“My Bipolar Husband Wants Us to Sell Our House and Move in With His Bipolar Mother”

I’ve been married for six years and I’m currently expecting our first baby, something that we’ve been looking forward to for the last few years. Recently my husband was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder 2 and in the months following the diagnosis he become verbally and emotionally abusive towards me. He even randomly called a real estate agent behind my back to get my house assessed. (I bought the house before I met him and I have no intention of selling as the mortgage is only $450 and will be paid off within another year.) Once he realized I would not be selling, he moved back in with his mother, four hours away from our home.

His mother and I don’t get along although I tried many times in the past (before we married), but my efforts were always thwarted by her drug addiction and her inability to stay on medication (she, too, is bipolar). My husband is also in recovery (eight years clean and sober – he got into rehab after we met) and I often worry that he might slip when he’s with her. My husband planned on living apart from me until he got himself sorted out with medication and therapy, and under a doctor’s advice it was best that we didn’t share a living space because the stress he was causing me was enough to hospitalize me.

He has been away less than a week. We were talking every day and things were looking up. I felt like he was on the path back to becoming the person whom I love. But yesterday, out of the blue, he called and said that he didn’t want to come back. He said that he wanted to start over, and when I asked why, his answer was that I was greedy for not wanting to sell my house (I suspect he wants me to sell to get him out of debt for overspending during his mania) and the town I live in makes him depressed. The only thing that would make him happy, according to him, is for me to sell and move into his mother’s apartment, or for us to separate.

His new plan to start his life over is to quit his cushiony, well-paying job here, live with his mother, and have her new boyfriend (they’ve been together for three weeks) get him a job at the local mine. I have serious doubts that he will get that job – or that he will even enjoy manual labor. I feel that his mother might have even influenced him to think that the diagnosis is wrong.

My head is swimming. I am heavily pregnant and I was so excited for the future. I had thought this was a bump in the road and with time, therapy, and medication we would get through this. But now he feels that his happiness is hinging on his living with his mother. I feel like the carpet has been ripped out from under me. Just the other day we were talking like everything was normal and making plans for him to come to the next ultrasound.

He still wants to be involved with the baby, but now I am scared about what sort of influence he and his mother will be on the child. What should I do? If he finally comes to his senses, should I accept him back? Or should I try to untangle my life from his, knowing that he might not follow through with his treatment or might even be swayed by his mother in the future? I tried to appease him by offering to sell my house and move to another town with him, but he firmly wants to live with his mother. -Pregnant and Heartbroken

I’m so sorry for what you’re going through; please don’t sell your house. Your house is a point of security and stability for you – at a time when you really need both. Make it absolutely clear that you and your baby will be living in your house, period. DO NOT MOVE IN WITH YOUR HUSBAND’S MOTHER!! Doing so will be surrendering, and there’s no reason for you to surrender. Instead, focus on yourself and your baby-to-be, learning to be a great single parent to your child because you cannot count on your husband to be emotionally and physically present on a consistent basis (or at all). This is the time now to rely on whatever support system you have in place – friends, family, etc. Make sure at least a couple close loved ones know the details of what’s happening and can be there for you as you adjust to motherhood.

Let your husband continue with his plan of living with his mother until he is “sorted out with medication and therapy.” The “getting sorted out” part is likely not going to be smooth. The turbulence you’re experiencing with him is part of the process. He’s in the throes of finding the right combination of treatment that will work with him, and while doing that under his mother’s roof when she sounds so unstable herself maybe isn’t the best place to do it, it sounds like living with you isn’t the best place either. If the stress of living with him led to you being hospitalized already, I’d be very concerned about what would happen if you had to deal with him on top of caring for a newborn.

The reality is that your husband may not again “become the person you love” or be the father you want for you child. Or, he may eventually become so, but only after a turbulent, winding path with various roadblocks he will have to overcome. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself, take care of your baby, and give emotional support and hold a space for him as long as it seems a reasonable expectation that he may find a treatment that works and allows him to be a loving, supportive husband again and a good father to your child. If, at some point, you lose faith that that will happen in a manner that is timely enough for you and your child, then divorce is always an option. In the meantime, I would speak with a family attorney about your legal rights and what you need to do now to best protect yourself, your assets, and the health and stability of your baby.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. Regardless of how it ends, talk to a lawyer to ensure you and your baby are protected. Different places have different community property laws.

