Marriage and Mental Illness: For Better or Worse?

For Better of Worse? Yes, that’s the vow. But when the symptoms of mental illness seem to change the personality – the very soul - of your husband or wife, how do you keep going? How do you hold the family together?

Partners for Life

When faced with mental illness, family members have two sets of challenges, it seems:

  1. the emotions we all face (like grief, confusion, guilt, loss, anger) and,
  2. the more practical issues in the role of any family caregiver - a role we all have to play at least some of the time in this situation.

My most personal experience, as a family member of someone diagnosed with mental illness, is as a Mom. In fact, I’d venture to say that a majority of the people who take NAMI’s Family-to-Family course are parents. A typical class of 20-25 usually includes a handful of siblings, spouses, and/or children (that is, adults who grew up and may be caring for a parent with mental illness) – but the biggest group always seems to consist of parents.

Many of the issues, emotions, and challenges we face as family members certainly are universal to all of these roles – however, there are also additional feelings and obstacles that are unique to each “relative group.”

Yes, I am a mother – but I also watched my daughter suffer through

I Do...

the loss of the “big brother” she knew,  and adjust to her new role with a “little brother”, whose growth and accomplishments now trail behind.  I also was married to an alcoholic for seven years (Ben and Ali’s father, William) and though I now struggle to determine if he’d had a co-occurring mental illness, I know that I did live with some of the uncertainties that spouses face when mental illness changes the partner they thought they’d married.

Challenges Facing Spouses with Mentally Ill Partners

Here are 5 things I learned from spouses of those with mental illness about their particular “objective” challenges, in addition to the ones we seem to all have in common (financial worries, staying alert to relapse symptoms, coping with family conflict etc.):

Spouses also face:

  1. Feeling like you’ve lost the partnership of marriage. If you always turned to your spouse in times of need, where can you turn now? (I know, in our house, my friends’ sympathy for my Williams’ alcoholic episodes wore thin very fast)
  2. Financial burdens. Coping with the loss of a wage-worker in the household,  if mental illness has led to job loss. (I began to lose count of the number of jobs William lost, or the number of customer complaints when he started his own business, due to unreliability)
  3. Resentment – and sexual distance – that can accompany the change in roles when one spouse takes on the “caretaker” role.
  4. Single-parenting coupled with being primary caretaker of your spouse. (One Mom I met told me about walking down the stairs dressed in her husband’s Santa suit to greet their three young kids, after he’d been hospitalized on Xmas Eve. That may the tip of the iceberg, but it still broke her heart). Worrying about your children’s emotional state as well as your own.
  5. Stigma, social isolation, loss of the “couple friends” group. Invitations dwindle when your spouse’s actions are unpredictable and sometimes embarrassing.

What helps spouses? What helps all family members? In my next post I’ll talk about life balance, and some concrete steps like learning all you can, reaching out for support in new places, and self-care.

Are you a spouse of someone with a diagnosed mental illness? Does this ring true for you? What helps you?

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148 Responses to Marriage and Mental Illness: For Better or Worse?

  1. Jennifer says:

    My husband has always been depressed. He had his first mental breakdown 6 years ago. in late 2014. He started to get worse with the paranoia. At one point he said his co workers are playing games with him, shortly after that he lost his job and when I returned to work after being out due to illness, he began to treat me differently. I told his mom and she blew me off, despite his father’s mental illness the reason why she left him. It got physical between us. I didn’t trust him being left alone with the kids. Eventually I had him involuntarily committed and on the last one he left the state. I have to let my home go into foreclosure and file for bankruptcy. He has selective mute-ism with me and the kids. I later found out that there was a history of mental illness on both sides of his family. His mom enables him and refuses to get him help. Family members refuse to help because of her.
    My life is falling a part and my kids and I don’t even know where we are going to call home. He was a great dad and decent husband. His mom blames me. I blame her for not getting him help when he was younger.

  2. Jennifer says:

    In regards to my last post I forgot to mention that he stopped eating from me, spend long hours walking the highway. He looked at me like I was out to get him. He was diagnosed possible Schizo Affective and or Bipolar Depresssion

  3. Joe DAmbrosio says:

    I’m trying to take care of my exwife .shes been on and off her meds now for 5 years.. I have three wonderful grown sons whovarevtrying tovleadvtheir own lives..I live with her and work three days a week to keep an apartment to go to when she’s completely off the wall .. I feel lonely .. She’s there and not there.. My sons and I try to work as a team but I’m trying to shield them from the day to day stuff that will certainly distrupt and further hurt there lives… She was hospitalized for schizophrenia effective disorder with depressive systems and as having ptsd .. This was a wonderful brillant professional caring SocialWorker who was placed in care as a child!!! I feel very alone.. It’s nonstop 24 hrs a day I’m 68 in good shape I’m an author an ex professor and a Practicing Buddhist Dharma Teacher….. I just need to talk to someone who is going through the same thing as me!!She falls through all the cracks in the Mental Health System.. It’s stay and try to maintain her or go and watch her detiriate over the next years to a state where she can be truly hospitalized for ever!!! It’s a Hobsian choice!!! Please if anyone is out there I live in Putnam County NY please email me.. If your living like me I need to talk about it.. Thankyou

  4. SANDY says:

    Jennifer, my heart goes out to you. Please get into some kind of a support group fast, whether on line or in person. Most people dont “get” mental illness; you need the guidance, emotional support and love from people who have experienced what you are experiencing. Trying to get it from the uninformed and inexperienced is frustrating for them and you. Hugs to you! Stay strong.

  5. SANDY says:

    ‘Stigma, social isolation, loss of the “couple friends” group. Invitations dwindle when your spouse’s actions are unpredictable and sometimes embarrassing.’

