Living Faith bombshell: Honest wrestling with mental illness and divorce

I’ve blogged a few times about the CCEF Living Faith conference last weekend. One of the speakers was Carl Ellis, a author who is well known in speaking on issues such as Islam, Black and Reformed theologies, racial reconciliation, and similar topics. Since the topic of the conference was about broken relationships, I expected him to talk about broken relationships in the church and between black/white communities.

Here’s the bombshell. He gave his personal story of living with a wife with bipolar disorder. And further it wasn’t a story with a happy ending. Yes, he could say that God was good and kind in the midst of his suffering. God protected him from allowing his “brute beast” (a la Psalm 73) from carrying out tempting violent thoughts. Yes, God protected his children and they are walking with the Lord. But, no, Christian counseling didn’t solve the manic-depression and his marriage ended in divorce. An no, he isn’t now happily married. Here’s the amazing thing. At a biblical counseling conference, a man gets up and talks about how christian counseling failed to understand the depth of what was going on; it had no name for for what he was experiencing. Instead it frequently offered him cliches from Ephesians 5. It was a psychiatrist, after 12 years, who gave him a name for it. Second, divorce, not reconciliation, was honestly discussed. Carl was honest about how he was handling it and how he was relieved when the marriage was over. He was honest how he nearly committed violence to try to get out of the craziness of his marriage.

He concluded with somewhat humorous words regarding the fact that he revealed his “skid marks” and that he hoped that no one would look at him as having it all together. He also reminded us that we have our “skid marks” that we try to hide. He wanted us to know we are not alone. he connected this honesty to integrity. Amazing. A well-known speaker talking about such brokenness and not covering it up.   2 years ago, he told me pieces of this story over breakfast. I saw both that the christian community had done much damage and yet I also saw that God had used these things to shape a man for real life ministry.

No one could probably hold a conference where all the speakers talk about such brokenness and failure. Who would pay to come? We like stuff all tied up with bows. We like the “happily ever after” stories. But what Carl shared with us was the real living faith: that God is in and among our failures and protecting our souls (Psalm 121–thanks Diane for reminding me of that Psalm) in the midst of our walk through the valley of the Shadow of death. While he does provide a feast (Ps 23), it may not look the way we want. The reality is that we counselors often believe that if we just try a little harder, find the right tool, we can solve every problem our clients face. What a dangerous and damaging lie we believe. Lord, come quickly and rescue us from our selves!


Filed under biblical counseling

60 responses to “Living Faith bombshell: Honest wrestling with mental illness and divorce

  1. Barb

    As I read your blog mentioning mental illness and divorce, I was reminded of my own situation back in the dim dark ages of the late sixties and seventies. I was the one suffering depression; he was the one who wanted divorce.

    He was a physician who worked seven days a week, including evening hours five nights a week. He left the house at 6:30 AM and got home after 11:00 PM each night, coming home briefly for meals. Weekends he had hospital rounds and house calls and occasional office hours for emergency situations. I was at home with four children under six, and a once a week housekeeper. I had had six pregnancies in six years, with two miscarriages, and an abortive suicide attempt during an overwhelming depression after the last live birth. Three of the children were born within 28 months – only fourteen months between each, and all by C-section, and that was in the old days when a C-section meant being cut from stem to stern vertically. He was not there physically, but he was also not there emotionally or spiritually. I was a mess of hormones, fatigue, anger and loneliness.

    A Christian psychiatrist I saw after the suicide attempt obviously felt I was just feeling sorry for myself; he had four children, and boasted that he had never even once had to change a diaper. Why did I think I needed more of my husband? I knew what I was getting when I married a doctor. Any real woman could do what I was being asked to do. I left, feeling more suicidal than ever. God kept me together.

    The marriage barely survived for little more than a decade after our last child was born, and finally my husband left, feeling martyred because I was no longer interested in intimacy with him. My Christian friends consoled me like Job’s friends, with pietistic clichés and urging me to suffer anything for the sake of maintaining the marriage. Either that, or some of the married ones looked at me sideways, as if judging how long it would take for me to go after their balding, boring husbands.

    It was my secular friends who demonstrated grace, who held me and let me cry in their arms, and made me believe that I was still loved by them. I was able, by faith, to conclude that I was also still loved by God. Through faith, and with the help of much prayer and conscious choice to follow what I knew of God in Christ, I was eventually able to come back toward center and structure a fulfilling, happy life. It was not easy, and God did not make it any easier for me. He taught me the difference between solitude and loneliness. He taught me that suffering is part of understanding the meaning of the Cross. He taught me that walking by faith means stepping out most of the time shrouded by deep fog and only being able to see one step at a time, but knowing He is there to help me stay on the path. He is presently helping me understand the difference between true obedience and mere performance.