    He’s abandoned you at a most crucial time in your life and I’m guessing that there may be a pattern here. You don’t need this in your life.

    If he’s been diagnosed for some time and he isn’t really working to get better, chances are that he may not want to, as you’ve not mentioned him doing anything to make an effort to do so.

    Take this time, too, to reevaluate your marriage, your life and your priorities.

    Be prepared.

  2. Good chance that part of the change you’ve seen since he moved back in with his mother is that he has resumed using non-medicinal drugs.

    You should not want to get back together with him. He is going to drag you down. Frankly, it was dumb to get together with an addict who went into rehab AFTER you met. So, you chose to begin a relationship with an addict.

    A lot of addicts relapse; those with a mental illness more so; those with a mental illness, who move in with their addict mother having the same mental illness — almost a certainty. And they’re in an apartment with her bf of short duration. Yes, that certainly sounds encouraging, as does his already having piled up debt, which he expects you to pay off.

    Yes, you need a lawyer. Although you had nothing to do with it, you may well be responsible for your husband’s debt. Whatever you do, don’t sell or remortgage your house. Bankruptcy if you need to — they can’t touch your house in bankruptcy.

    You are going to need what money you have to support your child. Your husband is going to be a drain, until you divorce him. The lawyer will tell you how to protect as much of your money as you can. Don’t feel selfish, you will be protecting your child.

  3. Bittergaymark says:

    Gee… Wow. Crazy how there were no bright red flags waving along the way. *rollseyes. Good luck with forever dealing with what should have an easily averted disaster…
    Keep your house. File for divorce. And get ready to be a single mom with a useless ex who will most likely legally and constantly cause you headaches for the rest of your life… Yikes… Probably so, so NOT what you wanted to hear — but you dealt yourself this hand, unfortunately.
    Good luck.

  4. As someone who has family members with Bipolar Disorder, let me tell you that it’s not something that some time, medication and therapy will fix. This is something they will live with and probably struggle with (especially if around people who destabilize their lives) for the rest of their life. The road will never be smooth. Don’t expect that once he ‘comes to his senses’ life will be back on track. It will be a winding road.

    Do the things you need to do now to support yourself and this baby. Get into therapy so you can have an understanding of how his disease affects you and how it may affect your parenting decisions and your child’s life. See a lawyer to understand your rights and how to best protect yourself and your baby. Hang on to the pillars of support in your life as you figure out how to get back on your feet again. All of these things should be done whether he changes his behaviour or not.

    This disease often comes in waves (the mania, the depression, the times in between) and you need to prepare yourself to ride the waves and be the steady point in your child’s life, no matter what role your husband has in it.

  5. I’ve often asked myself what on Earth my father was thinking by marrying and procreating with my mother. She was undiagnosed, sure, but her mental illness has always been obvious.

    I’m sorry to tell you that a relationship with someone who doesn’t have their mental illness under control is always going to be a volatile one, whether your divorce him or not, although I’d advise that you do. Right now, you need to focus on your child and making sure you and the life you provide is as stable as possible because your child’s father will never be a source of stability.

    I don’t blame my parents for being who they are–that’s just life. But the instability of my childhood was extremely traumatic and affects me to this day in innumerable ways, none of them good besides possibly giving me tough skin, a wry sense of humor, and a bent towards the creative. Make sure you protect your child! That means making sure your finances are protected (do NOT sell your house!), that you have a support system in place for yourself and your kid, and that you monitor the kind of exposure–if any–your kid has with their father and that side of the family. I’m sorry you are in this situation, but you need to be prepared for the shit storm that’s coming.

  6. LW, it doesn’t sound like you’ve gotten any education on your husband’s illness, what it means for him, for you, and for your child. Bipolar disorder has a genetic component, so your child is at risk for developing the illness as well.

    Please, make an appointment with a psychiatrist/psychologist who can help you through this and help you understand why he behaves the way he does, and what you can expect in the future. Once you have a better grasp on things, see an attorney, as you will need to protect your finances and property.

    In the short term, don’t do anything like selling your house to appease someone who is not capable of thinking rationally. He’s not thinking straight right now. He can’t.

