Bipolar Infidelity

I found this conversation between Stephen and Joe posted on another site and leveraged it. Have a read and see what you think. Whose approach is best? What point of view would you adopt?

Stephen says -

I’ve been married for 19 years to a woman who was diagnosed as BP 8 years ago. To say that we’ve been through a lot is an understatement. Hypersexuality, mania and the resultant infidelity are things that we’ve had to deal with several times.

There are times when people with BP simply cannot exercise good judgment. Any competent care provider will tell you this. People with BP WILL do things that affect their families. That’s just part of being related to them. Although its really impossible to separate the illness driven behaviors from their personality, spouses and other family members need to understand that BPD changes the way people, think, feel and act. Allowances must be made. Not to do so is unfair because it holds people to unrealistic standards and disappointment becomes the inevitable outcome.

It is very hard to know that your spouse has sex with other people, becomes infatuated with other people, and can even turn against the people that love them most.For many people, these are unbearable behaviors. However, the reason they are unbearable is that they conflict so strongly with expectations. So you have two choices: moderate the behaviors and/or moderate the expectations.

It has taken years for us to come to grips with the fact my wife has BP. Fortunately, my wife is really good about taking her meds and seeking therapy. Even so, she has the occasional bout with mania so, for example, we now have an 11 month old girl by another man.

I could get all upset about that, demand a divorce, etc. But the truth is, I love my little girl and I still love my wife.

Joe says in response


I think you must be more tolerant than the rest of us mere mortals, because I’m not sure I would put up with quite so much. You mention two choices: moderate the behaviors and/or moderate the expectations.

First, “moderate the behaviors” can mean all sorts of things from the person with bipolar willingly taking her medications and putting an honest effort into maintaining mood stability to forced commitment. Too much tolerance, I believe, can lead a loved one to inaction, which can actually be harmful to the person with bipolar, not to mention yourself and everyone else involved.

I would question whether too much tolerance would be beneficial to the person with bipolar. If the person has no limits, faces no consequences for destructive behaviors, she has license to do anything. This is not good for her or her loved ones.

From my experience, a certain amount of tough love is required.

Oh yeah, my second point is that there’s a third option – leave. I’m not advising anyone to take this step lightly, but if the person with bipolar is doing nothing to help herself (or himself), I couldn’t fault anyone for taking this choice.

To read the entire article go to Dr. Candida Fink’s Bipolar Blog Information and Support site.

33 Responses to “Bipolar Infidelity”

  1. Bipolar Guy says:

    I’m with Joe. NO way would I put up with what Stephen is putting up with. No Way. See you on the BPS forum. Like your blog.

  2. Anon says:

    I think Stephen’s wife is very lucky. He is very understanding and devoted and willing to work through the manic periods

  3. Anonymous says:

    Interesting. Having been involved in several manic episodes that have involved hypersexual behaviour, I’d have to say that both Steve and Joe combined would be the best approach for me.

  4. Luann says:

    This is a tough topic to deal with. Its drawn alot of attention on the blog and several people have written harsh comments that I’m not comfortable posting. Please remember that people with Bipolar Disorder are not able to judge their behaviors when in the throws of a severe manic episode. And we are not lazy or immoral, nor do we use our disorder to justify or excuse bad behavior.

  5. Anon says:

    Mania & hypersexuality are real, but I don’t know how to handle either. It’s not something that I can control easily. Take my meds and watch for triggers is what I do. Sometimes it works.

  6. Nick says:

    Being a surviving husband of a similar but less severe story to that of Stephen’s, I’d have to say that (like me) Stephen has a codependency problem. Look it up on any psych web site, Stephen. I’ll bet ya a $100 that you fit the bill to a T! Read Dr. Dobson’s book, “Love Must Be Tough.” I forgave my wife and we are giving it a real deal attempt to save our marriage and family. We have 4 kids and she is the love of my life but for the last 8 to 10 years, she was obsessed with another life with her old highscholl boyfriend that she stalked and wanted to have an affair with. She frequented internet sex hook-up sites and almost had an affair with a stranger. She had cyber sex with another bipolar man and ended up leaving me and our 4 kids to have an affair with him and start a new fantasy life. Believe me, this guy is nobody to be jealous of but my wife obsessed over him and had several sexual encounters with him and at least one other guy while she was gone for 4 and a half months in another state. Following two hospitalizations for mania, it took months of meds and counseling before she became stable and now she can’t believe she did any of this. I have to say that we have been together for 20 years and what she did was insane and totally inconsistent with her real self.. She is educated and intelligent but this disorder does not care. I can tell you for a fact that I do not intend to but up with infidelity or obsessions that would lead to infidelity ever again. I could not stand that kind of pain again. It sounds like Stephen would.