    To be effective witnesses of the love of God, I need to get my mind off the task of conforming to the appearance of being loving, and, as a Christian, be more concerned with authenticity. I need to be kind, not because it is what I SHOULD be, but because it is what I AM. I need to learn how to be reflective of the kind of love with which God loves us: unconditionally and with compassion and tenderness. I am not sure this is going to happen, but how can I let others see what God’s love really means if I am content to stay with my wizened up little soul and never open myself up to what it means to love freely? If I had not already known Christ and been sure in my own soul that I was loved by Him, I might have turned away from Christianity; not because of God and Christ, but because of those Christians who are such poor reflections of God’s love.

  2. Barb, what a story! I am glad to see your experiences did not sour your relationship with Christ. And I pray you have the opportunity to offer to others what you did not receive yourself.

  3. Yeah, I spent some time this summer talking with someone whose first spouse was bipolar. And passed it on to 2 of their children. It got so ugly that eventually she had to leave. The average person cannot understand the pain that some people live with in situations like this.

    • D

      Thanks cavman, for that comment. I have lived with a bp spouse for several years and retreated inside myself, holding it in, trying to act as if things were fine. Finally after his medication had to be reduced for other physical health reasons, and he is unwilling to try anything else and his illness came back with a vengeance, I have decided to leave the relationship, as his unwillingness to try anything tells me he doesn’t care about me or our sons enough to do so. You are SO RIGHT, people that don’t live with it don’t understand what we live with and go through on a daily basis.

  4. Dear Phil,
    Thank you for sharing Carl Ellis’s story. I know a fellow who had the symptoms of bipolar. What does Carl think of medications (such as lithium) for treatment? Is biplor an organic/physical disease. Hope to hear from you soon.

  5. Hanz, I can’t speak for Carl. I believe I do remember his talking about medications and it wasn’t negative. Most mental illnesses (schizophrenia to anxiety) have organic features. They also have environmental features, some will features (this does not mean that people want to have mental illness, but the will or (habits of choice) play a part), some spiritual features (perceptions shaped by spiritual truthes). So, it is impossible to say that any mental illness is purely biological or behavioral. They are multifaceted and require multifaceted responses. This does not mean that people with mental illness are not responsible for living Christlike lives even while struggling with voices, etc. Nor does it mean that they cannot begin to change the illness with careful therepuetic efforts. However, the community of believers gives grace to those who struggle with inner warfare and does not demand perfection from strugglers.

  6. emmy

    I agree that what we term as mental illness can be multifaceted, and as suchm if at a critical juncture in one’s life, medication is required so that a person can focus on priorities, then so be it. Only , make sure you have a medical doctor that fully understands your condition, knows the drugs involved and can tell you all of the side effects, and can let you know, before you start taking medication, what hte “game plan” is. If you are being givne a druf simply to suit a symptom, and not as part of an overall plan that includes all possible aspects of what is ailing you, RUN! Find someone else. Well meaning and caring as a doctor may be, if he doesn’t have a game plan and can’t tell you exactly why you are taking a drug and for how long you may need to take it, this does you more harm than good.
    Also-if you are someone who has been blessed with a failry stable level of mental health at all times, please,please do not deem that some wiht mental health are acceptible and can be worked with due to thier acting the way you think that they should; and see others as in dire straits or uncooperative or any other such thing because they may be ‘messier’ or ‘uglier’ than others. Everyone had to work through things as they arise, and don’t tell me that when you do your spring cleaning, your house is anything but kind of ugly before you begin to create a sense of order once again-only now things are cleaner and unde the surface, they are as the outer indicates: no dust bunnies hiding under a ‘pristine’ surface. mental illness, and tackling it properly, is , basically, dealing with those dust bunnies. They come abck a lot of times, and require maintenance.This takes understanding on the part of otehrs, and sometimes medication.

  7. Anne

    It was good to read of Carl Ellis, and Barb’s story. What do you do, though, when the bipolar partner doesn’t leave, spiritualises everything and thinks their lithium treatment is sufficient (when it clearly isn’t)? I have tried and tried, until my own mental health has suffered from the emotional strain and subtle emotional abuse. I haven’t yet seen other Christian websites that suggest it might be ok to leave, or that address the issue of living with a mentally ill person, when both partners are believers. There seems to be a lot of condemnation for the partner who can no longer cope, as Barb experienced. As Christians, we are told that it is selfish to have ‘needs’ (depending on who you read – it’s obviously a very debatable area) and that all we should do is trust. After two decades, though, and a bout of reactive depression caused by the bp partner’s unreasonable behaviour (as confirmed by a Christian psychotherapist), one becomes desperate. I would like to hear of more cases like Carl’s and Barb’s, and some encouragement from others in a similar situation. Yes, we trust Christ for everything, but when there is no physical abuse, only emotional, there is great pressure from other believers on the one who leaves, and a great sense of hurt in the bp partner who is left behind. Leaving may be necessary for the survival of the abused partner, and it may be devastating for the bp partner. Is there a solution? (Without going into the whole area of divorce and remarriage . . .!)

