I think my father-in-law is bipolar

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Roseanna
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Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 7
   Posted 7/12/2007 1:24 PM (GMT -7)   

Hello.

 

I’m new to this but I really need some advice.  I’ve been married for 4 years, have two children and I am very happy with my husband and the life we are building together.  I believe that my father-in-law is bipolar but would never admit it.  My mother-in-law passed away a few months ago and it has affected him a lot more, but he has always had these extreme mood swings.  One day he is in a great mood, very high strung, hyper, and can’t sit still and another day he doesn’t crack a smile and might say two words.  My mother-in-law always protected him and made up excuses for him, but she allowed him to do whatever he wanted.  Now that she is gone, my husband is starting to fall into that role of protecting him.  When I talk to my husband about this, he always feels that I am attacking his father, but I’m not.  I just think he needs help because he has such power over everyone and affects the moods of all of us.  I know that you can’t abandon family and I would never want that for my husband, but I also know that his dad has too strong of a personality and will never admit that he has anything wrong with him.  He thinks he does no wrong, but he has made my life miserable.  It is his way of the highway…he has certain ideas and plans in his mind that he wants everyone to follow and when we don’t go along with that he gives us the silent treatment.  I’ve changed my wedding plans, named my son after him, moved to his town and done so much to try and please him but it is never good enough.  The problems started when we first go married.  He would just pop over our house unannounced at either 7:00 a.m. or 11:00 p.m.  I don’t care that he comes over, but I just wanted him to call to tell us he is coming over.  This little request has sparked years of problems between the two of us and in turn my husband.  I don’t know what to do anymore because I feel like I can’t handle how he treats me anymore.  My son also cries around him because of his moodiness.  My husband and I are going to start going to therapy to learn how to cope with him, but my husband still won’t accept that he has a serious problem and feels that I am too sensitive and need to just not let it bother me.  That’s why we are going for help.  I can go on and on, but I just want us to all get along.  Any advice?

 

 

This post was modified because of text size.

Post Edited By Moderator (olivia of course) : 7/12/2007 10:06:30 PM (GMT-6)


loving frustrated wife
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Date Joined Jun 2007
Total Posts : 865
   Posted 7/12/2007 9:49 PM (GMT -7)   
Roseanna, you are not going to be successful in "changing" your father in law. He sounds like an older gentleman, vs. a 50 year old guy. Is this true? While my in-laws are now both gone, I can empathize with your situation as I found dealing with my f-i-l, after my m-i-l passed, very trying at times over the remaining 5 years of his life. He was the helpless sort and I was expected by him in some ways to pick up the slack from his loss. Plus...my husband has some issues with my mom, which I will share about in a minute....But here's what I learned in life...People by that age are, who they are. The innateness of their personality will magnify as they get older, and you must find a way to accept that and make peace with it to some degree. But it is reasonable of you to want to have some structure to the relationship. I think you and your husband are very smart to be seeking help from a professional to be able to discuss it openly in a safe environment. Having a professional with us to discuss hard things does help my BP husband and I.

I know that while my mother is not BP, she can get on my husbands nerves and it is hard for me to hear him criticize her, to me, at times. And it is not that I don't see what he at times sees about her...I do. But I "speak" mom as it were, and I know what she means vs. how she says things sometimes. To me that matters, to my husband it doesn't. But...and here is the important part...She is my mom and she is a good person who is there for us when we need her. She has never let us down, and she is owed our respect no matter whether she does stuff to help us or not. She raised me, and she is my parent. It is the same you will want from your kids when they grow up towards you both - it is that whole unconditional love thing and acceptance for who you are...and unless there is physical or severe emotional or verbal abuse...most parents are due that by their kids...don't you think? Now, with that said...it isn't that I haven't shared with her things she is doing that I would appreciate if she could stop because of how it is making my husband feel. But I work to share those things with her, with respect and care. And that is one of the keys...she is my mom and I need to be the one to communicate the things to her...not my husband. Because again...I "speak" mom. Does that make sense to you?