    I just looked at ten different online articles about coping as a spouse of someone with a mental illness, and this is the only one that addressed this directly, yet it is one of the most difficult to cope with and frustrating because trying to resolve it can make you seem needy and desparate or unloyal to your spouse, which then has the oppisite effect of what you want. One must accept early on that they will have a much smaller social circle than a couple where both mates are healthy, and that even within that circle, they may be loved and cared about, but that will not necessarily translate into them wanting to spend time with you.  One reason I love my job is because there I am my own entity rather than being identified with my spouse; I stand or fall based on my own actions, not his. It is extremely important I think for anyone with a mentally ill spouse to find an outlet – hobby, volunteer work, class, job etc – that our spouse is not involved in at all where we can be seen for who we are, because when they are present, their personality will almost always dominate. 

  6. Sandy,

    Yes. I think you are right that when your spouse has a mental illness it will reduce your social group. But, after dealing with a mental illness for fifteen years in my marriage and other difficulties, I’ve learned that every time we go through a difficult time, our social groups get smaller. This is a hard truth that most people don’t have to realize: there are few true friends out there that will stick by your side.

    If I can encourage you to do anything, it would be these two things: find a support group for families of mental illness, spouses of mental illness, etc. Go somewhere where you can find people who share your experiences. Maybe there you can find some true friends who understand you. Also, please seek friendship and activities outside of your marriage. You need time off. Meet a girlfriend for coffee, join an exercise class, find a good therapist. Have a little fun. Then, maybe your smaller circles might not feel so confining.

    Best of luck to you,

  7. Steve says:

    My partner has mental health problems and addiction problems. I have them myself but to a lesser extent. We reunutied just over a year ago after 18 years. She cannot deal with any serious issues and I find myself often unable to cope. There are about 75% bad days. She attacks me spiritually, emotionally and mentally. My family hate her and this means I have no one to talk to. They think I am a fool being manipulated. In my darker moments I think this. I am by no means perfect and I snap after many days of sustained upset. The fallout of course is that I feel like a worthless failure. Things have gotten physical on both sides but I have never punched a woman in my life. I have slapped her on the face after she has said the most disgusting things to me. During our years apart I experienced mental health problems that my family wrongfully attributed to her. I learned from these experiences, got a degree, became a respected tutor and producer. I hoped I could help her but I fail her. She moved in with me a week ago and now says that I have trapped her. I don’t think she means it. She says it to hurt me. I rent this place and I would move out if it helps. We have a beautiful rescue dog and it would be much easier for me to find a place than her. I adore her with my heart and soul but consciously or not she treats me like toilet paper.

  8. Ann says:

    I too, am married to a man with anger issues. He is very difficult to talk to so our communication between each other is very limited. Our circle of friends is very small now. And I find when we do have any social interaction he changes into another person. It’s quite embarrassing to me and awkward for our friends and family. I have started to get out more but he is rather possessive of my time and he gets agitated if I do too much. It would be great if he would get some help or even admit that he has a problem. I am trying to learn how to talk with him without setting him off. Any suggestions for reading material that might help me?


  9. Nicole says:

    I stumbled across this when i was seeking information on how to deal with mental illness in a spouce. I have been married for almost 3 years now and I feel like I have no one to turn to for help. Recently my husband revealed to me that he hears voices over the last 2 months it has progressively gotten worse he says he hears voice and they tell him mean things. He keeps me up all night long saying that I am saying thing im not he seears theres camras all over our house and spy camras in our walls and pictures that people are following him that im cheating on him and so on. We have 3 young girls ranging from 8 years old to 11 months old and this has taken a major toll on all of us. Well he left yesterday and took all of picture frames with him. I dont know what to do or where to go. How dose one deal with this is there hope for your marriage I love my husband dearly but this is eating me up alive I feel so alone and dont know who I can talk to or where I can go please help

  10. Nicole,
    I am so very sorry to hear what you’re going through. There may be hope for your marriage, but only if your husband seeks treatment. You and your girls deserve to live in a safe environment. Please take care of yourself.


  11. Ann,

    Have you read “Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder” by Julie Fast? I highly recommend it.


  12. Kate says:

    Hi nicole,
    my husband too experience the same thing.its bn 4yrs now.most ppl n family says he is having deep depression.some says its due to black magic ..someone may have sent them to harm him. The problem is mu hsband refuse to get treatment or seek spiritual help. Im so confuse of how to deal.what to do… so exhausted ..i prayed for four yrs..nothing change

  13. Danielle says:

    I have been married to my husband for 18 years. For the past 16 months I have been dealing with his newly diagnosed bipolar, thoughts disorder. It’s thought to have been brought on by drug use which had been occurring for 2 years prior. To say it’s been difficult is putting it mildly. I think we have been apart more than together. I am the only one in his family willing to help. His parents and sibling no longer desire to assist. My stepson will take him in when he bails from our home but he also struggles to deal with him as well. I have had him made into a 5150 at least four times for fear of his safety. He going to the veterans hospital for mental health but like others I feel he falls through the cracks. He will go a couple of weeks and be ok then all hell breaks loose. Recently he has discovered 5 hour energy drinks and it has just sent him through the roof. He been unemployed and recently got a great job 3 weeks ago I don’t foresee it lasting another week. He never is on time and is a no show. He’s constantly paranoid and when it gets to this level he won’t even trust me yet Iam the only one who looks after him. He spends endless hours doing what he believes are investigations he will go to churches fire stations you name it. Iam constantly worried when he’s taken off but can’t stand to have him here. My 14 year old son has seen so much and the constant crazy talk of what he believes is gangstalking against him is more than I can take. He believes there are committees that form to drive people crazy or get them in trouble by setting them up following them etc. he has severe issue with numbers and letters and that can consume his day sometimes. Iam so frustrated, depressed, disappointed. I love this man but these past 16 months are more than a sane person can take. Where do you get help for them? Iam constantly left to pick up the mess and left with the financial burdens when he goes through this which is at least every other month. Iam to the point Iam ready to walk from the relationship because it’s so difficult. He has issues with the city, water company cable company. Is this what others are going through? I feel like others friends and family no longer want to come around neighbors have quit talking to us. You feel so alone and the friends who will listen can’t even begin to understand what you go through on a daily basis let alone offer advice.

