Spouse with Mental Illness
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Forgive or Divorce husband with mental illness?
I have been together with my husband for over 10 years - from the moment we started talking it was like talking to a best friend. We often joked that we were the most nauseating married couple around.
He wasn't ready to have a child, but after our marriage I pressured him into having our first child, worried about my fertility. Soon after our child was born, he became consistently irritated and angry - and was eventually diagnosed with depression.
We moved to the bay area so he can be closer to his family to see if it would help with his depression (even though I didn't want to move). The move did help for a while - but he got worse, and was eventually hospitalized for suicidality.
After his second hospitalization, I realized that it's so peaceful and calm if it's just me and my child. I don't have to worry about our toddler ticking him off or him getting upset about the messy kitchen.
He loves me to bits. I can't figure out if I love him or I just am used to taking care of this moody ''teenager.'' He has been in intensive therapy and uses those techniques actively but still slips and yells but very, very rarely now. We have been in couple counseling for months with minor progress. I should also add that we both work long hours, but I do majority of the household work. His excuse is that he works even longer hours than me, and that he needs rest for his mental illness, which is true.
My issue is, I can't forgive him for the physical stuff. He shoved me and threw a cup and shattered it many years ago while we were still dating (and I still married him, ha!) He kicked me (moderate kick, on my leg, nothing that would leave a mark) in a rage while I was breastfeeding our baby. He threw and broke our Roomba when he was angry. When we were packing to move, we got into an argument over how to pack the boxes and he grabbed my hand so hard that it drew blood (minor scratch). The book ''Too Bad to Stay, Too Good to Leave'' says if it happens more than once, probably better to leave. At the same time, he has made progress with his therapists and multiple daily medications, and it hasn't happened for over a year. So it's getting better. But hard to forgive.
I don't have any close divorced friends with children to consult. My husband told me ''you don't have the right to tell me that you want a divorce'' after I told him 2 weeks ago. He is also helping out around the house a whole lot more since then (so he changed??)
I am interested in a mediated divorce if he agrees. Financially I have a steady job with decent income - which will of course be chipped away greatly if I try to rent anything near our current house which belongs to him (his parents paid majority of it). I just worry the effects on our child a lot - I know in theory it's best to have divorced happy parents but our child loves all three of us together, so much.
Should I forgive the physical things if he's gone to therapy, apologized, and is controlling himself now? Where do I get more information on real life after a divorce with a child so I can make the right decision? I don't want to wait and regret. Too squeamish to leave
I can't tell you whether you should divorce your husband or not, but I can tell you what it feels like to live with a mental illness and ask-- If he had another acute, lifelong illness, would you divorce him over that?
I am bipolar and there is no cure. I live with the symptoms daily-- people may not see it, but I struggle daily to do things other people don't think twice about. I take multiple medications which are a huge help, but those have their own side effects and I worry about the long term burden.
I go to therapy twice a week, and check in with my psychiatrist at least every 3 months. All those appointments could be spent doing something fun-- or doing household chores, but I have to do them to keep my head above water. It isn't a luxury, it is really hard and hard work. Therapy isn't a hobby.
I'm sorry you've experienced physical problems with your husband. I can admit that I've lashed out (not in the same way) physically as well. I've thrown things, I've said CRAZY things. I have huge impulse control (bipolar and ADHD are often co-morbid) issues. However, like your husband, these are largely in the past because of therapy, meds and things like reducing stress. And I remember these incidents and *feel awful* about them. It is scary to feel like that. Think about what it would take to make you break a roomba, etc. and *that is what your husband was experiencing.*
Mental illness is real. It impacts families, but I can tell you the person suffering from it has it worse because it is compacted by the guilt and frustration. the ''why can't I just'' etc. Ask yourself if you would divorce over diabetes, or cancer, or MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, or Parkinson's Disease. What would you do if he did? Hire cleaners, expect him to work longer hours then you and do more housework?
If you want to divorce, divorce, but don't do it because your spouse has an illness. You say he didn't want to have a kid and you pressured him into it. He was hospitalized! Put yourself in that situation. What would it take for you to be hospitalized. You say, ''Should I forgive the physical things if he's gone to therapy, apologized, and is controlling himself now?'' But would you ask these questions if he had a different disease?
I'm sure he thinks it would be easier to not have to live with himself as well-- that's what being suicidal is. But he can't really divorce himself, now, can he. bipolar isn't a moral failing
Your situation struck a chord with me. It's really hard to break the cycle of domestic violence / co-dependency but you CAN do it. My husband was not physically violent towards me but he did break things , say things, that I later learned are just as abusive. Emotional Abuse is just as bad. When he breaks something, it hurts because it's like he is doing it to you. Please try to talk to someone about your situation (a therapist) because whether you leave him or stay - I would dig deeper into how you can create safer spaces for yourself. I think you realized yourself that when you stood up for yourself, he backed down. Try to be safe for yourself and your child's sake. Please try to talk to someone who can help you to survive and thrive and recognize when you MUST leave.