So the one you need to communicate with is your husband. And just try when you do, to be as loving as you can, as respectful as you can...this is his father after all and it sounds like they do not have an estranged relationship and you do not want to have to put your husband in the position between you and his father having to choose between you. At the same time...again....it is okay to ask for your husbands assistance with creating healthy boundries for your family, so all of you don't get sucked into fulfill the role the mother played, or help regarding what to do so the kids are not negatively affected by grandpa's mood swings when it is on the down swing. Ask your husband what suggestions he has of how to handle this with the kids, or what you can do besides share your concerns with him. Then you are turning to him as the "lead" with his dad, but also remaining his partner to find positive resolutions that work for your family. And of course having the ultimate goal of creating a loving relationship with his dad that works for all of you.

Hope that feedback helps. LFW

Roseanna
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 7
   Posted 7/13/2007 4:32 AM (GMT -7)   
LFW,

Thank you for the advice. I 100% agree with everything you said. I know that you can't change people, especially at 58. And again I just want to find a way to make it work. For some reason, I take his mood swings personally and I feel uncomfortable around him. He hasn't been diagnosed as having BP, but I have read so much on the disorder and it really seems to fit. Somehow, I need to learn how to not take how he treats me personally. I guess that's how the therapist can help. For him however, I don't know what is going to happen to him if he does have this and doesn't get help. My husband doesn't even want to think about the possibility that his father might have BP. I just don't think that he wants to start any trouble with his dad, so we will just have to figure out how to deal with him when he is at his lows. When he is in the 'manic' state, he's great. He's talkative, loving, funny and has this energy about him that spills over the everyone. But those 'depressive' moods really makes us all sad. On Father's day, we went to his house for dinner and he was in one of these moods. He might have said two words the whole day and wouldn't even open his father's day gift. My son is two years old and asked him for a cookie and my f-i-l couldn't understand his toddler gibberish, so he just ignored him and was very cold. That's what breaks my heart the most because my son doesn't understand.

loving frustrated wife
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Date Joined Jun 2007
Total Posts : 865
   Posted 7/13/2007 3:05 PM (GMT -7)   
I understand how you feel about your son, but he is two and while he doesn't really understand what is going on, he can see that Grandpa isn't happy today. Maybe those are the teachable moments for your son to say..."gee, grandpa is a little sad today...what do you think are things we could do to cheer him up?" Then help him with a few suggestions if he can't think of any like..."Let's draw grandpa a happy picture to cheer him up", or "let's go pick a flower for grandpa", or "sometimes we can't make the sad feeling go away for someone...but we can remind them that we love them, maybe just a nice hug for grandpa and then we can leave him be until he feels better". These things a 2 year old can understand. Plus, it is acknowledging the situation in a way his age can understand. And as far as what you could maybe do, acknowledge what you see lovingly and say something like, "gee dad, I see that you are down today, is there anything I can do to help you?" If he tells you great, if not, just remind him you are there and love him and then act as normal as you can. But I think the worst thing you can do at that moment is to ignore the obvious. Just be as loving as you can and if he doesn't feel like opening his gift that day...don't make a big deal of it, say, "that's okay...you can open it whenever you feel up to it. We hope you really love it." Again, you aren't going to make him be different or "pull" him out of where he is. He will have to learn to see it and do it. The more I left my f-i-l alone and didn't push feelings with him, the more he opened up with me. In the end, when he passed, it was me that he reached for the most.

As to taking anything personal, given that you recognize something is off with him, it should make it easier to disregard the way he may handle things as "oh, there goes dad again..." in your own head. But if you can't get past taking it personal, then that is definately an area the therapist can help. Plus, by seeing the therapist with your husband, he may learn how to talk to his dad about what you both are seeing in a loving non-threatening way and perhaps he will want to get help one day. You never know. But it sounds like your husband does see it to, so give them both time. You planted the seed with your husband as to what it could be...now go to the therapist...and let the seed grow for him. He will learn and adjust to the idea. Then he may feel safe about how to take action.

Hope that helps.