  8. Anne, sorry for the delay in replying. Sounds very difficult. You are right that there is little discussion of the type of situation you allude to here: two believers suffering due to an affliction such as bipolar disorder. Indulge me for a moment. What if we changed the scenario a few times. Parents raising a severely physically and emotionally handicapped child. Is it okay to institutionalize the child for the sake of the marriage? How about a spouse caring for the other who suffers with alzheimers. How long before they put them in an institution? Instead of alzheimers, what about someone with a severe brain injury who is just well enough to be at home but slowly destroys the other person with no chance of a real marital relationship. Seems in each of these cases, the question of “how long” must the healthy person put up with the sick person. Socially, I suspect outsiders would respond differently given these different scenarios. The problem with bipolar is that usually the person with it doesn’t seem damaged, just out of control. Further, the person with bipolar can do more for themselves (than these other scenarios) and so institutionalization won’t be an option.

    I don’t have great answers. However, I do think that it would be good to have very involved church leadership. Is it possible that they can provide loving but firm direction to the bp about the stoppage of the emotional abuse. The greater the church pressure, the more likely that either (a) the person will be quicker to learn and relearn to treat their loved ones well. to stay on the meds, etc. or (b) will react, get worse, and end up leaving, thus freeing their spouse. Why do I think this doesn’t happen? Well you hit the nail on the head. The person uses spiritual language and is able to “win over” others who are easily deceived or just don’t want to get involved because they smell long term involvement. The emotional abuse will have to be the primary focus. I would suggest that one way to bring that into focus would be to allow the victim of the abuse to leave (temporarily) in order to bring the other to repentance (and treatment compliance as fruit of that repentance).

  9. Anne

    Thanks Phil. Your advice is more or less the conclusion I had reached too. There is no problem with treatment compliance, however. The problem is in the affected person realising that there is an underlying problem. As you will know, living with someone with bpd is like living with three different people: the high, the low and the in between, and as the person gets older there seem to be more highs and lows (we’re talking about rapid cycling here, every hour or two). Lithium, his sole medication, is monitored and presumably stable (he never talks about the blood tests). He sees a doctor every 6 months for the blood tests but not a psychiatrist or psychologist, as he does not see that there is any problem. Outsiders would see none of this. The bp husband has no insight into his own hurtfulness, wrapped up in a world of work, prayer and Bible study. (‘What do you mean, you want me to spend more time with you? Then I couldn’t pray for you so much.’) Attempts to talk about my feelings with him have yielded some fruit, but the problem is very much alive and I have only to scratch the surface to see it again. Repentance in the past has not resulted in a permanent change of behaviour, as he seemed to think my requests unreasonable. I am not sure how much of the real world he is able to comprehend at times. It varies, but I’m getting desperate! I would be interested to read of others’ experiences in a similar situation.

  10. Anne

    A quick question – is it possible to make contact with Carl Ellis? I would value conversation with him on this topic. I’ve looked for a website for him but not yet found one.