In my case, my husband finally agreed to go to anger management and it was that, combined with ME going to therapy and learning to love myself, changed our lives for the better Good luck to you. Survivor
You know your husband best and in your heart you should know what feels right from reading what you just wrote it seems like a very scary situation and at any time it could just become worse and worse so I suggest that you leave and raise your child the best way that you can and that way you could sleep at night knowing that you're okay knowing that you're safe and there's no more arguing or physical abuse or verbally abusing going on. And this can effect your child's behavior in the future. I think it's time you start thinking about your self and your own happiness, this has been going on for years. You will never be happy if you continue to stay. H.
As a person who suffers from depression I am grateful for my husbands' and family support. I too remember irritable mood swings when my baby was small, demanding and I was sleep deprived. Things are much better. My husband, in-laws, doctors and therapist have helped me get here. However, that said I would never physically harm anyone, especially those I love, and would never expect my husband to continue living with me if I ever threw, grabbed, hit or kicked anything or anyone.
When your husband says ''you have no right...'' to ask for divorce, it is emotional abuse. You have every right to express your feelings on how his behavior hurts you and your family. Discrediting a partners feelings and needs is a tactic abusers use to maintain control. You have given him many chances. Although he is in therapy, a good step, it is a long road, many years if ever, to normalcy. Please consider if you want your child on that bumpy journey every day of their childhood or at a safer distance where everyone can thrive.
I'm so sorry to hear you go through this. As a survivor of emotional abuse (PTSD from my past relationship before I met my husband, has partly lead to my current issues of depression) I know how hard it is to sort out the facts and see exactly what you deserve; peace, love and understanding. Please be kind to yourself at this time. Lastly, consider reaching out to others for support, friends, family and maybe online forums such as Daily Strength.. You are not alone, you matter, (((many hugs))). Amy
It's wise to proceed carefully, think it through & get advice. Divorce and raising a child alone are hard. I did it. On the logistics/financial front I see a couple of positives though: you have an income and so does he so you won't be paying him spousal support. If the house is in his name, I think it's considered community property & any equity would be split. If getting both your names on the deed is in process, wait. It's worth taking time to consult a lawyer and analyze how you would live after divorce - how you could make it. Definitely with an unstable partner, do this work privately.
You say forgiveness is the issue but perhaps trust is important too - trust that he is safe and whatever percentage of an equal partner you need, trust that he will take on being a father and not hold it against you. A relationship with a child is a much higher bar. The behavior you describe is abusive, and you minimizing it is part of the abuse cycle. Educate yourself on this pattern - check out Patricia Evans' books. More work is needed to untangle the issues and work with the abuse. First step is naming it and him taking responsibility for it maybe by working on his own with a men's group. You need a therapist who will not equalize his abuse with the normal imperfections and bad patterns couples have.
The mental issues... I'm sorry, that would be hard for me to take. Did they exist before your child was born? If not, wow.
I think it's worth therapy, seeing a lawyer privately just because you will be the primary caretaker possibly without the house and away from your family, you need to take care for yourself whatever you decide. Abuse escalates when the partner leaves or talks about it. Take some time with this. Best of luck.
My heart goes out to you. I've been there.
It is exhausting to be in a relationship with someone suffering from mental illness; it takes a tremendous toll because the spouse becomes a caregiver, with heavy responsibility, lots of judgment, and little useful guidance or help. Most of the advice and ''support'' you get is completely unrealistic (''it's not his fault so you have to forgive all his behavior) and ignores your feelings. The burden of the relationship and its pain falls entirely on you and you get no room to feel your own feelings.
Your feelings are entirely natural. You thought you married a partner, but now you have a second child who takes up all the emotional air in the house. There's no joy and the sense of mutuality is gone. Of course you wonder if marriage is worth it.
I think you are right to be concerned about how he'll respond if you push for a divorce, but even if you divorce, you'll have to deal with him as co-parent, and sound as if that could be difficult. So focus on making the situation more tolerable and getting your needs heard.
I won't advise whether you should or shouldn't divorce. Maybe you'll feel different later, maybe he'll change. Maybe not. What you need right now is support, safety, and a safe place to work out issues.
Consider attending NAMI and Al-Anon meetings (even if he didn't go to AA, you may find many of the steps are useful, and you may come to see that your husband isn't just depressed, he is what is called a ''dry drunk.'' You need a place where you can say how you really feel (angry, alienated, frustrated, etc.) without judgment. If they can be useful, turn to family and friends to help with looking after and providing support for all of you--keeping your husband busy and feeling important, making your daughter feel she has many adults in your life, letting you feel less alone. The more supported your husband feels, the more stable he's likely to be.
You do all the housework--hire household help as needed. Live your own life. Join a class, go out to a movie, do whatever you need to do to cultivate a space where YOU come first.
And get some sort of counseling. See if his counselors will do some sessions with you both to work on improving his behavior; that also makes you a presence in therapy, asking for your needs to be attended. And/or get couple counseling or individual counseling. Do what you need to get through this time.
And yes, at the same time, quietly investigate your options for leaving, and be VERY careful; delete cookies and search history from your computer (better yet, use a computer at a friend's or the library); put cash somewhere safe; talk to a lawyer and pay cash. Reading what you've written, it sounds as if he's petulant, not dangerously violent, but nonetheless you will feel better knowing you have some options.
I wish you healing and good luck. --Sadder & Wiser