  7. Listen to Wendy. LW, this is some Self Rescuing Princess time here. This is a crap situation and you need to think about yourself and the baby. Do NOT sell your house to pay off his credit cards. Do NOT quit your job or anything. You need to hunker down and scrape together cash for the storm. I would take any cash you have and keep it separate from any joint accounts. Right now, I would pretend he is gone, what ever he can give you is a bonus but plan like you are on your own.

    I am sorry that this is happening to you but you can do this.

  8. anonymousse says:

    You need to really think about how he, his instability, and his family’s bad influence will affect your child. The most important thing is to protect the baby, and our assets. Contact a lawyer. Do you have family to lean on? Don’t sell the house that you’ve almost paid off. I’m so sorry you are dealing with this now, but at least he’s out of the vicinity and you can focus on what you need.

  9. Prepare to be a single parent. I was raised by one and I turned out okay. My dad was messed up in the head and was mentally unable to be a dad. He was an alcoholic and would drunk-driving and be swerving in the street with me in the car. That’s when my mom put her foot down. Your baby needs a stable home. This baby needs you. Save money for yourself and the baby. Don’t put anything in the joint account and take your money. Does anyone know if you can shut a joint account down by yourself or two people need to shut it down? Does joint accounts affect your credit?

    1. Joint accounts can affect your credit, both positively and negatively. And one person can almost always shut down joint accounts.

      This person desperately needs to keep everything as separate as possible, and to consult a lawyer to protect herself, her baby, and her assets. She doesn’t know what’s ahead, but it’s not going to be good.

  10. I would seek out a formal, legal separation. if he is spending recklessly, that can come back on your in the event of a divorce. It’s a hard concept to grasp, and some people see it as admitting there is going to be a divorce. But you need to start legally protecting yourself. A formal separation will also make him pay you support, even if it is temporary. Talk to a family law attorney in your area, you need to be legally protected no matter how this scenario plays out.

  11. “I tried to appease him by offering to sell my house and move to another town with him”

    I think you’ve offered a reasonable suggestion that doesn’t enmesh you with an in-law who could potentially create a lot of dysfunction for you and your child. People who are experiencing full-blown mania are not safe, not to themselves and not to young, dependent children. It isn’t a matter of judging them, they can be experiencing delusions and psychosis.

    Your husband has Bipolar two. This means he doesn’t usually experience full mania and has been diagnosed and been received treatment that was presumably working at a certain point. Some times people experiencing untreated mental illness will attempt to self-medicate through their depression or make choices that are more reckless because they have a false sense of optimism. How well people manage and cope is often based on having a strong, and educated support system, good mental and physical habits/hygiene, and continuing chemical treatment. You know your husband’s mother can’t or doesn’t manage her own mental health and recovery. If you move close to them my opinion is you will end up trying to manage and cope with both of their untreated highs and lows rather than just your husbands.

    Its my opinion that you need to put you and the baby, first. I imagine you feel panicked at the idea of starting parenthood without the support you expected from your husband. But you have to think both short-term and long term, here. If you have a low mortgage you can afford, steady employment, and contacts in the area, I’d stay where you are at unless you feel like there is somewhere else that can provide you equal or more support. I’m sorry you are going through this and are stressed about your husband. Whether he is using again, experiencing hypo-mania, or just not making good choices surrounding the stress and responsibility of your new addition, you owe it to yourself and your child to act wisely. He may come around or he may not but you can set the boundaries as well as possible. If your insurance covers it, I highly suggest you schedule some therapy for yourself to help you feel less alone, more knowledgeable, and perhaps more comfortable processing all the feelings of loss, joy, anticipation, and anxiety that you may be experiencing. Try to take extra good care of yourself and try to live as much in the present as possible. Good luck.

  12. Lawyer immediately. I’m sorry but the person you thought you knew is gone. Your duty is to your child and yourself. Lawyer. Seriously. You will need to put things in place now to restrict visitation if he is mentally unstable. Your baby’s well being is at stake. Can you imagine handing over your baby to him and his mother? No? Do something about it now. Keep text messages. Get whatever you can in writing. I speak from experience here. And I will tell you what psychiatrists told me. This illness gets worse with age. There is no bump. There is no fix. The best of him is already behind you.

  13. And absolutely do not move or sell your house.

  14. Does he have a key to your house? I don’t want to sound dramatic but I would change the locks if so. You never know when and in what state he might turn up. Even if he’d mean well, you don’t need someone unstable barging in with a newborn in the house.
    I’m so sorry you’re going through this, LW. Please keep us updated.

