Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Christian

Married Couples and Mental Illness

Recommended Posts

No, the headline is not a set-up for a joke about how husbands and wives drive each other crazy.

I have a serious question. I think I know the answer to this question, but I

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good stuff -- a lot to chew on.

But my question is pretty narrow here: Is there any case to be made for the release of one spouse from marital vows of fidelity in the face of such an illness? Have you ever heard of a pastor allowing for such behavior? Is there a Biblical case to be made in favor of this?

Like I wrote earlier, I don't think there is. But maybe, having never really gone through this with relatives (and certainly not with my own spouse) I'm missing something that is otherwise obvious to those who have lived through such a loss.

EDIT: I was responding to Nardis and didn't see Alan's post until I had had uploaded this reply. Thanks, Alan, for the input.

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems to me that the notion of a husband and wife being "one flesh" goes beyond the question of whether they still have sex, or whether they both have their minds and thus their memories of each other intact.

If that "one flesh" bond is to be severed, then it should only be in extreme cases -- such as adultery (as Jesus said) or abandonment (as Paul said) or abuse (for which there may not be a specifically biblical precedent, per se, though I believe my own tradition allows for it; at any rate, one of my priests has said that if any son-in-law of his was physically abusive to one of his daughters, he would tell her to get a divorce).

But what about cases when abuse or any of these other factors is a RESULT of mental illness? Yeah, that's an interesting question. Especially given how hard it can be to diagnose mental illnesses, and given how some people might be tempted to excuse their behaviour by appeals to mental illness when they really aren't all that ill.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, interesting/heavy discussion going on here. A few thoughts come to mind, based on both clinical and (unfortunately) personal experience. The personal stuff is not for public consumption, but I'm open to sharing it via PM if it would be of help to anyone struggling with these issues on a personal - not theoretical - level.

Anyway, here a few key factors that would inform a decision about maintaining or severing the marital bond in the face of neurological and/or psychiatric illness:

1) agency - that is, how much control does the illness sufferer have over their symptoms and behavior? The person with Huntington's Disease, any form of dementia, or the chronically delusional (yet treatment-compliant) schizophrenic, contrasted with the cocaine addict who refuses to seek professional help. Granted, 'control' is a porous concept with addictions or any other illness for that matter. Agency spills over to the next factor...

2) help-seeking behavior and treatment compliance - I regard very differently the addict who is attending 12-step meetings faithfully while in regular contact with their sponsor, versus the addict who is still lying and manipulating to maintain their destructive lifestyle. Similarly, the bipolar spouse who is not taking their meds, is frighteningly rageful, and is engaging in profligate spending and promiscuity - this is very different from the still-symptomatic manic who is working with their therapist and psychiatrist to achieve better symptom control.

3) symptom severity and risk to self/others - this is probably stating the obvious, but the quiet sufferer from ptsd and depression who isolates, doesn't bathe regularly, and cries day and night is quite different from an out-of-control and frighteningly violent ptsd sufferer.

4) presence of children - it's one thing to expose oneself to the slings and arrows of another person's mental illness (though even this needs to have self-protective and self-loving limits, when it comes to abuse, infidelity, etc.), but my threshhold for separation/divorce becomes lower when kids are in the picture.

I'm sure I'm forgetting other important stuff, and I view these factors as guides rather than rigid rules to follow (with the exception of physical danger - if a spouse is at significant risk of physical harm from their partner, they need to seek safety above all else). I agree with what others have written here, that compassion and a non-judgmental stance need to predominate here - I have learned sooooo many times that we have no idea what is going on behind the closed doors of a seemingly peaceful household.

Hopefully, I'm not coming across as preachy or pedantic here - please forgive me if that's the case.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...