SnowyLynne
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Date Joined Apr 2004
Total Posts : 1539
   Posted 7/13/2007 3:34 PM (GMT -7)   
There is little you can do unless he admits to a proble or things turn very ugly,violent.Then your hubby can do something.......
SnowyLynne


Roseanna
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 7
   Posted 7/14/2007 11:51 AM (GMT -7)   
Thank you. That is probably the best advice that I have gotten in 4 years. I'm going to try and execute it. It's a lot easier knowing that it isn't personal...he just has a disorder and can't help himself and since we are family, we need to support him. I can't tell you how much better I feel...

loving frustrated wife
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Date Joined Jun 2007
Total Posts : 865
   Posted 7/14/2007 1:34 PM (GMT -7)   
I would caution you to not verbalize what you think your f-i-l has - as a 'disorder' when referencing it outside therapy. We are not doctors and therefore not in the position to make those claims and it may not be taken well by other family or friends, until he is officially diagnosed. You can kindly share that you notice similarities to the symtoms and how dad "acts". But to refer to it as "he has a disorder", could upset people. However, you can say things like - the special nuances in his personality, or dad's doing that thing again, or being his unique self.... things like that as an alternative perhaps?

Happy if anything I suggested helped. LFW

MMMNAVY
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Date Joined Jul 2006
Total Posts : 6927
   Posted 7/14/2007 2:21 PM (GMT -7)   
I would commend you on protecting your child, they cannot verbalize the hurt that is given by grandfather's personality swings. Especially since that child might be bearing the grandfather's name. In fact from what you have said here I would not leave the child in the f-i-l presence alone, and I question if you should allow contact at all. No one who is mentally healthy intentionally hurts a child. I feel (and I may be off base here, so please forgive me if I am) that there is more emotional abuse going on here than you are telling us about. I certainly am looking at a form of malipulation from your f-i-l at the very least.

No matter what you need to protect your children. Do you want them being treated like you are being treated?

Roseanna
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 7
   Posted 7/14/2007 7:46 PM (GMT -7)   
I do know that we have been manipulated in the past. He is very good at giving everyone the silent treatment if he doesn't approve...As for my son, I don't feel comfortable leaving him alone with him. My husband and I have had this argument for the longest time and he has finally respected my wishes. I just don't trust his judgement. In my presence, he has done things that I wouldn't do. For example, one day when we were at his house, it was 7:00 p.m. and lightly drizzling outside. My f-i-l was very hyper and wanted to take the baby for a walk outside. My husband just goes along with what his father says out of respect and I didn't want to upset my husband so we said ok. During the time they were gone, I didn't feel right about it, because I thought with being dark outside and the weather it wasn't necessary, but I thought he wouldn't let anything happen to him. When my f-i-l came inside, he started doing things and was in the middle of a conversation with someone and I looked down the hallway to see where my son was. Turns out that he left the baby outside in the front in the driveway alone. I was so upset because it is just something that I wouldn't do. The very last time my husband convinced me to let him come to our house and watch my son for a few hours just to have some alone time with him. So after a lot of arguing, I gave in. I told my f-i-l to just be sure to give him lunch and then down for a nap after lunch. When we got home, my son was sleeping, but he never gave him lunch and never changed his diaper. I just don't feel comfortable with it anymore. He even came over one day and wanted to buy a car seat for his car to take my son out with him, by I won't allow that.

It's not that I want to keep him from seeing his grandson, because he can come over here anytime he'd like, as long as he calls me first and lets me know he is coming, but I don't feel comfortable now especially since my son doesn't either.

loving frustrated wife
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Date Joined Jun 2007
Total Posts : 865
   Posted 7/14/2007 9:57 PM (GMT -7)   
Certainly with the incidents you are listing, it sounds like you f-i-l is not the person to leave your son with. Clearly he needs others around to subtly supervise the visit to ensure safety for your son under those circumstances. I am glad you are seeing a professional with your husband, this should help a lot. Does your husband have siblings? If so, what is the experience they are having with him? LFW

MMMNAVY
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Date Joined Jul 2006
Total Posts : 6927
   Posted 7/15/2007 7:38 AM (GMT -7)   
In all honesty is someone who is a chronological adult who still uses the silent treatment is obviously still lacking in emotional maturity. I agree with you that a two year old should not be left alone, especially outside. Very simply if that child would have been hurt (like been hit by a car since he was in the driveway what would keep him from wondering out into the street?), you would have been the ones investigated by child welfare. Not your f-i-l.

I think your guidelines are right on and that you should stick to your guns about this. Frankly somone coming over after 8:00 p.m. (especially when you have a child) should be an invited guest or an emergency. It is bad manners not to call before you intrude on someones privacy anyway. No matter if it is family or not.

