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What percent of bipolar marriages end in divorce?

Bipolar and divorce

Is there a relationship between Bipolar Disorder and divorce?

Can a person with bipolar disorder still be a wonderful spouse?

Are “bipolar families” doomed?

Research statistics do show that bipolar disorder is slightly more common amongst the single and divorced. The single and the divorced are more likely to have bipolar disorder when compared to people who are married or never married.

However, in Manic-Depressive Illness: Bipolar Disorders and Recurrent Depression, 2nd Edition, experts Dr F Goodwin and Dr Kay Redfield Jamison state clearly that:

“We know of no evidence to support a causal relationship between the disorder and marital status”.

Read the above statement again. It is very important information!

All over the Internet you will find the unsubstantiated claim that 90% of marriages to a person with bipolar disorder end in divorce. THERE IS NO RESEARCH EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS STATISTIC ON BIPOLAR AND DIVORCE. It comes from an article posted in 2003 on Psychology There is no research cited to back up the statistic and it is important to understand that this is a COMMERCIAL website, not an academic website for proper peer reviewed scientific research.


It is typical for partners of bipolar spouses to report higher than usual levels of conflict.

Again, as explained by Drs Goodwin and Jamison in their authoritative text: “Although it is likely that symptoms of untreated mania are
disruptive to forming or sustaining intimate relationships, this hypothesis is not supported empirically.”

Does Bipolar Disorder Cause Divorce?

It seems incontestable that there is causal relationship between bipolar and divorce, and that bipolar creates serious challenges within a marriage. However, it is also important to remember that many marriages do work and that the 90% figure is unsupported and overstated.

Approximately 40% of American marriages end in divorce. This figure varies by age of the couple, whether or not it is a first marriage, and whether or not there are children. In other words, we really mean it when we say “approximately”!

Two studies have found that divorce is twice as likely where at least one spouse has bipolar disorder. (Coryell et al 1993 and Drieling 2010)

However, in both of these studies the rates were high relative to the control group, but low compared to divorce statistics in general.

In the Coryell study, 45% of bipolar patients ended up divorced compared to 18% in the control group. In the Drieling study, 12% of bipolar patients ended up divorced compared to 6% of the controls.

Much more research is needed on bipolar and divorce, using larger samples and longer time periods and more careful matching with control groups before reliable conclusions can be drawn.

One important point to note is that what research has shown is that marital outcomes for people with bipolar disorder are no worse than for the clinically depressed.

So what is it that makes it so hard to sustain marriage with a bipolar spouse?

A UK study by management consultants Grant Thornton, estimated the main causes of divorce in 2004, based on data from divorce lawyers. The causes are summarized below:


1. Adultery; Extramarital sex; Infidelity – 27%

2. Domestic violence – 17%

3. Midlife crisis – 13%

4. Addictions, e.g. alcoholism and gambling – 6%

5. Workaholism – 6%

It is easy to see where bipolar disorder, particularly where there is untreated mania, fits into this picture. After all, the hallmarks of untreated mania include hyper-sexuality, anger, impulsiveness and grandiosity, substance abuse, and compulsive behavior – all features that would reflect directly in the 5 main divorce causes cited above.

I lost my own marriage due to untreated mania – infidelity arising from bipolar hypersexuality. If adultery is the main cause of divorce, then bipolar disorder with its elevated rates of infidelity, is very likely to lead many couples to divorce:

A bipolar marriage may often seem very chaotic. We don’t yet know how much of this due to the actual challenges of coping with manic and depressive episodes, and what proportion may be attributable to the poor relationship skills that come from growing up in a bipolar family.

Can we break the likely nexus between bipolar and divorce? Of course! Remember that we have been discussing issues that arise when bipolar disorder is untreated.

Problems also arise from other social, interpersonal, and general functional impairments that by people with Bipolar Disorder struggle with. For example, the financial difficulties that arise from unemployment and the “downward drift” that characterizes even the brightest and most highly educated bipolar patients.