    • Luann says:

      Hi Nick,
      Thanks for sharing your experience and your philosophy. Your approach sounds like it combines both Joe and Stephen’s. You have empathy but you won’t allow yourself to be hurt again. I think that’s a fair and humane approach. I wish you and your wife all the best.


  7. Nick says:

    A year and 8 months later after I postrf this, my wife has been veruy well and is more willing to try to prevent mania before it happens. Last August, she got manic and it was close to doing something terrible again. Family intervention worked after they noticed all of the historical signs and that she wanted to quit medication. She was able to overcome and our marriage is stronger today. This summer, she recognized that mania had happened 4 summers in a row and she asked her doctor to inrease her medication during these high risk months. It worked. I am so proud of her. Mental health reqires freedom of choice and she is making great choices these days.

  8. lunajenn says:

    I am bipolar and have been diagnosed for 10 years, and have been on medication constantly since I was diagnosed. Before I was diagnosed I did have episodes of hypersexuality which were totally uncharacteristic of my normal behavior. I got married to my husband 8 years ago and since then I have had a few episodes where I have become obsessed with another guy. For me there is an original thought that might spur the obsession, like, “I bet so and so would understand me better or know how to love me better”, but then the thoughts can become so intrusive that it is almost impossible to get them out of your head. Any random sign can be interpreted as a confirmation that these obsessive thoughts are true and valid. I can tell you I truly love my husband and I work so hard to keep these annoying thoughts out of my head and I still can’t. When the thoughts enter my head I try to push them out as soon as I can. The hardest part is trying to not act on them when it would be so easy to.
    I begged my husband to take away my access to the money, that way I HAVE to talk to him about any major purchases. I don’t have access to more than about 40 or so free spending money at a time. It’s limiting, but so much better than all the guilt after making compulsive purchases. It’s a struggle each day, and that is on medication.

  9. Luann says:

    It sounds like you are doing everything in your power to control the bipolar hypersexuality problems and the resulting chaos and pain that it causes you and others in your life. I wonder if perhaps a medication adjustment would provide more control of the intrusive thoughts?

    I’m glad you have a supportive and understanding husband. Mine is really helpful and tries to point out when I seem to be behaving in ways that are out of character for me. Good to get it early if possible.

  10. Nick says:

    Many bipolar people don’t want to be described as hypersexual or obsessed with having affairs. They find it offensive to be stereotyped. However, just look up the topic on any internet search and you will find scores or stories that are so similar. I don’t know how different it is for the sexes but Kay Jamison PHD says that research indicates that bipolar hypersexuality seems to be a bigger part of womens’ mania. My wife has had Jekyll and Hyde like behavior over the last decade. I don’t even know her during mania. The loving wife and mother becomes a lying, unloving, selfish, discontent, irritable and hypersexual woman that is capable of child abandonment, stalking a potential lover, multiple infidelities, stealing, manipulation and obsession with finding a new life and new love. Her type of mania has lead her to depravity that I can’t really describe.
    This harsh description of her mania is actually very kind. What would drive a woman tha loves her husband and kids so much when she is well to do some of the things she has done? I don’t know if it is simply because bioplar type 1 is much more severe than type 2 but my wife’s transformation is startling. She has been so determined to confront and beat mania for the last two years. Before that, she longed for the high during the first year of treatment. She was just going through the motions. The longer she has been on meds and in therapy, the more healing and restoration has taken place. She is such a beautiful person again and doesn’t want to lose herself ever again. She is blessed to have such a great therapist that can describe the dark half of mania and it’s horrible consequences. Some of the stories I read are even more heartbreaking than mine. Be patient and keep praying for miracles. God has answerd our prayers and he is a God of miracles.

