with medication. Your husband should educate himself before he makes value judgements. I agree that support should be tied to taking the medication AND to going to doctors appointments even when she thinks she is fine.. I hope you can help her to find the right medical team. BTW - My sister just turned 70, has been on medication for decades, had a long happy marriage until her husband passed away, and has had a successful career as a university professor. There is hope.


Gimlet's picture

I can see both sides of this as a bio and step parent.

I agree with tog that there is a fine line between supporting and enabling.  It sounds like you believe you are supporting her and your husband might think you are enabling her.

As a mom, I understand that it's scary to deal with a child's mental illness.  My DD inherited depression from her dad's side of the family, in which there are multiple instances of suicide.  She had a bad bout in college and we got her on meds and got her through it.  I went to her college just about every weekend to spend time with her.  She also went to counseling and learned ways to support herself and how to deal with the fact that the depression isn't ever going to be cured, but can be managed.

As a stepparent, I also understand how frustrating it is when you feel like your partner is choosing to enable their child (usually out of fear) instead of setting reasonable goals and boundaries.  YSS has some mental health issues and there are days I am so very tired of it, mostly when he isn't doing the work and using the support systems he has and wants to just dump it on my DH.   It affects me too, just as my DD's struggles indirectly impacted him.

From my understanding, BiPolar disorder is treatable and manageable and it sounds like you've done everything you can, including financially supporting her, to help her get on her feet.  I agree that she needs to accept that the meds are part of her life, period, and I think it's reasonable for you to make taking them part of your agreement. 

I think the other thing for you to consider is something I've talked to DH about - you aren't always going to be here.  Part of supporting her journey is getting her on her feet or starting to talk to her about what her life will look like when you are gone and can no longer do her heavy lifting.  That might sound harsh, but unless she is so ill that she cannot get better, you will have to consider that she will be on her own someday and if she is truly that ill, then starting to figure out a facility for her care, or someone to help care for her should be on the list. 

I have to wonder if your husband is afraid that she is never going to be able to care for herself and is wanting to get in front of that.  Does he lack empathy in other places?  Is he a good partner in other ways?  I can tell you that I have those fears with YSS and since I don't love him, it's harder for me.   But he should also try to understand that you love her, that you are scared for her, and that you are doing what you think is right for her.

Counseling sounds like it might be helpful here, it seems you both need to get to the root of your situation.

PinkSoap1960's picture

Thank you for all your feedback. I have told my daughter that I will only support her financially if she stays on her meds and keeps going to her therapist. She is not happy about this but she knows I am serious. She is holding down a job which is an improvement on previous years. DH does think I am enabling her and I admit I am guilty of this in the past. The biggest issue is DH not understanding or even tolerating mental health issues. I put up with years of abuse from my two skids and their crazy vicious BM, years of nasty comments every other week in my home, BM alienated me from them, brainwashed them against me and now DH blames me for them not wanting to come to our home if I am there. So with all that I have put up with from his kids it is a hard pill to swallow when he won't tolerate my daughter's genuine mental condition. 

Hesitant to try's picture

with her mental health. I have a BS25 who struggles with anxiety and depression and a Skid23 who suffers from Borderline Personality disorder so I see this from both aspects -- as a bio mom, and as a stepparent. I think people with mental health issues deserve understanding, love and support from the people who love them, up to a point. If what they need is doable without harming your own situation (mental or emotional health, finances) then I think we should provide that help. But if what they need is harmful to you (draining you emotionally, needing money you cannot afford to give), then I think boundaries are important. If the help they need is beyond what you can give, getting them the right resources is often better than exhausting yourself or your own wallet. I hope you can find this line with your daughter so she can get the help she needs and you can make yourself a priority as well.