  15. My first advice is you are most likely better off without him. And so is your child. I used to have a very good friend who was bipolar and she made and still makes the worst decisions. Of course she thinks she is right and making terribly smart choices. It is only afterwards that she realizes her mistakes. Her life has completely gone down the drain due to her really bad decisions. If you decide to stay with him, which I think is a mistake, tell him he is having faulty logic. Your house is almost paid off. Once it is paid off you have no mortgage and you can pay off his debt faster. If you sell the house and pay off the debt you then have rent to pay or a new mortgage to pay every month. Ask him to go with you to meet with a financial expert to learn more about money.

    1. I agree with Wendy, DO NOT under any circumstances move in with his mother. Get a lawyer and split up officially. He is making the worst choices ever…leaving his well paying job and applying for a labor job in a mine? Moving in with his mother and her boyfriend? Bad bad decisions. This is what bipolar people do. If you stay with him you are in for a lifetime of this craziness.

  16. I’m disheartened by some of these comments that promote the stigmatization that people living with bipolar disorder are like the toxic people who can’t possibly maintain healthy relationships and live functionally. Sure, people with bipolar disorder have struggles, as we all do, and some either haven’t found the treatment that works effectively for them, or the treatment that once works o longer does, or they stop treatment that has worked and live dysfunctionally as a result. But there are lots of people on the spectrum of bipolar disorder who DO manage to function really well, who maintain happy and healthy relationships, and work and support themselves and even a family. It’s really unfair to paint this disorder, and the people who live with it, in such broad strokes. Frankly, it sounds pretty bigoted. Imagine swapping out “black people” or “gay people” or “women” for “bipolar people” in some of these comments. Sounds pretty bad, right?

    1. Thank you so much for this, Wendy. I have lived with bipolar disorder since age 14 and manage it very well. I’m a loving and supportive daughter, sister, aunt and partner and have an education and a great job. Stereotypes about people with mental health disabilities abound but they are just that: stereotypes based on a few anecdotes. If you’ve known one person with bipolar disorder, you’ve known one person with bipolar disorder. Not all.

      1. Agreed! I have someone close in my life who lives with bipolar disorder whose life abs management of the disorder sounds a lot like yours. No doubt, mental health issues are challenging but they CAN be managed with the right treatment and support.

      2. This is an important point. I’m a licensed clinical counselor, and have lifelong depression as well.

        With any mental health issue, including addiction, the person has to care about the impact it’s having on other people, and has to *want* to manage it and get better. If someone has each of these factors, they can be a good partner. LW’s husband doesn’t demonstrate either of them. That is why I would prioritize protecting herself and the baby. Change locks, close any shared bank accounts, do not sell the house, document his erratic behavior, and meet with a lawyer.

    2. I see what you are saying and I definitely agree, but right now he is clearly unstable and is not functioning well. I think that’s why a lot of people raise these concerns. I think everyone is hoping for him to be able to live a happy life again.

  17. I’m a recovering addict and Bipolar as well (Bipolar Type 1) and I say in all honesty, even as someone with the same affliction as your husband: Leave him. File for divorce. Sue for full custody. His life is not a safe place for a baby – he’s an addict (supposedly still in recovery), his mother is an active addict and he is living with her. What would visitation or him being a part of your baby’s life look like? Weekends with the baby at his mother’s house? With drugs? With two mentally ill people who may or may not be in treatment and her boyfriend of 3 weeks?

    Do whatever you can to protect yourself and your baby, and do it now.

    I hate to say all of this – I hate to paint my sort with broad strokes but seriously, if even I can say it, it’s pretty important.

  18. allathian says:

    The baby’s health and safety must come first at all times. You don’t take chances with defenseless children and mental illness or addicition, you just don’t.

    If you’re lucky, and I admit it’s a big if, becoming a father may just be the kick in the pants your husband needs to seek treatment and to distance himself from his mother, who clearly has a bad influence on him.

    Even if you divorce him, get full custody of the baby (preferably before he/she’s even born), any visitation rights can always be subject to his health.

    Urging the LW to protect herself and her baby does not mean lacking compassion or understanding for people suffering from mental illness. Clearly, in this case the illness is not under control, which is why we’re urging the LW to take precautions and ensure the safety of herself and her kid.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know what you should do in regards to your relationship with your husband, but for the love of God do not sell your house.

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