    • Luann says:

      Nick, You write “She is blessed to have such a great therapist that can describe the dark half of mania and it’s horrible consequences.” I’d have to say that she is blessed to have you for her husband. Thank you for your inspiring comment.

    • Pierre says:

      Nick, of all the posts of all the reading i have done – your comment is the most insightful to me.

      Please tell us what has happened since the last update.


  11. nick says:

    Luann: Thanks. She is doing just great and has been well for a year and a half. Mild depression happens but nothing serious in the mania department since Summer of 2010. I think that one starts to recognize the sings of mania over time. She is such a good wife and mom again. I thank the good Lord that she is so dedicated to her treatment.

  12. Sad I indiana says:

    I am divorcing my husband who is undiagnosed but clearly seems BP. In 21 years he has had multiple affairs, spent grocery money on gambling, binges on food and alcohol and cannot commit to anything. He rages over nothing and terrifies those who love him the most. He also can be fun, funny, charming and intelligent. Right now he has left me for a much younger woman. I am done and wish I had set more boundaries in the past – when my mom had terminal cancer and was dying, this triggered him and he had an affair. I should have ended it there. It’s sac to know he is self-destructing but I cannot wear his behaviors like a tailored suit. I know I should not blame myself but I do. In the trenches, it is difficult to detach.

  13. Sad I indiana says:

    Luanne I understand what you are saying but you have not walked in my shoes. My husband may not be able to see clearly but at some level he knows right from wrong. And there is little empathy for the pain BP spouses cause. Most people think I am crazy because I put up with his behaviors – and I will say living with constant tension, fear, anger and abuse has left me feeling crazy at times. We need a place to let the suffering out, no one in my life right now understands how bad I feel, least of all my husband. I think I am being punished by God. It has been a living nightmare.

    • Luann says:

      Hi Sad,
      I agree with you that no one should have to live with the pain, fear, anger and abuse that you’ve experienced. First and foremost you must take care of YOU! If your husband has not been willing to get help to change his behavior over the last 21 years then you should definitely leave. Set your boundaries and stick to them.

      I hope you can find a support group in your area to help you deal and process what you’ve had to endure. You are not being punished but you do need to get yourself in a place where you can heal.

      You’ll get absolutely no argument from me on any of what you’ve written in your comments.

      Best wishes to you,

  14. Carrie says:

    I am so glad to know I am not alone. After wondering for a year why my husband of 13 yrs was suddenly acting irratically he was diagnosed bipolar type 1. He went from being my best friend, a wonderful father and a hard worker, to distant, cold and aggressive. He began having a relationship with another woman which seemed to overtake him. No matter how he tried he just couldn’t stop talking to her. Every minute of his life seemed to revolve around when the next time he would talk to her would be. He always had his cell phone with him and every month his phone bill was filled with thousands of texts and calls. I love my husband very much and he says he loves me, but I am unsure of whether or not I can handle a lifetime of this. I feel betrayed and angry. I want to believe this can get better, but being bipolar doesn’t just go away.

  15. Amy says:

    Carrie –
    Your husband & my husband must be twins!! This is exactly the behavior my husband exhibited – he was then diagnosed Schizoaffective.
    The affair last about 3 months until his cell phone was turned off & that seemed to end the episode.
    He says he had NO control over his actions or his words during the episode. I am having a really hard time accepting that explanation – it just seems so unreal.

    He has been very dedicated to taking his medication & going to his psychiatrist & therapist. He says he doesn’t want to ever be out of control like that ever again & will do anything to stay stable.

    Like you, I’m not sure i want a lifetime of affairs & erratic behavior.
    I am heartbroken & in pain & I want to have a husband I can trust.
    For now, im not sure what to do. :/

  16. nikki says:

    My dear friends you are not alone. Don’t let the pain and anger stop you to do and feel what you want.Remind youself that is not your issue.Dont blame yourself there is nothing that you can do to change the past.
    My husband of 13 years had a bizzare manic episode two yrs ago. He had a affair with a younger women – rented an exclusive condo for her, was paying her monthly thousands of dollars and showering her with designer clothing, Channel bags and Prada shoes..bought himself a sports car, rented rooms at exlusive hotels. Wining and dining while I couldnt do anything because I was the enemy. I had to take care of my children and keep them safe. This all came out and when I confronted him he lied & denied & told me that I need treatment. BP is a very complicated disorder.