  11. Pat

    I’ve lived through a very difficult situation. My husband became schizophrenic at age 40, although even before that, there were symptoms of bipolar disorder, and over 20 years of a very difficult marriage for me. He was oblivious to the emotional abuse he created towards myself and our 5 children. 4 years ago, after the schizophrenia started to become apparent (similar to the movie “A Beautiful Mind” – which incidentally, was not portrayed correctly – the main character did not in fact take medication consistently, and his wife went through 30-40 years of distressing experiences with him. My pastors, and many christian leaders had been involved in our situation, persuading my husband to see a psychiatrist, but he would never comply with treatment, and the illness became worse and worse. I had to separate from him for the sake of my children, and 2 years later, he filed for divorce. The court ordered only 3 hours of supervised visits each week, and now, 4 years later, there is no one who wants to supervise, because he is manipulative and won’t listen to anyone. It seems to be partly a hard heart, and partly the disease – there seems to be no insight into the fact that he has delusions. Meanwhile, I’ve had tremendous support from christian friends, but in the last year, it has dropped off a great deal – kind of like what probably happens when there’s a death. Recently, my ex-husband started leaving messages about his death, that his will was in his apartment etc., and also has not been able to keep any job for over 6 months. It seems as if there’s a huge hole in our family, and I am wanting very much to be married again. I am praying about this. I’ve known God ever since I was a young girl, and have always felt absolutely loved by Him. I can’t believe He would have a hard and fast rule, that unless my ex-husband commits adultery – even sex for one night – that I can’t marry again. We have been through about a 10 year process, and he hasn’t shown any respect for the many christian leaders who’ve tried to steer him in a healthy direction. It is as if he’s left me, like the unbelieving partner in I Cor. 7. I believe he has broken the covenant of marriage by refusing to accept treatment. As an aside, he also has a mother with schizophrenia, and she has never been treated. It also started when she was about 40, and so I don’t expect him to be much different from her. Even though I know about God’s power, and have seen miracles, there has been a firm resistance, hard-heartedness and refusal to trust counselors and pastors. Though I want to marry, I fear God, and see only information on why I can’t biblically do that. I’ve never discovered another person with a very similar situation to my own. As my friends and pastors can attest, I’ve given all the grace possible – for the 23 years I was married, and now another 4. Even God tired of the stiff-neckedness of his people, and I’m at that point. I don’t have any more energy to give to this relationship, and so want to know what it’s like to be truly loved, enjoyed and have companionship. I have several christian friends who have been remarried after divorce from physically abusive husbands, and they are very happy after 10 years for one, and 4 years for another. I am leaning toward the concept that God is a God not only of laws, but also of grace – and to lay the law on my situation negates His love and grace. Whatever I decide to do – I will do it with prayer and soul-searching, but I’d appreciate comments on your reaction.

  12. Pat, I am so sorry to hear of the suffering you have had to endure. I am convinced that there are many silently suffering along with you. Christian families with members with schizophrenia suffer alone due to abandonment or compassion fatigue, such as you describe.

    Your question is whether or not 1 Corinthians 7 applies to you. Does having a spouse who is unwilling to comply with a treatment that is necessary for their capacity to be in the family rise to the level of abandonment. It is much easier to come to that conclusion if the person is of sound mind but refusing to get help for an addiction or unwilling to change their risky or criminal behavior. In those cases it is clear that the refusal is willfully done. In your case, you are right that will and disease are both at play. Has he refused to accept the need for treatment? Has he refused to stop manipulative behavior? Has he refused to do positive loving, sacrificial acts for his wife and children? These are things that I would argue are in everyone’s capacity. Now, one person may have more capacity than another, but we still ought to be able to see some capacity for love and honor.

    I would ask your pastor and elders to walk with you through this particular question. Is your husband acting as an unbeliever and has he abandoned his covenant responsibilities in obvious willful ways. If the consensus is yes, then I could see them giving you the freedom to live at peace and to be freed from the covenant promises. Now, good people disagree as to whether or not anyone divorced can remarry, but the consensus is that if the marriage bonds have been broken, there is freedom to remarry. A recent Christianity Today article (last month I believe) covered this topic.

    I probably would avoid the “how can God ask me to suffer like this” approach. There are many sufferings that we must endure that do not have any relief in sight. However, there are possible ways out for you in the text of 1 Corinthians 7.

  13. Pat

    Thanks so much for your comments. Today I’m on my way out the door to work, and will repond more in a few days – but appreciate your compassion, and summary of the questions I’m pondering.

    Your suggestion to bring this to my pastor and elders is something I will do. I have recently starting attending a church which includes about 40 members from my previous church – a church plant to reach the unchurched in our area. Several of the leaders have known our situation well for about 10 years, and I believe could bring some wise insight. I know the “victim” approach is something I’ve had to steer away from before, so understand the need to avoid it.

    Thank you for mentioning the Christianity Today article – will see if I can access it online.

    I am grateful for your help – God bless you today.

  14. Deb

    Hello, My sympathy to all of the previous writers. Those of us who live with mental illness have so many questions that remain unanswered. One of my favorite Christian broadcasters speaks of “living a life with purpose” or a “life of INTENT”. Those noble causes seem unreachable when so many of us are living just to get a “moment of peace” or live “trying to referee chaos”. My oldest described it so well “like living with a volcano never knowing when it would explode”. She also used a descriptive word picture “you can’t enjoy or see the game when you are busy and fatigued just running with the play”. My world, after 21 years of marriage, has shrunken to just watching, anticipating, thinking, regretting, dreading, feeling the hurt. I feel so ripped off of holidays, vacations, happy memories. Every trip and every holiday has it’s own scarred memory.

    I’ve been mad, very, very mad at God for almost two years. I came to Him ten years ago for help. I think he can help my husband but I don’t know. Sometimes it seems like mental illness is the unwritten chapter of the Bible. Demons? Result of sin? Bad choices? DNA? Throw in an addiction (marijuana) which seems to offset the prescription drugs……so many questions. