Mental Illness and Marriage: Make a Wellness Contract
When a marriage contains a mental illness, you should make a wellness contract to create boundaries.With a 90 percent divorce rate for couples in which one spouse has bipolar disorder, I realize how blessed Jack and I are to still be married. But our marriage has not survived for 16 years just because we love each other. Our marriage has survived because we made a straightforward contract after my bipolar 1 disorder diagnosis, and both of us have kept to it. He promised to stay with me for better or worse, and I promised to be med-compliant and to attend therapy in an effort to become as well as possible. Our wellness contract is helping our marriage and my mental illness.
Mental Illness and Marriage
My mental illness shattered my marriage. I exhibited every symptom of mania before I received my mental illness diagnosis: reckless spending, hypersexuality, risk taking, grandiose thinking, delusional thinking, and substance abuse. Jack and I were separated for eight months and were in the process of divorce before I attempted suicide and finally landed in a mental health facility.
Marriages that Survive Mental Illness Require a Wellness Contract
Once I received my bipolar 1 disorder diagnosis and started taking medication, I realized what an enormous mistake it would be to divorce Jack. Medication brought me back to reality. I could, once again, feel the same love and devotion for my husband that I had felt when we were married. I also realized the enormous impact of my manic actions, and how damaging they had been to him. I knew that he had no reason to take me back, but I had to try. Through grace alone, we reunited and have stayed married. Still, we decided that we had to make a mutual agreement concerning my illness. Jack promised me that he would stay with me for better or worse, in sickness and in health. He also promised me that if I ever went off my medication against medical advice and without his knowledge or against his will, he would file for divorce. When our kids were born, we agreed that if I were to go off my medication, he would file for divorce and sue for full custody (Parents with Mental Illness and Child Custody Issues).
A Wellness Contract Can Protect Your Marriage, Family and Yourself
I realize that this may sound harsh, but this contract has saved my life. I love my husband, but bipolar disorder can be a manipulative, tricky disease. For years, this contract was the only reason I stayed on my medications. Medications can be debilitating (Side Effects of Bipolar Medication and How to Treat Them). Staying sane can be enormously difficult. But the love I have for my family and the possibility of losing them is so terrifying that I keep taking medication.
I don’t ever want my husband to endure again what my mania put him through before my diagnosis. He doesn’t deserve that. He deserves, at the very least, a partner who is trying to be well. My kids should not have to grow up in a home with an unstable mother, either. Even with treatment, my bipolar disorder affects every member of my family (Effects of Bipolar Disorder on Family and Friends). But on medication and in therapy, I keep trying. I may keep failing to hit the mark, but I keep saying I’m sorry. And they keep forgiving me because they know that I am doing my best to be as stable as I can possibly be (Living with Bipolar and Living with Someone Who Is Bipolar). Our contract is never far from my mind. Nothing is as important to me--feeling good, having more energy, losing weight, working full time, or making an actual income—as the amazing man I get to spend my life with and the children we’ve been given. They deserve every effort I can give. I’m doing my best to give them that.
Married Partners Willing to Stay with a Mentally Ill Spouse Deserve a Wellness Contract
Every partner willing to stand by a spouse with mental illness deserves to have a contract with their loved one (Bipolar Spouse: Coping with Bipolar Husband, Wife). No one deserves to be put through an endless cycle of insanity because they made vows. Vows go both ways. If your partner cannot agree to a contract in which they take responsibility for their illness and do everything they can to be well, neither should you, his or her spouse, agree to stay in your marriage. So, if you want your marriage to work in spite of mental illness, each spouse must be willing to give his or her all. Each spouse must be willing to make a wellness contract and stick with it. You both deserve that.
Arthur, T. (2016, February 3). Mental Illness and Marriage: Make a Wellness Contract, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2016/02/every-marriage-with-mental-illness-needs-a-contract
Author: Taylor Arthur
What an inspiring story! My spouse was diagnosed with Delusional Disorder in 2006 and most recently with Bipolar Disorder after an involuntary hospitalization. We are now separated and headed toward divorce. She has ceased treatment. Any suggestions?
I’m genuinely happy for you even though I don’t personally know you I really am . Unfortunately, I haven’t been as lucky because my husband has separated from me . He bought me a condo and has planned our separation for quite some time.
do you have a sample wellness contact available to download?
I don't have a sample contract to download, but here's what I would include:
1. What the well partner is willing to commit to, including financial support, house hold duties, involvement in their spouse's medical and psychiatric care, etc.
2. What the mentally ill partner is committing to, no matter how small: taking meds daily and on time, keeping appointments for doctors and therapists, staying sober, simple household duties, family obligations, etc.
3. When the mentally ill partner does not comply with treatment, both parties agree that the well partner must withdraw support/file for divorce/move out/etc.
I think it is so very important that expectations are clear to both parties and that the well partner sticks to it. Good luck.