  14. Danielle says:

    Nicole, I feel your pain and understand completely. My husband also believes we are video and audio taped and recently removed the wifi and Dvr Verizon boxes from the home believing they were the source. My question is how are we to respond to this? Do you agree with them or do you try to bring reason to the table. I find either I do only causes distrust.

  15. Danielle,
    I am so sorry to hear what you’re going through. I think, if you read through the comments, you will find that there are many others going through similar hardships. I would recommend you seeking a counselor for yourself to help alleviate some of the stress you’re experiencing. Also, going to a family group, such as NAMi, Fresh Hope, or DSBA will provide you with a community of people who understand what you’re going through and have resources to help you.

    Here are the links for those groups:
    Fresh Hope:

    I hope this helps, and please remember that you matter. Your needs, your safety, your wellbeing is so very important. Please take care of yourself.


  16. Brenda says:

    My daughter is trying to cope with living with a mentally ill husband. He is unable to hold a job and states that he can’t work so should be entitled to government supported income. I am strongly encouraging her to pursue divorce but it is killing her to do so. My question…when is it time to save yourself and just walk away? When is it time to salvage your life? And how do you let go of that guilt if you do decide to move on?

  17. Truthteller Timbo says:

    Hi ladies,

    I’d like to share something with you. Something that’s going to be very difficult to understand, but I hope you bear with me – because what I’m about to tell you is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the, yep you guessed it, my opinion.

    I have a mental illness. As such I won’t marry :( poor me! wa waaahh.. hehe seriously, I won’t have relationships. I don’t see how any mental person could if they were me, I have been fired from two jobs due to my paranoia, and it’s not getting any better anytime soon.

    I’m sorry you had to marry the person with a mental illness…(let’s just call us what we are, please)…but THAT was YOUR decision. Your only recourse is to warn others to stay away from people with mental illness and marry normals…In my case, the latter will never apply because I don’t want to hurt anybody anymore.


  18. Brad R says:

    I am so glad that I found this forum. I most associate with Joe D from New York, I feel much the same as he. Not to mention all the wonderful people that have posted here. My wife suffers from Bipolar and we divorced after 6 years of marriage in 04. She admittingly manipulated the system and got sole placement and custody of our three beautiful children. But after a brief year begged me to move back in as she was a full blown alcoholic and the kids had to save her more than once and they were 8, 7 and 4 at the time. We resumed living together although at first strictly platonic. But to be honest inspite of everything we had been through I never had stopped loving her. So recently we remarried in Las Vegas (we live in WI) on March 21st 2016. I was so excited and filled with hope that we would spend the rest of our lives together. Well, after two short months of marriage the disease has struck again and stated that she wants a divorce and plans on moving out and leaving the four of us behind. And much like Joe, I have no one to talk to. No one that can hear my cries, my kids don’t know anything yet, but when they find out they are going to be devastated (Our eldest graduates from HS and my wife as already told me she isn’t going to go.) I am beyond stressed out and can feel myself slipping into depression, I’ve thought recently of killing myself, but if not for my love of my wife and our children and our kids loving me back I’d have done it already. Not really sure where to turn, I only want my family together, happy and eternally devoted to one and another. Thank you all for letting me “vent.”

  19. Suffering says:

    To everyone who posted on this site I can relate to each comment. Each day to just get up is so difficult, to address disability, mental illness, graduations, friends, loss, life, and to go on is a struggle. St. Paul called it the drudgery of life, maybe it is always living for others = not for myself- for the disabled, for the adopted animals, well that is the basis of the issue for me, it is depressing not to live for ourselves and take time for ourselves.

    I don’t want to gloss over the issue, but today I realized that no matter what the problem we need to have some balance and good experiences/days to alleviate our suffering. That requires an outlet, someone to give us a break, getting meds, whatever it is we are all worth it. Just know that “you are worth it” whatever it takes I hope and pray we can find the outlet, the balance, the medication, the dr., and time for ourselves to regroup and come back to the drudgery with a renewed faith.

    I have lost friends and can’t spend the time to tell the others how difficult my life is. I don’t want to even write/tell/discuss the issues with them and depress them too. Thank you for listening because it is just a little helpful to know there are other folks out there who have to deal with issues too!

  20. Janet says:

    I’m a kenyanq lady aged 32, my husband recently left me because I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I thought its for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. He left because of my episodes, anger outbursts made him leave. I’m so confused and keep blaming myself for being ill and breaking my marriage.

  21. Net says:

    Hello everyone, I know what everyone is going thur. I have been with my husband for 10 years. And at first I could not tell he had a mental illness. He got diagnose in 2009. We met in 2005 so it was shortly after . We haven’t had a good relationship since . I don’t know what to do . Do you stay or leave? It is a lot to deal with .

  22. Donna says:

    I’ve been married 19 yrs. My husband in many ways is a good kind man. He has always had an explosive temper verbally and mood swings I now suspect ADHD or bipolar disorder. He has had three siblings to commit suicide. The last one two years ago a sibling killed herself in his presence when he was visiting her. His depression and anger increased. He became more hostile and cruel. He cut me off emotionally and financially would not pay any bills or provide even food etc. I began to fear for my safety also he constantly badgered me and told me he was going g to abuse me. Finally I had to get help with his abuse and him removed and obtained a court order. I filed for divorce after realizing he felt nothing was wrong and would not seek help. He’s very angry even though I’ve tried talking with him about getting I’ve given up after several months. I’ve bee a stay at home wife and mom. I need fiancil support he seems to be doing better emotionally according to friends I have ceased communication . I want to km
    now about bipolar cycling does it come and go. He admits to being depressed and I fear he may harm himself too. I feel somewhat guilty about fili g so quickly after separating but did not want to loose my home etc. He seems determined to loose everything and leave me penniless.