Another issue is what is known as assortative mating. This is the tendency for people with bipolar disorder to marry partners who also have bipolar disorder or other mood disorders or mental health challenges. This multiplies the bipolar and divorce risk exponentially, as both partners are struggling with an illness.

It seems that accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plays a double role. As well as stabilizing the bipolar patient, the spouse is educated about the disorder. Evidence shows that spousal knowledge and understanding strongly contributes to a more successful, positive, and mutually satisfying and happy relationship.

You can have a good marriage with someone with Bipolar Disorder

Like many people after diagnosis and treatment, I have had the wonderful blessing of a second chance. But I never forget the risks I present as a bipolar spouse.

For me, it is very important to use tools such as a Wellness Plan and a Treatment Contract so that my spouse knows I am taking my medication, seeing my therapist, and there is a safety net in place to prevent a manic or depressive episode from getting out of hand. 1

There is nothing inevitable about bipolar and divorce!

It can be very difficult to find useful, practical and target resources that deal specifically with managing relationships with people with bipolar disorder.

One book I have found very helpful in my own marriage is When Someone You Love Is Bipolar: Help and Support for You and Your Partner by Cynthia Last.

Another really good book is a recently published one by team Bipolar Lives, titled Navigating Relationships in Bipolar Disorder. It discusses different aspects of relationships experienced by bipolar patients and their spouses or others close to them. It leans on real life experiences of thousands of such individuals as well as insights from a mental health expert. So, check it out.

The ideal is for a happy and healthy marriage with your spouse who is bipolar – not divorce.

Both are comprehensive and easy to follow books that provide the tools to support this important but challenging goal.

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Some comments by Carolina Estevez, Psy.D.

The relationship between Bipolar Disorder and divorce can be thought of as being very similar to one partner having any chronic and severe illness, whether physical or emotional. Health concerns inevitably bring added stress to the relationship. When I say ‘added stress,’ I mean in addition to the typical stressors that all couples, especially couples that live together and manage a household, must confront.

In the span of a relationship, life happens. People’s financial circumstances can fluctuate; jobs and careers come and go; there are issues with other family members, in-laws, and children; and even the relationship between the couple goes through changes, such as couples ‘falling out of love’ or having intimacy issues. These factors can be considered the “typical” life circumstances that couples go through. Now, add health problems to the mix and you have not only an added stressor, but also a rather significant added stressor.

This is what Bipolar Disorder represents in a marriage and what can serve as a sort of ‘tipping point,’ sending the couple down the road to divorce. There are many challenges a married couple will face that will test their relationship and their bond and a health issue in the family is definitely one of the most trying of all.

Couples who are able to cope with Bipolar Disorder can look to this ongoing challenge as a testament to their individual and collective strength, unity, and resilience. Divorce does not have to be the destiny of marriages where one or both partners struggles with a mental health disorder. In fact, knowing that Bipolar Disorder can test a marriage or place the union at risk could help couples ensure that they don’t take their relationship for granted and work towards adhering to the Bipolar partner’s Wellness Contract and Treatment Plan. Couples whose marriages last a lifetime work on their relationship continuously and are committed to prioritizing the relationship (and each other) over any problem or stressor.

What percent of bipolar marriages end in divorce?

In the United States and Canada, at least 40 percent of all marriages fail. But the statistics for marriages involving a person who has bipolar disorder are especially sobering—an estimated 90 percent of these end in divorce, according to the article “Managing Bipolar Disorder” in Psychology Today.

Can a marriage survive bipolar disorder?

If you spouse fully accepts the diagnosis and resolves to get treatment, you could begin working together and make the marriage stronger than ever. Many people with bipolar disorder have happy, successful marriages.

Does bipolar lead to divorce?

The majority of marriages involving a spouse with bipolar disorder will, ultimately, end in divorce.

What is it like being married to someone with bipolar disorder?

If Your Spouse Has Diagnosed Bipolar Disorder

On the one hand, the partner experiencing the mood episode is affected by their symptoms, leading to changes in behavior and level of functioning. On the other hand, their spouse may feel responsible for their partner and the family, and may begin to feel burnt out.