    I found this book LOVING somebody with bipolar which is helping me understand better why he devastated our family.

    Still the pain and anger is huge. Feels like tsunami just hit me. Does anyone deserve this? NO, but life has to go on and I have to wake up every morning and try to face the world..

    It hurts. MY husband wants me to give him one more chance, he tells me that he will change with treatment, and I am suspicious of the future.

    Betrayal is hard to over come but I remind myself daily it is the sickness.

    God bless you all and hope that each of you have peace in your heart.

  17. Luann says:

    Take care of yourself first Nikki. Sending you lots of positive thoughts.

  18. Sharon says:

    I recently found out that my husband has been having an affair with another woman. He then told me he had been diagnosed bipolar the year before, but didn’t really do anything about it. We’ve been together 10 years and it looks like he has had multiple affairs/infatuations for at least the last six years. I never saw this coming, in hindsight I can see some of the markers for bipolar, but both our therapists think he is a sociopath, in addition to being a sex addict. I love him so much this is killing me. Am I a bad wife if I just can’t do this? He is seeking help and is on medication now, but the level of betrayal is so deep. He denied ever having affairs and it took his “girlfriend” coming forward to tell me. and then the rest came out of the hat. I’m so confused right now. I love him, but I don’t know if staying with him is the right thing to do. I hate to see him in pain going through this and recently being diagnosed, but I’m in a world of pain too. Please help.

    • Luann says:

      That’s a tough call. If he truly is a sociopath that complicates things. People with bipolar disorder do terribly things when they are having an episode, but when taking the proper medication and staying stable they often behave quite morally and are terribly disturbed by the behaviors they exhibited when they were manic. I wish you well. You need to take care of yourself first. You are not a bad wife no matter what decisions you make regarding your marriage. I suggest that you both go to counseling together and work through the pain, the issues, and makes decisions about your future with an expert who can help you set realistic expectations about the future.

  19. BP2 says:

    My wife was diagnosed with BP2 six years ago and is on meds, but no “talk therapy”. As one doc said, she lives her life in a somewhat hypomanic state. There was one affair (that I know of) 25 years ago that caused a brief separation. We recovered from that and have had a pretty happy life since then and have a great son (now 19) who is the light of my life.

    Flash forward to today. 2 and 1/2 years ago my wife started drinking pretty heavily again and I suspected she had some encounters with other guys (later confessed to by her). Finally caught her lying to me a year ago. Since then she has had several sexual encounters, one of which occurred on a family vacation with a guy she met in the hotel bar before we even unpacked, and later left us at night to go meet up with.

    She’s made the bar scene and found that lacking after a while, so is now on a dating site. She’s had seven or eight dates in the past two weeks. Her time at home (when I’m around anyway) is pretty much spent alternating between texting and e-mailing, with a few phone calls.

    She says she still loves me very much but “the passion in our relationship has died”. She went to a therapist this summer but stopped after a few visits because she didn’t like what she was hearing and he “wasn’t doing any good.”

    At this point I would probably leave but (1) our son would be hurt, (2) she is bi-polar and I guess I have this wistful idea she may somehow emerge from this and the wreckage might be repaired, and (3) I’ve been the sole financial provider, and am not wild about having to gear up and work harder to ensure she maintains a comfortable lifestyle in a separate household (we had been planning for a happy retirement together and were planning to wind down a bit).

    Feel totally trapped and I won’t even go into the pain and hurt this has caused. I’ve been seeing a therapist and he says none of my options are happy ones, it’s a matter of whether I can live in a crazy situation without becoming crazy myself.

    Thanks for listening. I really sympathize with the others here (boy, do I know how it feels), but it has helped to understand that I’m not alone.

    • Luann says:

      You are in a tough situation. It sounds as though you are quite rational about your options. When she behaves badly she is in an episode and the only way to end it is to seek medical help and get her on a medication that keeps her stable. It sounds like she is not stable right now. I sure don’t have any answers for you but you need to set some boundaries and make sure that she respects them. I wish you all the best. Take care of yourself!