  23. Gia says:

    I’ve been married for only 5 months. Everything was great in the beginning. Before we were married, we were in a serious relationship for 10 years. We planned to travel a lot and do a lot of activities in our 1st year of marriage since we couldn’t when we were dating due to our work schedules/family, etc. At the 6th month of our marriage my husband started suffering from extreme depression and anxiety out of nowhere. It’s affected his health, his state of mind, his well-being, our everyday schedule and our traveling plans/plans for the future. How can I help him get thru this? Will he get thru this? I never expected to experience this as a newlywed. I’ll be 30 next year which was my cut-off for trying to have a family. I don’t want to have kids over 30. This has now delayed those plans as well. He doesn’t want to do anything until he “feels better” but doesn’t know if/when/how that will happen. I’m starting to resent him. He’s seeing multiple therapists. I feel like i’m living in a nightmare. I don’t even recognize who he is as a person anymore. What should I do? Should I give up my dreams for our future?

  24. Sad says:

    I had a very happy marriage, and twenty year relationship. The last three years were hell. He went from nice and normal to insane, I ended up “Nagging” that was because he could not do anything for himself. Eventually after a couple of years he saw a doctor, who put him on anti depressant pills. Things got worse, he got really aggressive, and eventually so much so, he did it in front of our children, totally lost control of himself, went ballistic. This was the final straw and I left, after securing a rental property for myself and our two children. I left four months ago, he has not sought any help, solutions, or cares. He is totally nuts, insane, I am concerned for my children when they are with him. He has no idea what he has done to me. I feel sad that he is broken, and sadder that he does not want to fix things. I now have to start life again on my own, but at least now I am safe and do not have to fear his outbursts. Mental illness was something I knew nothing about, and wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

  25. Susan says:

    I’m really glad I arrived here today. I’ve been married for 6 years to such an amazing man. He is a good husband and Dad…when he’s not struggling with mental illness. I feel like I’m constantly going through his “cycle” of depression and anxiety. Each time I hope the outcome will be different. He tries meds, but then stops them. He doesn’t like SSRI’s but gets upset about being prescribed a mood stabilizer. He started Intensive Outpatient Therapy this week and I’m so proud of him, but I’m also exhausted. I’ve been carrying our family for the last couple years. He’s had no regular employment and I’m worried that in my attempts to “care” for him, I’ve enabled him to just stay home and not work on improving. He’s upset with me and tells me I’m cold to him and it hurts him. I feel bad, but I also wished he’d see that I’m being drained. I work full-time, I basically parent full-time, I do the housework. He helps, but not on a partnership level. And I know this is petty, but when someone else needs something it doesn’t seem to matter how bad his anxiety or depression is, he’ll go do it. But with me “I just couldn’t bring myself to do laundry today.” I know this is a lot of venting, but as others mentioned, my friends have told us to get therapy and they don’t want to hear about it anymore. I feel like an orange that has all the juice squeezed out of it and then someone cuts it open and complains that it’s no good. I don’t want to divorce him, his mental illness isn’t who he is, it’s something he has to learn to deal with though. Please wish us the best in this new therapy. He goes 3 days/week for 2 or 3 weeks. He also saw a new therapist this week and has made another appointment.

  26. Donna says:

    I was married for 31 years and got sick. I got fibromyagia and got RSD. We got divoced on our own with no lawyers involved. I agreed to give up his pension if he gave me full custody of my daughter. The minute our divorce was final he started to buy my daughter all kinds of stuff and took her out all the time. He talked her into going and living with her brother. He told her I couldnt take care of her. Shortly after that I had a nervous breakdown. Im thinking about going to court to see if I can get half his pension back becuz I wasnt in my right mind when we got divorced. What do u think. He planned on me giving up his pension then talked her into moving out. He was a mean bully, alcholic. What do u think?

  27. Lotus says:

    I was diagnosed with PTSD and BPD four years ago, I right away sought help and went to therapy…my husband left me two years after I was diagnosed because he felt I would never recover….I did recover after a year of separation. It was from being left alone without his nagging, ignoring my cries for help, calling the police to force hospilization and telling me I was making it all up. My mother took care of me just by being there and not react to my outbursts. She gave me a sense of security, acceptance and I slowly found strength to heal and got better. Sometimes, a spouse reacting or trying to help makes things worse. I know my ex did because his irritation and ignoring me, emotional shut down makes it worse. After he left, all those expectations on a sick wife just disappears and I had space to myself to figure things out.

    When he left I asked him: “when you were ill with depression, I worked, took care of you, you got better. Now I am ill and you leave?” He answered: “when you took care of me I got better, when I took care of you, you didn’t get better.” I sighed: “is it my fault you’re so bad at taking care of me?”

    The lesson I learned through taking care of an ill person is to not have any expectations of them but allow them the space to heal and let them know that you accept, love and is there for them. I know my husband recovered from his depression of a year because of that. He didn’t work and couldn’t contribute much. I had patience, he healed. When it was my turn he couldn’t do the same and left. I don’t want to be a pain but the vow of in sickness and in health extends to mental illness. We come across partners with it because the universe wanted to teach us something. Leaving…we learn nothing but selfishness. I know how painful it is that I felt so hurt and betrayed by someone I kept my vows with but didn’t do it for me in return. Before leaving your ill spouse, ask yourself what is it about that person’s conditioning that mirrors yours that you needed to deal with? In this age of disposable goods which we consume and dispose things so easily, relationships unfortunately is another thing we dispose of when it doesn’t go well.