Your husbands lack of understanding and empathy for both your daughter and you is unacceptable in my book. Has he walked a mile in either of your shoes? I myself have struggled with depression from time to time and my own parents were useless (lazy if you can't get out of bed, "just snap out of it" kind of thinking). But there was wonderful support from friends and family who do understand. I hope you have some of those people in your support circle. I agree with others about getting hubby to a counselor so he can learn more about what your daughter struggles with, or maybe read a book about it so he can understand. And if he still doesn't care I'd question if this was a person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. You need his support, not his critical judgment. 

TwirlMS's picture

Your advice to set boundaries is a good one.   However, you lost me when you added at the end to question whether to stay married or not.  Where's your empathy for the spouse in this union?  

My marriage counselor would strongly disagree with planting those seeds in someone's head that divorce is ever an option.   One of the first things our pastor said to us in our first session was "if you've come looking for someone to tell you that divorce is ever an option, then you've come to the wrong place".   In the marriage vows when you promise to "forsake all others" it is crystal clear where your priority has to be.


Hesitant to try's picture

if the marriage is or can be a healthy, supportive marriage. I do not believe we "forsake all others" for a person who does not have our backs, or worse. 

Rags's picture

By definition, failure to "forsake all others" is an absolute reason for divorce.  Justifiable, warranted, and should absolutely happen.  IMHO a spouse that does not foresake all others loses the opportunity for forgiveness and the last thing they get from the marriage should be their ass landing in the gutter.  Figuratively of course.  Adultery makes divorce a given and not only a justifyable option.

My XW was one who chose not to cleave to her spouse and was ridding every available Johnson she could reach. She "had no problem with sex" other than within the marriage. Which was the last thing she said when she walked out of marriage counseling when our Doc said "we will now start to address the intimacy issues within  you rmarriage".  After 6mos of weekly sessions where we disected a plethora of inffluences on our individual and collective perspectives on marriage and our relationship.

I was one who was not one to divorce. Ever. Her filing for divorce was the greatest gift she gave to me.  Followed a distant second by a killer pair of elephant skin cowboy boots and close third by a rockin recipe for queso.

Her second DH dumped her ass for continuing to be an adulterous whore when she got pregnant by a BF while they were married. I do not know if she is still with DH #3.  

#2 was who was romping when she left me.  My fondest thought on him/them is "how does mine taste jackass".  He got what he earned when she cheated on him.  I do feel for her three all out of wedlock spawn by two different donors though.  What a humilating thing it must be for them to know that their mother is a whore.  While redemption can certainly be earned, it takes recognizing the core issue and never perpetrating that behavior again. Ever. PERIOD! DOT!  I was absolutely blessed to escape without sullying my gene pool with her.

Phew, I feel better now.



TwirlMS's picture

The parent is not the expert in how to handle her bi-polar.     I'm sure there's a support group she can turn to as well as her individual counselor.  In serious cases hospitalization.   This is probably causing very unhealthy stress for the spouse involved who is now up in years.  Healthy boundaries are in order.  My SD41 would call at all hours of the day and night, until I put a stop to it.  She would have DH drive to her house two hours round trip because she was feeling needy about something.   I stopped feeling sorry for her and started feeling manipulated.  I don't have to be in the eye of this tornado and neither does DH when we are senior citizens.  It will suck the very air out of us.   Someone else can babysit her, because we are flying south for 6 months.  (Sigh of relief).  To the previous poster: "for better or for worse" is also in the vows.  But that vow is between the husband and wife.   
I agree with my pastor's advice, who once told his own son (who was causing problems in the marriage) "son, you are temporary.  She (the wife) is not".  

Rags's picture

You are wise, as is your Pastor.  For better or for worse is between the spouses. It includes no one else.

The DH or DW are not temporary.  Kids should know that.  Once they are raised, they are no longer the responsibility of their parent(s).  And for damned sure they do  not trump the parent's mate. Ever.

Our parents are approaching their 60th anniversary and both my brother and I have always known that we did not come between our parents.  Ever.  Dad had a particular lecture that made that fact perfectly clear.