When Your Spouse is Mentally Ill, from Christianity Today
I was just saying in another post on gender complementarianism a few days ago that out of all the complementarianism coverage I’ve ever seen manufactured by complementarians, they never factor in situations where a woman’s husband dies, or develops dementia, becomes mentally unstable, becomes physically incapacitated so that he can no longer be the “head of the household,” and of course, they rarely discuss what to do with or about women who never marry or who divorce.
Here we see a post where a woman’s husband developed severe mental health issues to the point she had to divorce him. She had to learn to take care of herself and her children on her own.
My husband’s schizoaffective disorder devastated our family. Here’s what I’ve learned in the years since he was first diagnosed.
[Her husband began exhibiting signs of mental illness. He was hospitalized.]
…My pastor, to whom I turned for counsel, didn’t have answers either, but he and his wife listened and loved my family well. I looked for secular resources for spouses of the mentally ill.
…A delusional partner
My husband and I had been true partners in our home. We parented together and shared the weight of responsibilities. I was dependent on him financially but also in a thousand other ways.
We’d had a good marriage in which we each contributed—like we were shouldering a heavy sofa together, each carrying our part.
But his mental illness caused him to crumble under the weight of our responsibilities, and I had to carry more and more by myself.
Though I wanted to curl up in the fetal position, I couldn’t. I had small children and a house payment. I either had to get a smaller sofa or figure out how to carry this one by myself.
The loss of our spiritual partnership was especially hurtful. Night after night, I cried out to God in the dark. Before all of this happened, God had led us to move away from immediate family in order to minister in a new town.
We had been confident together of God’s plan for our family, and I turned to my husband regularly for spiritual counsel and encouragement.
Now, how could we bring the Good News to our community when my husband was living in a completely different reality? What was God’s plan in all of this? What should I do? I wrestled with God to understand what was happening.
All of the relationships we’d developed as a couple fell victim to my husband’s paranoia; he was convinced by the voices in his head that they were in a conspiracy against him.
…Despite my best efforts to avoid such an outcome, our marriage eventually ended in divorce as my husband’s delusions painted me more and more as his enemy.
In the years since the first occurrence of his symptoms, my now ex-husband (with whom I remain in close relationship) has never been fully freed from his psychosis (despite finally accepting antipsychotic medications), nor has he reached the point of being able to shoulder much in terms of family responsibilities.
Instead, I have had to learn to be the emotional and physical provider for my children. I have also had a family safety net to lean on, and I continue to be blessed by a church family who supports me and my children in tangible ways.