    To quote from the bible:
    “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

    When we project into the future (like my ex did ..thinking I wouldn’t recover, but he was wrong) we are being selfish. When we complaint and nag about what we have to endure, we lost patience. When we think too much about what happens, makes ourselves the victim it is no more. It is tough but a lot of patience and love is needed just like rest and medicine is needed for the body to heal. A mental illness spouse needs unconditional love and patience to heal. My ex didn’t give me that but my mother did… So I healed.

    Being a person on both sides of the picture, taking care of a depressed spouse and suffering mental illness from work related stress and childhood trauma, I can understand what it is like on both sides. Hang in there…..

  28. patricia says:

    I been married for 25 yrs. We have 3 boys. My husband has had 6 jobs in 5 yrs and now employed again. He is always thinking people are after him. He is paranoid with computer usage and call phones think others are hacking or taping his calls. He forgets important things but can remember things that have no meaning. He thinks people follow him while driving, last night he stopped his car and confronted a man for following him. It turned into an argument and my husband thinks he did no wrong. He snaps without notice even at my kids. Yelling at them for silly things then blaming me for all faults and failures. I want to leave him. I worry about my kids and how they will be when they get married. He is never wrong he never takes ownership on actions. He is not diagnosed with a mental illness he doesn’t think he has one and gets mad at me for thinking that. He goes to counseling whenever it’s really bad but doesn’t follow thru. Tell me that his counselor thinks I am the problem. It’s a mess. I want to take boys and just leave but he told me he will commit suicide and it will be my fault if I ever did. What should I do? We are always walking on eggshells when he is home…. tired of it but afraid to leave.

  29. James says:

    Hello all, ALL ADVICE & COMMENTS ARE APPRECIATED, THANKS IN ADVANCE.. My wife and I have been married for 9 months now.. Together for 7 years. Her and I have a 6-year-old son. She was diagnose with a form of bipolar sometime in 2014, the doctors prescribed her medicine, however she only took it once I believe and she said it made her feel “spaced out”.. To make a long story short she has had so many ups and downs (mostly downs) and I’m confused as what to do. I love her but I’ve done so much to help her and its not appreciated. Her siblings don’t like me because I don’t allow them to use her, they have mental issues as well.. I have no one in her family that is logical or conscious enough to talk to. Her mother is slipping away do to dementia at 51 years old. Her father is 54 and still running the streets and acting like he’s young and married to another woman. But her and I moved to a more nice, quiter neighborhood in the first week of January, we moved from the next city where most of her family siblings are, there was always so much drama there, the neighborhood is much more expensive, but doesn’t make any difference because I just want peace for my family..
    Things went fine for the first few months until maybe may, when her sister and her cousin, one of her “friends” also, started calling and talking to her about gossip and drama back-to-back it seemed, this went on for a couple of weeks, that’s when she stopped cooking, cleaning or anything else besides sex, no conversation unless it was an argument or condescending talk. I also cooked and cleaned half of the time. She left after an argument in June, she was gone for two weeks, we began talking again and she came back home, about two weeks later the same thing, we argued about her sleeping all day, she works 20 hours per week, I work 80 hours per week, all she ever did was sleep, same thing this time she left for 2-3 weeks, we started talking she came home. Just three weeks ago tomorrow we had a big argument she left again, had not saw her in almost three weeks, until Thursday (2 days ago) she showed up to the house with her female cousin and they tried to physically take our son, long story short the police came, heard both sides of our stories, she was high off of something. They made them leave, I left out the part where she hadnt seen nor tried to see our son in three whole weeks, I had to text message her and tell her I was going to take her to court and get full custody since she abandoned him, that’s why she played it off and acted like she cared. My question is what do you guys suggest/think I should do? Keep trying. Maybe force her to get help? Or just give up? Its weighing on me either way I look at it. She’s 32 years old, I’m 31. Thoughts? Comments?

  30. Hope says:

    I just saw all these messages. I am not alone. I am having a terrible time. I have lost all my patience. I’ve been married for five years now and I have a four year old toddler. It first started with him being over obsessed. I couldn’t even kiss my own father or brother on their cheeks or give them a hug. In a car. I couldnt even sit next to my brother. I had to wear modest clothes and to an extent that I had to wear full sleeves all the time.

    It went to an extent were he started to take promises from me for every little thing but that was not enough he had to keep reminding me of my promises and keep reassuring hin that I would never bread such promises.

    Even today five year later it continues. I’m fed up of these recurring questions. I’m tI red of hearing negative about myself and my family all the time. He keep’s disrespecting me talking about what a piece of trash I am. And as soon as he insults me he wants to ask if I remember all that I have promised him again and till when. Some days are good. But if he’s better one day he gets worse two to three days after that. He keeps telling me what a piece of trash I and my family are good for nothing and that I became decent after marrying him. I’m going nuts here. I’m not able to handle all this stress. My four year son is tired of our fights and I’m worried about how it will accept him. I’m tired but I can’t leave him. I simply can’t. I don’t even know why I still love him anymore. He is making my life he’ll. I’m not able to handle anymore and I wish I could just die. He mentally abuses me all the time. Picks up petty fights. Keeps making me remember about my promises and telling me how cheap I was and how cheap my family are . I want to die but I can’t leave my son in his hands. I can’t do that to him. I can’t even divorce him.

    I need help.

    I need peace in my life.

    I am tired…..

  31. Hope,

    Is there some way that you can find a therapist, doctor, or pastor to talk to? It sounds like you need someone on your side. Being able to talk to someone outside of your situation can be so helpful. I know what it is to feel tired and in need of peace, and you deserve to find a restful, peaceful way to live your life and raise your child. Remember that you are not only fighting for your own welfare in this situation, but also for the welfare of your son. Please take care of yourself and find someone to talk to.


