Mental Illness and Marriage: The Cost of Making It Work

February 17, 2016 Taylor Arthur

Making mental illness and marriage work often costs both partners more than they bargained for. Mental illness and marriage can still work. But is it worth it?

The cost of making mental illness and marriage work can be extremely high for both partners. After a mental illness diagnosis, there are many decisions both spouses must make that will affect their marriage. Will the mentally ill spouse accept the diagnosis and comply with treatment? How willing is the newly diagnosed spouse to include their partner in their treatment plan? How willing is their partner to help his or her partner achieve wellness? The effects of these decisions have longstanding consequences for both partners. Whatever they decide, making a mental illness and marriage work affects both spouses' lifestyles, finances, careers, and freedom.

Making a Mental Illness And Marriage Work Requires Being Committed to A Treatment Plan

Both my husband and I had to commit to my treatment plan to make our marriage work. We made a wellness contract, and we stuck to it, no matter the cost. My medications and therapy were expensive and life-altering, but they were necessary. If my husband had not supported my spending the money necessary to get well, I may not have received the help I needed. If he had insisted upon me working more hours than I was capable of, I may have stopped taking my medications to be able to have enough energy to work more (How to Deal with Bipolar Medication Side Effects). Jack sacrificed getting ahead financially to help me get better. It was his complete commitment to my wellness plan that enabled me to focus on getting well and making our marriage work.

Mental Illness Plus Marriage Cause Both Spouses To Give Up Some Freedom

Because my husband was so committed to my wellness plan, he was also very much involved in it (When a Family Member Gets a Mental Illness). I included him in all aspects of my care: medication changes, treatment plans, and my diet and exercise routine. He went to therapy with me when we faced big issues concerning my care and helped me stay on track with my bipolar routine and other lifestyle changes.

Making mental illness and marriage work often costs both partners more than they bargained for. Mental illness and marriage can still work. But is it worth it?

Consequently, I have given up a lot of freedom by staying in my marriage. Every decision I make concerning my mental illness involves my husband's consent, as well as my own. I only have so much privacy, as my husband (with my consent) can call my doctors if he feels it is necessary. For someone who has always been extremely independent, this has been difficult for me. Even though I know it's for my best, and I am so grateful to have a partner so invested in my wellbeing, I must admit that it can feel a bit constrictive. I know my husband has felt the same way at times.

For my husband, it was extremely overwhelming in the beginning to be so involved in my daily routine. He married a highly capable woman, only to become her caregiver at the age of 22 (Caregiver Stress and Compassion Fatigue). He wasn't prepared to do all of the household chores, work full time, and take care of me around the clock. He gave up his own freedom to stay home on the weekends and keep me company. He gave up the freedom to spend his hard-earned salary on himself, as we were overwhelmed financially by the expenses of my treatment. He gave up the life he had been accustomed to to stick by my side. He readily gave up so many freedoms, even though he wasn't the one who had the mental illness.

Making Mental Illness And Marriage Work Is A Choice

Having to give up our freedom at such a young age wasn't fair to me or my husband. But, mental illness doesn't play fair. Marriages with mental illness can work if both partners accept the reality of mental illness and work together towards the same goal of treating the illness. As Jack and I worked at treating my illness, I got better. And even though my bipolar disorder took so much from us, it couldn't steal our marriage.

If you are in a marriage with mental illness, choose, as a couple, to give everything you have to finding a stable life. It might not be the life you envisioned, but being together and being sane is a great place to start. You have no idea what's possible once you've managed to accomplish such a goal. You might just end up with a better marriage than ever before.

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APA Reference
Arthur, T. (2016, February 17). Mental Illness and Marriage: The Cost of Making It Work, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Taylor Arthur

February, 17 2016 at 10:08 am

Thank you for this blog. My husband and I have been married for 23 years and just recently came to understand that our hope in having a "normal" marriage were never going to be seen in this lifetime. After being married for 5 years we found out I have complex PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression. Now, 18 years later, I have been diagnosed with a dissociative disorder. Which means therapy will need to be long term and intense, and expensive. We are barely making it by the skin of our teeth, and sometimes it feels that way with our marriage too. We also made a commitment to stay together no matter what but that doesn't mean that the insecurity of "what if" doesn't rear it's ugly head nor does it make things any easier on our marriage. It's tough, it's grueling at times, and boy is it tiring....for both of us. We've both made a lot of sacrifices for this marriage. We are now trying to be together in our sadness and frustrations such as being frustrated at the fact I was abused and because of the situation we are in now, but not be frustrated at each other.
Thanks again for this article.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Taylor Arthur
February, 22 2016 at 6:30 am

Hi Kelly,
I am so sorry to hear that you are struggling with so many complicated issues. I know what it is to be hanging on by the skin of your teeth. We have been there many, many times. My encouragement to you is to treat your illnesses first, which is what Julie Fast says. Have you read "Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder"? It doesn't sound like that's your exact issue, but there are so many tips in there to help marriages with mental illness. I highly recommend it, for you and your husband. Know that if you get the help you need, everything can get better. You being healthy will make your marriage better, your life better. Don't give up!

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