Roseanna
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 7
   Posted 7/16/2007 7:59 AM (GMT -7)   
My husband has one brother who lives with their father. He is fully aware of the moodiness and is as good as ingnorning it as my husband. Their mother raised them to ignore it, and always just said, "oh, dad is just in one of his moods." They think nothing of it, but I didn't have that, so I guess it is a skill that I have to learn.

My f-i-l came over last night and was in a great mood. He was nice to everyone and had that energy that he gets. I had a question. I do make a correlation between his hyper moods and alchohol. Whenever he is drinking, he gets into these 'great' moods, and when he is sober he is miserable. Is that typical for a bipolar person or is this something different?

He does lack an emotional maturity. He is like a big baby. I know that he was very controlled and physically abused as a child, so I can see why he is this way, but it is just learning how to deal with him without condoning his behavior and respecting him at the same time.

serafena
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Date Joined May 2007
Total Posts : 3715
   Posted 7/16/2007 5:54 PM (GMT -7)   
Roseanna -- Alcohol abuse and bipolar disorder certainly have a documented relationship, as do depression and alcoholism. He may use alcohol to "force" a pleasant mood, but that's just as scary. It seems clear your f-i-l could use some medical evaluation, but again, there's no way to force the issue. You could ask your son to press him to get help, but it sounds like the family dynamic has always been to ignore it, so that may be hard. It's already been said, but I absolutely wouldn't leave your f-i-l alone with your child.

Have you considered talking to a counselor to get some advice about helping your immediate family deal with his behavior?

serafena

Roseanna
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 7
   Posted 7/17/2007 4:06 AM (GMT -7)   
Yes, actually we have an appointment tonight. We have been to a marriage councelor in the past because we would always argue on this subject regarding my f-i-l. We realized that we din't need a marriage councelor because we get along just fine. This is the one thing that has always caused problems for us. The marriage councelor did help, but not entirely so we both agreed to try someone new just to gain a new perspective on things. The only thing is that we'll have to dig up a lot of things from the past to bring him up to speed, but it's worth any help that he could provide.

MMMNAVY
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Date Joined Jul 2006
Total Posts : 6927
   Posted 7/17/2007 6:04 PM (GMT -7)   
I hope you don't mind if I ask what kind of therapist are you seeing? The letters after their name type of stuff.

Roseanna
New Member


Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 7
   Posted 7/18/2007 4:05 AM (GMT -7)   
He is a psycologist and holds a phd. Our last marriage councilor was ok, and didn't have the same level of credentials as new guy. He seems pretty good. My husband couldn't make the session last night because there was a problem at work and it was beyond his control, but it worked out best this way. I was able to go alone and voice my concerns without any interruption. Next week, my husband will go alone to give his concerns and then the following week we will go together. He confirmed that I shouldn't leave the children alone with my f-i-l. Just before the appointment, my husband was saying that he thinks it is ok to leave them alone in his care, so we'll have to see how their appointment goes next week. My husband is in denial about all of this. He just lost his mother 6 months ago and I don't think he can accept that his father has a problem as well. I feel very alone in trying to protect my children.

MMMNAVY
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2006
Total Posts : 6927
   Posted 7/18/2007 7:58 AM (GMT -7)   
Roseanna,
I am so sorry you have to deal with this. I want to reaffirm that I think you are doing the right thing here. Grief can exastribate (sorry can't spell today) these issues and make them worse. Keep sticking to your guns.
Best Wishes,
Navy

loving frustrated wife
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Date Joined Jun 2007
Total Posts : 865
   Posted 7/18/2007 5:56 PM (GMT -7)   
Rosanna, ask your husband if you can hold off on making a joint decision on the issue of leaving them alone with him until you have both seen the therapist alone, and together a few times. Then, the professional can help you both come to a decision about it at a session not far down the road... together - as there is much to fill him in on first. Suggest that until this discussion takes place with the therapist with you all together, if he wouldn't mind, just for that time being, not allowing it. Then, it won't be YOU against him, but the therapist also pointing out why? Just a suggestion for you as a way to discuss it that may work.

There have been many times the therapist has advised me to allow him to guide my husband to the right conclusions that were hard for him to see, so it was not a power struggle between us. Just the right decision for us as a couple to make, for the right reasons. Then it allows us to be on the same side of an issue, as oppose to opposite ones. Make sense? LFW
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