Marriage And Mental Health: In Sickness And In Mental Health

For those with mental illness, divorce often aggravates the symptoms, making it worse.


Welcome back to our discussion on mental health and how it affects marriage. In the previous article we talked about depression and how it often leads to divorce. Moving on, we will be looking at what spouses face when their partner is struggling with mental illness, and what factors to consider when debating a divorce.


As we mentioned previously, when one partner is struggling with mental illness, both partners will be affected. Depending on the severity of the mental illness, the marriage may end up in jeopardy, or may be saved. A study published a few years ago looks at the statistical links between mental illness and divorce, and puts hard data behind those suppositions. Unfortunately, it provides a rather heartbreaking set of facts.


Apparently, according to clinical research, there is a marked increase in the likelihood of divorces when there is a mental illness involved. Specifically, the range is shown as being anywhere from 20 to 80 percent, depending upon the specific variety of mental illness.  Addiction, mood disorders like clinical depression, and personality disorders have the highest risk factors.


Teresa Akin, owner and life coach at The Relationship Place, talks about the mental health issues and their effect on a marriage as a cyclical thing. For example, she says that because depression causes a lack of involvement in a relationship, the spouse is then forced to “pick up the slack” by assuming additional responsibilities.  This can lead to resentment, which in turn makes the depressed person feel worse, and so on and so on. In the end it becomes a vicious cycle.


While most mentally healthy people have enough issues and struggles to overcome in making their marriage successful, those who are faced with mental health issues have a far greater challenge ahead. Conversely, Atkin says that a divorce often results in a significant worsening of symptoms for a person struggling with mental illness.


For many, getting divorced aggravates mental illness, making it worse.


Stephanie Service, a family law attorney at The Kronzek Firm points out that a significant number of our custody cases involve allegations that one party is suffering from mental health issues. “Sometimes, these are diagnosed, and sometimes they are not. The important thing for either spouse is to seek professional help. Proper treatment and/or guidance in dealing with someone struggling with a mental illness can be crucial in keeping your divorce or custody hearing from taking detrimental turn for the worse.”


For those who are considering divorcing a partner who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, Atkin suggests considering the following six questions before taking any definitive action:

  • Is the condition treatable, and is your spouse willing to be treated?
  • How much ( if any) harm is being experienced by each affected family member
  • Will the condition worsen with time, or is it considered “stable”
  • Do you have a support network in place to assist you when you need help?
  • What are your values when it comes to the subject of divorce?
  • Are you willing to stay in this marriage, even if you know nothing may ever change?


Either way, whatever you choose, Akin warns that you need to be certain that your decision is entirely your own, and not influenced in any way by your friends or family. Also, do not allow guilt, shame, or fear of rejection by others be motivating factors in your choice. Make your decision as rationally as possible, keeping in mind what is best for your children and your own emotional health in the long term.


Join us next time as we flip this subject on it’s head, and look at how divorce affects mental health. Until then, if you or a loved one are considering divorce but want to discuss your options before making any decisions, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our skilled attorneys have spent decades assisting the people of mid-Michigan with their divorces. Our phones are answered all day on any day of the week, on any day of the year. For emergency situations we have at least one attorney on call at all times.