Statistically speaking, the odds are stacked against you.

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 a November 2003 article, “Managing Bipolar Disorder,” in Psychology Today. excerpt from bp magazine

Bipolar disorder can take a devastating toll on people and their families both emotionally and physically. And the strain of the illness pushes many marriages to their limits and they do not survive. Add on top of that the financial stress from a manic spending spree and it is no surprise that the disorder plays a huge role in the dissolution of relationships.

My husband has Bipolar Disorder Type 1. Though sometimes we can go years between bipolar episodes, the damage from mania can sometimes be long-standing and the effects felt long after stability has returned. It is quite sobering. On a few occasions, it has taken us years to climb out of some financial holes that have come about from a shopping expedition.

After years of allowing the cycle of spending and recovery to continue, I put a few plans in place to minimize the effects on our finances and our family. Even though you do not have direct control over your partner’s mood swings and their acceptance/denial of treatment, you can take a more active role to reduce the financial fallout and protect yourself from falling victim to circumstances.

It is great if you have your bipolar spouse on board with your plans. It definitely makes it a lot easier. The best time to discuss a plan with your partner however, is when they are stable. It really is futile to try to discuss your finances with someone who is in the throes of the disease. When stable, you can form a plan together.

However, keep in mind that even if your partner was an active participant in the financial plan, your partner may scoff when the plan needs to be implemented. At that time, the disease takes over and logic is gone. They can not deny they were instrumental in creating it but they will strongly tell you it is a stupid idea when the time comes to enforce it. Be strong and stick to your guns.

The following are part of my families’ financial plan. Trust me from experience when I say that you will increase the chances of your marriage surviving if you can at the very least, minimize the financial consequences.

 

 

5 Point Plan For Surviving The Financial Burden Of Bipolar Disorder

1. Separate Account

  • Set up a separate bank account in your name only.
  • If you must, keep it a secret.
  • Make sure only you have access to it.
  • Remember that debit/interac cards can be easily taken from your wallet. Keep it safe.
  • If you fear theft, do not attach the account to your debit/interac card. Access can be limited to online or banking in person.

 

2. Debit/Interac Cards

  • Limit the amount of cash available in accessible accounts.
  • Place daily limits on withdrawals, purchases and/or overdraw amount on accounts.
  • Set up online access and monitor activity.
  • If your account allows, set up notifications for unusual activity.

 

3. Cash

You really have to have your spouse on board with your financial plan during mania for this option to work for you.

  • Give a daily/weekly allowance. (The smaller the time period the better is my experience.)
  • Cover expenses plus some for free spending.
  • Remember to cover your fixed expenses first before handing out cash.

 

4. Gift Cards

If debit/interac cards/cash does not work for your situation because money is never used towards necessities like gas or food, this is a great option.

  • Gift cards to specific companies.

My husband loves the dollar store and spent all the money I gave him at them when he was manic. When he needed money to gas up the car, he would ask me for more even though some of the cash I gave him was for gas. What could I do? He had to get to work. I solved this by buying gift cards from gas stations. That way I knew the money would be used for what it was intended for.

 

5. Emergency Fund

Emergency funds are a good idea regardless of your situation but especially if none of the above are good options for you. Try stashing money away a little at a time. That money could be your life line when you really need it.

 

It’s great if your bipolar spouse is on board with creating a financial plan but do not be afraid to make and implement a plan alone. Even and especially when things are going off kilter. You must protect yourself, your family and your partner from a financial fallout.

Regardless of whether you stay together or not, you will need a stable place to live and money to help you to survive during and after the bipolar storm. The only way to ensure that is to have a solid financial plan.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or a doctor. This post is based solely on my personal experiences and should not be deemed as advice or counsel. Please seek appropriate medical attention from a licensed professional.

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6 Comments on Bipolar Disorder: The Financial Burden

  1. Wonderful post Elena. My best friend’s 2nd husband was bi polar and I understand fully of how she had to structure her life around the rough patches. This is great advice, shared. 🙂

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