      • BP2 says:

        Thanks so much for the reply. My therapist knows her and says she’s in BP denial. She contends she is properly medicated, that with her personality she needs to live at a 7, and that she won’t put up with being “dumbed down” by meds to a 5 like everyone else. Thanks again for the comment!

  20. Luann says:

    Your therapist is correct. I hope the best for you and for your wife. Take care.

  21. JCR says:


    I stumbled upon this website and conversation – and I’m glad that I have.
    My husband was diagnosed with Bipolar in January 2013, although we always knew that this is what he had – but for him it was more like being an alcoholic eg “It’s not my fault, I’m Bipolar” etc, so just like an alcoholic it took a lot for him to admit it and start taking the meds. First he started on Quetiapine and now he is on Lithium.
    He has always been a flirty man and has had a few indiscretions in our 15 year history – which I have always forgiven him for (not forgotten – I can name each and every one of them :)).
    But recently, I caught him messaging a female through facebook – it doesn’t help that he is a professional singer, so coming into contact with members of the opposite sex is easy.
    His explanations after the fact were that he was just in the “right” time of an episode to need/want/love the ego boost – that someone was looking at him like they wanted him, like he was the greatest thing ever, and gave him sympathy if he needed it.
    Fact is – for me – this one has really stung, and I don’t know why. I guess maybe, I was just hoping that with the new drug (Lithium – which he has been on for about 6 months now) – that he would sort of be “fixed” for lack of a better word. I am finding this one really hard to deal with.
    I’m sorry for writing this on here – I don’t know if it is the right place. But I think I really needed to blurt my problems out to hopefully people who might have a slight understanding – I don’t/can’t discuss anything like this with my family, his family or my friends as none of them would understand; and would give me the typical “You deserve better” and “You should just leave him”. But it’s not that simple – BP is not like a common cold, you can’t just rest and it will go away.
    I feel like there is more that I could’ve done to be more supportive, but then I’m not sure.
    Sorry – today is a sucky day!! :)

    • JCR says:

      Sorry – just to add.. This happens every few years, and generally doesn’t involve sex (not in the last 10 years anyway) – just talking and hanging out with someone, for a couple of weeks and then it’s over.
      I guess I just wanted to know if this is typical BP behaviour – to need some sort of validation from someone new.
      It seems that he ends up not hiding it very well – like he wants to be caught by me – so it somehow completes the circle, and ends up with him feeling guilty and like a bad person because he has hurt the one person in his life that has stood by him through everything.

      • Luann says:

        Hi JCR,
        You sound like you have a very good understanding of the BP manic behaviors that can include promiscuity. I wonder if your husband might need a bit more Lithium or another med added to his current meds? It takes time for the medications to work and if he is manic and flirting again then he needs some help. You do deserve better treatment from your husband. You deserve his total effort at getting well. Sometimes it helps to draw strong boundaries and let the person know what you are willing and not willing to tolerate. Then they have to make a conscious decision and effort to change their behaviors while they are not in an episode. So that when one hits they can hopefully catch it early or listen to you when you see it coming on. Best to you and your husband. I wish you many happy years together.

        • Anonymous says:

          Hi Luann, thank you for your reply.
          Just to update, things are better – although they got worse for awhile after my initial post.
          My husband’s psychiatrist has now diagnosed him as a Rapid Cycler. Although I haven’t had a chance to speak with them fully about this, I have read up about it and it seems like him to a tee. I have shown him what I have found and he agrees.
          They have now incorporated Sodium Valproate into his med list, and slowly coming off the Lithium when the Valproate is the right level in his blood. Still on Quetiapine. He was experiencing bad tremors and they think it might be the Lithium.
          Since on Valproate, we have had no manic episodes – which is fantastic! A couple of down days, but nothing like before the Lithium.
          In all honesty, I think that he is a little bit impatient sometimes and was hoping to be “cured” quickly with the meds. And also, he does not know what “normal” people experience – so to him having a slightly off day means that the meds aren’t working – which in fact they are, and all non-medicated people have bad days :)
          His psychologist has given him a book that has people’s personal BP experiences recorded. We are slowly getting through it, but sometimes it becomes too “real” for him to deal with. But it’s good for him to see that he is not the only one that has ever felt certain ways, and also that there are people who experience worse things than him.
          I am truly greatful that I found this page. Having an outlet when I really needed one was a godsend for me. Sometimes I just need to get everything off my chest – things I can’t talk about to other people or my husband, for fear of upsetting him. He is going through enough ups and downs, don’t get me wrong I do speak to him about everything but I have to be tactful – and sometimes that’s hard when I’ve been hurt by him.
          After 15 years of everything that his BP has thrown at us, I believe that we can make it. Two steps forward, one step back sometimes – but always working toward the end goal of him stabilising, getting better, and most importantly feeling better about himself – the amount of guilt that he carries around from all the stupid, insensitive things that he has done is such a burden to him.
          I just hope that the Valproate and Quetiapine continue to work their magic, and all stays happy :)