Why do bipolar marriages end?

Any number of things, from work stress to money issues, can lead to arguments and put strain on a marriage. But when one partner has bipolar disorder, simple stressors can reach epic proportions. That may be why as many as 90% of marriages involving someone with bipolar disorder reportedly fail.

Why Bipolar Marriages Have a 90% Divorce Rate!!

How long do bipolar marriages last?

In the United States and Canada, at least 40 percent of all marriages fail. But the statistics for marriages involving a person who has bipolar disorder are especially sobering—an estimated 90 percent of these end in divorce, according to the article “Managing Bipolar Disorder” in Psychology Today.

When should you give up on a bipolar relationship?

Saltz said that several signs may indicate an unhealthy relationship, particularly with a partner who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder: feeling that you’re a caretaker in the relationship. experiencing burnout. sacrificing your life goals, values, and needs to be with your partner.

How do I survive a marriage if my husband is bipolar?

Other ways you can help your spouse, yourself, and your marriage

  1. Make a plan together. .
  2. Talk about impulsive and reckless behaviors. .
  3. Don’t take mood changes personally. .
  4. Ensure they have the resources they need. .
  5. Remember to enjoy time with each other. .
  6. Take care of yourself. .
  7. Ask for help when you need it.

Should bipolar live alone?

This was a question recently asked of me, “can people with a mental illness, like bipolar disorder, live alone?” The answer to me was obvious – yes! Absolutely. Of course a person, even with a serious mental illness, can live alone.

Do people with bipolar have intimacy issues?

People with bipolar disorder may experience libido changes, impulsive sexual behaviors, and other intimacy challenges.

Does bipolar affect life expectancy?

The life expectancy for someone with bipolar disorder is approximately 67 years old. A 2021 study researched the effect of bipolar disorder on longevity and found that: risk of death is 2.6 times greater than the general population. the average life span is between 8–12 years shorter than the general population.

What happens to the bipolar spouse after divorce?

Your spouse’s moods may vacillate between debilitating depression and frantic energy. Over time, the ongoing strain of this situation may be too much for the marriage to handle. Divorce is never easy and having to go through it with a bipolar partner, can make the process less predictable and more stressful.

Can I divorce my bipolar husband?

Mostly, though, people agree to seek divorce through routine procedures, even if one spouse is dealing with a condition like bipolar disorder. The first thing to do when divorcing a bipolar spouse is to secure an MSA (Marriage Settlement Agreement) to which both parties are consenting and cognizant signatories.

Does bipolar illness get worse with age?

Bipolar may worsen with age or over time if this condition is left untreated. As time goes on, a person may experience episodes that are more severe and more frequent than when symptoms first appeared.

What is it like to live with someone who has bipolar?

Ups and downs are natural in any romantic relationship, but when your partner has bipolar disorder it can feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. Not knowing what to expect each day is stressful and tiring. Over time, it wears on the relationship.

How long does it take to stabilize someone with bipolar disorder?

Treatment options for bipolar disorder

But with effective treatment, episodes usually improve within about 3 months. Most people with bipolar disorder can be treated using a combination of different treatments.

Why is it so hard to live with bipolar?

During bipolar mood swings, it is difficult to carry out day-to-day tasks, work, go to school, and maintain relationships. When a person has a manic episode, they feel overly excited, productive, and even invincible. These drastic behavior changes usually cause concern among friends and family.

36 First Person: An 18-Year Bipolar Love Story

It’s common knowledge that fifty percent of marriages end in divorce. Psychology Today cites that statistic as high as ninety percent when at least one partner lives with bipolar disorder! I am grateful to be beating those odds and celebrating my 18-year anniversary this month with my partner.

We were together for three years before the initial onset of my symptoms and diagnosis. He has stood by my side through six hospitalizations, my noncompliance with the prescribed medications, my suicide attempt, and the news that I would never be able to have a biological child as we had planned. We now know that I can have children! It seems different psychiatrists hold different opinions on the matter.

What’s our secret?

