When Your Spouse Has a Mental Illness

Hope for the marriage that’s not what you planned
When Your Spouse Has a Mental Illness

Alma's speech became stilted, and her eyes brimmed with tears as she shared the moment she knew her marriage was over. It was not a matter of infidelity, immorality, or a lack of love that ended her marriage of three years. In fact, she and her husband deeply loved each other—but his manic episodes had taken a toll on their relationship and on their two-year-old daughter, Sasha. Their savings was depleted from his multiple hospitalizations as well as his spending sprees, and both were fearful his rage could turn violent and put their daughter at risk. Neither Alma nor her husband wanted to put their daughter in danger. So, with deep sadness—not wanting to put Alma and Sasha through any more turmoil—her husband asked for a divorce.

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Such a sad situation, and yet many couples dealing with mental illness find their marriages in jeopardy. There is no grand blueprint for how to protect your marriage when your spouse has a mental illness any more than if he had a chronic physical illness or was terminally ill. The only difference is that mental illness isn't always visible.

Society seems to be less tolerant of something they can't see, much less understand. Often, family and friends ask questions like, "Why can't he just snap out of it and do the right thing?" If you're in a marriage marked by mental illness, remember that educating loved ones and friends about mental illness can help them better understand the situation and equip them to provide much-needed support and encouragement. You can even invite family members to attend counseling sessions with you so that they can gain a better understanding of your spouse's mental health challenges.

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May 25

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