  32. I was diagnosed in 2009 with No-Polar, no one in my family took the Time to educate themselves about the illness or to provide any support. After 40 yerars of marriage, he used my illness against me and has filed for a divorce. My illness cost me my whole life.

  33. Windy says:

    I have been in a relationship for 8 years married tomorrow for 2. I have bipolar and have struggled my whole life to just maintained a resemblance of life. I wasn’t diagnosed untiI I was in my mid 20′s. I have a barely adult child that has had to go through all this with me. I regret I wasn’t stronger, every day. All that it’s something but not my main issues. My husband has issues as well, it runs in the family. But he will not even admit that anything is his fault. I use meds and understanding and practice control. He uses blame and threats. He constantly threatens divorce or hurting me. He has never out and out hit me but he has pushed me around and left bruises. Every time I need him to do anything that’s when threatening and fighting begins.As long as I don’t request or ask for him to do something we can go by day. But that doesn’t stop it because we’ll be going about our lives, everything is just fine not awesome, but fine. And bam! I’m nagging him, I’m a psycho, and he hates me, I made him marry me and he’ll prove what a crazy I am and I’ll have nothing. See I’m disabled and haven’t worked in a very long time. He works, which is nice but isn’t everything. He thinks that makes anything he wants, have or do or say is fine. He knew I couldn’t work before we even started dating but I see now he didn’t mind that because he could throw it in my face any time I needed him to step up as my partner. he doesn’t pay my bills. He only makes more bills. I have to take care of all financial tactics. But if I don’t pay the way he wants, so there is money for him to gamble, there is hell to pay. All he does is go to his job, does a super awesome job for them then brings home all the frustration and lack of interest. This is something I didn’t know about him before I felt it was too late was he was in almost 30,000$ in debt. I didn’t know this until the IRS started taking all my income tax. That doesn’t count the numerous other bills he has added over the years. We just this last month paid off the last. And after 5 yrs of paying his debt and putting up with him promising to get help. His credit is best it’s ever been and we can finally buy a house. He has told me that now that my credit is good and I don’t need you any more, I want a divorce. And I’ll get a house and you’ll be left with nothing, because your a psycho bitch! He has made it where none of my small bills that is keeping my credit down have gotten paid and I’m worse off after being with him and trusting in my love. I don’t know what to do. Because after everything I still love him. But he needs help, he is ex. military. And he has been in jail for abusing his daughter. Where they diagnosed him with Asperger’s.Had an abusive relationship with his ex wife, but I push him, I make him, it’s not him it’s my nagging. His cousins have also recently told me about times they have gotten this behavior from him as well. I’ve never had these problems in any of my other relationships. So I know it’s not me,which is what he gets infuriated at me for not excepting. I know myself. And yes I’m afraid that instead of the life that I thought I was supporting, now so close it will be ripped out of my hands, because my husband decides to be selfish and not get the help he (we) needs. And I will be on the streets. Which he loves to rub in my face. I know life is never fair,but there has to be something I can do to force his hand. I don’t want to divorce, I want my life. Please some one out there, reach out to me, for I am falling further than I ever could on my own. I can’t do this by myself any more! I can not carry his illness on top of my own without his willingness to help himself and us. Do on to others as you would have done on you, not because I’m religious, but because we’re all human. Seriously at this point every single day I fight the thought that there is only one answer for me. And every day I feel myself weaken from all the fight that is life.

  34. Windy,

    I’m so sorry to hear how poorly you are feeling. Never forget that your health is your first priority. Are you seeing a doctor or therapist that might help you be able to find resources? Being safe is by far the most important thing for you, before everything and everyone else, even a spouse. Please take care of yourself. If you can, talk to someone outside your marriage who can help you brainstorm a strategy to stay well. Please know that you are loved and you matter and that you need to keep fighting. Don’t give up.


  35. Samuel says:

    In addition to some other serious issues, my wife’s illness makes her believe that I’m having affairs with all the women in our town, including her friends. As such, she resents me and sees me as a filthy maniac and she will not let me touch her. The meds have not helped. I’ve decided to stay with her and help the best I can. We have two teenage children.

    However, I’m feeling the void that has been created by our physical and emotional distance. What should I do about my sexual and emotional needs as I no longer have a partner.

    I don’t want to feel like I’m cheating on her but God created us in a way that we try to fulfill these urges yet she will not let me near her.

    Should I get someone on the side?


  36. Samuel,

    I think your question is very valid. But first, let me address your wife’s symptoms. Obviously, she isn’t well. She needs medical help, the same way she would if she were diabetic and her insulin levels were off. Paranoia is a very common symptom, but can be treated. If you can do anything to help your wife, get her to the doctor and get her meds adjusted.

    Concerning your needs, I write a lot about taking care of the caregiver on Healthyplace:

    Mentally Ill Spouses: Give What You Can to Your Marriage:
    Marriage and Mental Illness: Take Care of the Caregiver:
    Marriage and Mental Illness: 5 Steps to Revive Your Sex Life:

    I am the spouse with mental illness in my marriage, and I have had to realize that my getting better is not just about me. It’s about my partner, too. If I am not trying to get well, overcome symptoms, etc. and this has a negative effect on my marriage, than I do not believe that my husband is obligated to stay with me. That being said, if I’m doing everything I can to get better and there are still challenges in my marriage due to medications, etc., than I would hope my husband would be faithful to me through that process in the same way he would be faithful to me if I had another kind of illness that affected our marriage.

    Only you can decide if your partner is doing all she can to get better and what your morals are. But having an affair on the side will only complicate a very complicated situation. Do you have someone you can talk to about this? A counselor, pastor, etc? I guarantee it would help you sort through all of this if you had someone outside the situation to talk to. Your needs and your humanity do matter in this equation! Find someone who can help you sort this all out before looking outside your marriage. I’m so sorry you are in such a difficult situation.