  22. Kelly says:

    My husband of 12 years is BP 2 diagnosed 4 yrs ago. He took meds over the past 4 years but not regularly. He is also a recovering addict and alcoholic. He wasn’t really working his program or taking pills and BOOM had a relapse. He didn’t pick up a drink or drug but instead – a woman. He answered an ad online and had an affair. This relapse was months in the making and started with getting on the computer, sexting, and then the one night stand. I am devastated.
    Prior to going inpatient for bp 4 yrs ago he was frequenting strip clubs and looking at internet dating sites, spending tons of money, and watching tons of porn. I knew those things were bp related and that’s what lead him to being diagnosed.

    He admits to what he has done recently and wants to stay married. We have three little children and he is my best friend. Being a dual diagnosis patient is way more dangerous than I ever understood.

    He had an affair seven years ago with a striper and later overdosed. We never knew he was bp at that point. Now I see how hypersexuality played into that whole crisis. I forgave him back then and now this…
    My boundary has been crossed and I am seriously contemplating divorce. He is back on his meds and is working very hard with psychiatrist and therapist to get better. He is actively working his AA program and trying to make sure he arms himself with a relationship with God and his sponsor. I just don’t know if I can stay married to him. I love him but I have little hope that he can get better. He is trying so hard but there is so much pain. Can you ever trust again? Can he get better?

  23. Adam says:

    Last year and for the early part of this year (between June 2013 and February 2014) my wife had a manic episode that involved hypersexuality and an affair that lasted 4 months.

    Prior to her manic episode, she had been misdiagnosed with depression and given a combination of antidepressants, diazepam and sleeping tablets.

    When the mania started, I saw my wife transform from a loving wife and mother, to a person entirely self-focused, possessing no morals, uncaring and emotionally vacant, with her usual empathy replaced with apathy. It was a truly shocking experience, which has left us both emotionally scarred.

    My wife has since been diagnosed with bipolar, borderline personality disorder and anxiety disorder.

    Incidentally, we strongly believe that the antidepressant that she was prescribed, switched her into the manic phase of the illness. Further to this, the diazepam and sleeping tablets that she was prescribed, had a paradoxical reaction, which made her personality disorder much worse, making her more impulsive, aggressive and more irrational.

    The hypersexuality and obsessive behaviour led to her sending literally hundreds of inappropriate texts and pictures to the person she became involved with. However, the affair wasn’t straight forward, as there was a lot of manipulation and taking advantage of her varying states of intoxication, on the part of the other person involved, which played her mania into the vulnerability of her personality disorder. Without going into detail, we have since reported this person to the police, in relation to some of the incidents that took place during this time.

    When I first discovered the affair, my wife was still obsessed with sex orientated goals, and it took a long time before any rational thinking came into play. She now admits that she didn’t care about my feelings (about the affair) at the time, as she was still in the grip of mania and hypersexuality.

    My wife is now truly sorry for what she put me and the children through, and is having a very hard time coming to terms with the damage that she caused to our family, and that she let someone get between us. She is still unable to accept that it was her that did those things. At this time, she is still not yet fully recovered, though is determined that this will never happen again. On top of this, she is still trying to accept her diagnosis.

    We try and think of that time as her being a different person, that is in no way associated with her real character. Of course this is not easy, and we often have very emotional arguments, as the hurt cuts very deep.

    Thankfully, we’re both on the way to recovery, and believe that our special bond and love will pull us through.


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