Cherish is the word I use to remind me of your love” —Madonna

We genuinely love and respect each other. We talk about everything. We both agree life is better together than it would be alone or with another mate. But, it wasn’t always easy. During my third hospitalization in a two year period the medical staff strongly counseled him to walk away. The three-person psychiatric treatment team all told him it would be a long, difficult road and while I might be better at times, I would always be sick.

When I discussed those conversations with him to prepare this blog, my partner described anger with the healthcare community. He loved me. Yes, he was only 25-years old but he saw a future with me and he cherished our past.

He told me, “You wouldn’t walk away from someone with cancer.” And, “Family matters—you don’t throw away family.”

Did he have more strength in this situation than I would have, had the roles been reversed?

A romantic relationship can survive the onset of bipolar. It wasn’t easy. After my six hospitalizations, terrible advice that I should go on disability and never work again, plus the threat of a three year commitment, we slowly pieced our relationship back together one shattered fragment at a time.

We worked on it together. We prioritized it together. We both made adjustments. We both fought like hell to make it work.

Our love has survived infidelity. Our relationship has survived a temporary separation. We have survived financial challenges and bankruptcy together. We have endured a very difficult time when my mom was bed ridden and unable to care for herself for almost two years, then her death at a very young age. Hardship has the potential to either bring a couple closer together or drive them apart.

We are grateful to be a success story. In 2021, we are happier than we have ever been. Navigating these difficulties together helped us forge a stronger team and developed better communication skills that contribute to our success as a couple. He can openly say to me, “Are you feeling manic today? You are talking a lot and really fast. Did you sleep enough?” I can honestly tell him, “I can’t go to dinner with your family today, I’m feeling anxious, sad, dark, and depressed. I don’t want to get dressed or leave the house.”

In the January 2020 Healthline article by Brian Krans, “Romantic Relationships: When to Say Goodbye,” the unhealthy signs of a relationship, especially where bipolar is involved, are listed as

  • feeling that you’re a caretaker in the relationship
  • experiencing burnout
  • sacrificing your life goals, values, and needs to be with your partner

I would argue we all experience these signs at times in healthy relationships too. If your partner breaks both legs in a car accident, you’re certainly going to become the caretaker, experience burnout, and sacrifice some life goals at least temporarily.

The question becomes, how much are you willing to give? What price are you willing to pay for a happy, healthy relationship?

The question becomes, how much are you willing to give? What price are you willing to pay for a happy, healthy relationship? We all have our breaking point.

Please note, as the bipolar patient in our relationship, I haven’t skipped a dose of my medication since 2008 when I first became medically compliant. You cannot expect another person to care for you, if you do not take basic care of yourself. Johns Hopkins also has a useful article on their website, Bipolar Relationships: What to Expect. Tips listed include going to couples counseling, getting involved with treatment, and practicing self care.

My partner and I never attended couples counseling. He has been to the psychiatrist with me only once in fifteen years. We always discuss my appointments and lab results. Each of us spends about six hours alone daily, because we have different schedules. That helps us always practice self care and pursue our passions.

Genuine care for each other. Deep love and respect for the relationship. A tremendous belief in one another. Transparent honesty and meaningful communication. Grace and forgiveness when life isn’t perfect. An understanding that tomorrow is never promised to any of us and accepting this is the hand you have been dealt. If your romantic relationship has these qualities, I believe it can survive a bipolar diagnosis and thrive, at least until the 18-year mark like ours did.

About the Author

Dayna was 27 years old when she first experienced a two year spiral of mixed manic and depressive episodes, including six inpatient hospitalizations, a suicide attempt, and the threat of a three year commitment if she did not become medically compliant. Today, Dayna maintains a close relationship with her psychiatrist and is thriving in her career and home life with the help of prescribed medications. Dayna lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area with her partner of 18 years. Together they share their home with two cats, Latte and Donut, and Butters, their corgi. They love to travel the world and have spent time exploring three continents and over two dozen countries.

Dayna writes about her bipolar journey and story on her website,
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Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder Copyright © 2022 by International Bipolar Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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