  37. Sheena Lemon says:

    I’ve been married nearly seven years to my husband andwe have two children. He’s had between 8-10 jobs over the past 4 years. About a year and a half ago, he was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I amso angry and full of resent that I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know what to say anymore. I want to believe things will get better, but I don’t know. I don’t want to be the caregiver anymore. What about my feelings and needs? I’m so broken and feel stuck. I’ve made so many sacrifices to get to a better life but this keeps holding us back. We can barely afford his medication let alone the counseling. I feel so isolated and alone. I can’t talk to him without coming completely unglued. I play our courting days over and over asking what I missed. I keep beating myself up. How could I have missed it? Was I that despair are for love? I’m so financially, emotionally, and spiritually drained. I feel like there are only pieces of me left and those are for my children’s sake. I’m so tired and exhausted. To make matters worse I just found out I’m pregnant again. I feel so stupid and ashamed like a teenage girl. I just ache all over. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I want to live freely but I feel like I’m dying everyday.

  38. sian says:

    My husband has been ill for most of our marriage and was extremely irritable and unreasonable. As time went on he also thought that things like WiFi and Mobile phones were making him ill. His left foot started dropping and he had optic neuritis. He was diagnosed with MS last year and by this time last year he was heading for psychosis and eventually got sectioned. He has been in hospital for most of the year and only him for a couple of months which were a disaster because he doesn’t seem to be able to do anything for himself and would spend all day ranting about going blind. He is in a neurological psychiatric unit being assessed and treated. His moods have balanced and he is no longer narcissistic. Also he wants to be a real family whereas before he saw our son as a block to our relationship. He has failed a mental capacity test relating to making decisions about his health. I love him very much and that is why we didn’t split up during the rows over the years but I don’t know how to feel about him. He will be having an mri scan soon to see if the MS has damaged his frontal lobes. I just don’t know how to deal with my emotions and am fearful that it will be another disaster when he gets back. He lacks a degree of insight into his condition but is articulate and looks like himself. I don’t know who he is any more. I know that I need to pull myself together and not dwell to much on my worries.

  39. Illinois says:

    I have been with my husband for over 20 years and have known him for 30. He had a very bad first marriage with someone he couldn’t trust. When we were first married, he was diagnosed with maniac depression/rage problems. He was on meds for awhile and started to feel better. Now, the last 10 years have been straight hell. He has now been diagnosed with schizophrenia with psychosis. He seems to think he also has Anhedonia. He says he can no longer feel pleasure from anything, including sex. He blames this on the fact that he was a “good guy” all his life. He didn’t use people, cheat, lie, etc… He thinks if he would have done these things that he would still be able to feel now, because the people he considers “liars, cheaters, bad guys, deserters, etc” are living it up doing whatever they want being worshiped by those around them. He is focusing on people that I had relations with after I was divorced from my first husband, while he was STILL married to his first wife. Did I mention this first wife trapped him into a pregnancy? I mean literally trapped him? (put her legs around his waist and held on so she would get pregnant). He never stops. He just keeps coming at me about these people that have nothing to do with us or our lives. Honestly, these people have nothing to do with him at all. I am at a loss of what to do. He refuses to take his medication like it is prescribed. He is becoming more angry as the days go on. I am so afraid to have him leave because I’m afraid he might hurt himself or others. But, I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown! i have no one to talk to that would ever be able to understand what is going on. Advice anyone?

  40. Illinois says:

    Oh, and I forgot. He is on SSI and does not work due to his mental disabilities. He has been through multiple jobs over the years and his anger at work scares people. He has been on SSI for over 6 years. He never leaves the house unless he has a Dr. appointment.

  41. Jess says:

    I’m hearing a lot of pain in these posts and it seems like lots of people are going through of hardship, stress and struggling. I’d just caution that this is not a psychologist forum and perhaps, after posting what you need to, reflect on what it is you feel you need to express, why you need to express it and follow up to take it to a safe space (i.e. counsellor, psychologist, helpline).

    Sometimes marriage (we are all human, navigating the world in terms of our relationships with others) get into cycles of distress with repeating patterns and behaviours.

    It’s awful to feel stuck and change is the hardest thing of all. You have bravery, you have courage, and though it may not feel like it, you have choice. Make a booking and shop around till you find a counsellor you trust; or join an online forum staffed by trained volunteers/counsellors. Call a TOLL-FREE helpline if money is a issue and someone will listen to you, facilitate you sorting out what you want to do next to break the cycle of dysfunctionality and make a referral . There’s no shame in that. It’s important to get help for yourself.

    For women (and men), family and domestic violence is never okay. Speak to your local women’s organisation or shelter to help you figure out how to stay or leave safely.

    If you have children and you feel stuck, unsafe, scared or unsure what to do regarding a spouse that is violent, abusive, or you fear your partner’s current behaviour so much, you use the analogy you feel you’re walking around ‘on eggsshells’, learning a bit more about yourself will ultimately help your children and they will thank you for it down the track. Lots of spouses feel this way. You are not alone and there is help and a better way of living. Talk to somebody.


  42. Jess says:

    Sian, your feelings and worries seem valid. Everyone needs support, especially if choosing to stay with, and become a carer for, a spouse with a mental illness. People caring for family members with MS need support, much less MS with psychosis. Of course you’re feeling the way you do, you are human, It’s important you get care and supports in place to help you process. It’s a concept called ‘self-care’: People are better able to sustain a caring roll if they have supports in place; looks after their own needs; and take sometime for respite.

    Also for everyone else in this comments section, this is an example of a website that might be helpful for free CBT etc. for yourself, spouse, kids.

    Everyone is different and I wish you all the best. If I could send resilience the mail, I would. Take care of yours self first; put your own oxygen mask on first in an mergency, because only then can we help others who needs us.

  43. Grace C says:

    I am in similar situation here. I’ve been married for 10years. With 2 children, and recently gave birth. My husband has anxiety, depression and anger issues. He is rather controlling, verbally and physically abuses me. He tried to choke me when l was pregnant. I regret giving birth to my second child and not being abke to give her a happy family. Everything has to be his way because everything l do is wrong like in the way l smile, talk, dress etc. This reduced my confidence and self-esteem. My eldest started behaving and talking lIke him. I had to tell him that Daddy is sick.
    He refuses treatment and constantly says I’m giving out negative energy.
    I hardly go out and neither do the kids because he wants us to be home with him all the time.
    I work full-time, the kids are cared for at day-care. I do not leave the children with him as he had vented his anger on my eldest whilst l was pregnant and l had to use all my strength to stop him.
    I feel drained. I put on a fake assuring smile all the time. None of my co-workers know.

  44. Grace,

    I am so sorry that you are living in this situation. Please, please know that if you or your children are in danger it is PARAMOUNT that you remove yourself from the dangerous family member. Here is a list of articles with information and resources for you: Please remember, above all else, that your children deserve to grow up in a safe home. Please take care of yourself and them.



  45. Hi my name is will and after 8 years 54in the army I was diagnosed with ptsd. On top of that my fiance who I have been with for 6 years is bipolar. And i have our her through he’ll and she has done the samething to me. One of us is always eather taking the other the wrong way or fighting over nothing. I just resently got out of an inpatient ptsd clinic and she to is in counceling. All I can say is getting to a better place for yourself and not putting your problems behind your partner was the only way we found out how to be happy. We love each other dearly but for a long time you would never be able to see it. We never broke up or quit on each other, but we found out that some parts of out treatment was best when we did it without enabling each other and hiding behind each others problems. When we did that we really has to face our own problems and with great counslers and knowing we would never give up on each other made it go from constant hurt to a relationship where is is not only my fiance but my bestfriend. All I am trying to say is it was never going to work for is until we seperatly faced our problems witout hiding or enabling each other and I have to say I couldn’t beleve the results. THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE.

  46. pam says:

    My husband is an alcoholic. He stopped drinking over 25 years ago. He seemed to be doing well, except for occasionally giving me the silent treatments when I would get upset when he wouldn’t help out around the house.
    His excuse is that he was always stressed from work.
    In his mid fifties, he took on a very stressful job. He became a work-a-holic. He had very little time for me. I felt like a single woman, because he didn’t have time to go out with other couples. Fortunately, I had friends I could do things with. But I craved the companionship that I witnessed my other friends had.

    3 years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 or hypomanic.

    My husband did very little to support me because he buried himself in his work. I was a burden to him.

    A year before he retired I wanted to leave him, but our therapist insisted I wait until I retire. So I stuck it out.

    When he retired the beginning of this year he completely buried himself and played chess from the moment he got up until he fell asleep. I kept telling him that it wasn’t healthy for him, but he would get angry with me. He also told me he was playing chess because of me bugging him.

    I was sick oneday and asked him to help out. He thought going to the store was enough. I tried to reason with him that it wasn’t enough. He blew up and left me.

    We are separated. Just recently, our therapist diagnosed my husband with bipolar. My husband still believes I’m the one with the problem and not him, so he rarely talks to the therapist and isn’t taking the meds he needs to take. My son’s support me. Everyone can’t believe how well I m doing. I still have my moments where I’ll cry or want to divorce him.

    Our therapists said I shouldn’t divorce him because of the affect it can have on my polar.

    All I can do is take care of myself and not focus on him. Not always easy.

    I do still keep in contact with him. He’ll be nice and then he’ll ignore me.

    I finally made the decision to completely not contact him, because it hurts me when he ignored me or lies.

    To cope, I see a therapist, go to alanon, biblestudy, spend time with friends and family, meditate and pray. Counting my blessings helps also. And keeping my distance. One Day at a time.

    Someone had mentioned that they wish they knew how to communicate so their spouse wouldn’t get upset. Bottomline is even if you were a saint, the mental illness will still be angry with you.

    It really helps when you know of others going through the samething, because no one else understands, except those who are going through it and a therapist.

    Thank you everyone for posting!!!!

  47. Shannon says:

    I am in shock. My husband and I have been together and in love for 8 years. He started acting odd a few months back and it has gotten progressively worse. To make a long story short, he developed severe paranoia- he thought people could hear/see us through the TV so he unplugged it. He also turned clocks around and put tape over the time on the coffee maker. He talked to me so badly and accused me of horrible things I would never do. He said I was hired to watch and research him. Finally, after doing some research, I had him committed by the courts against his own will. This just happened 2 days ago. It has been a battle for almost 5 months; however, I thought he was lying or covering up something he didn’t want to tell me– maybe a possible addiction (not drugs we did a extensive drug screen multiple times), or something he had done that he was embarrassed about. He is there now and I am hurting so badly. The staff there say he denies any paranoia and is only under stress; but, they see severe paranoia. Can someone please support me and talk to me/answer some questions? I’ve never been through this. I am so scared- a piece of my heart is gone. We’ve never been apart (before these last 5 months) and we’ve always been the very, very best of friends. Please help!

  48. Shannon,

    I am so sorry to hear you are going through this! It sounds like you love your husband very much and are doing the best you can to help him.
    My best advice would be to get yourself to a support group: NAMI, DSBA, or Fresh Hope. They all have support groups nationwide. Go to their websites to see if there is one close to you.
    Also, find a counselor to talk this through. This is a trauma for you as well as your spouse, and you need support.
    Please take care of yourself and find some support.


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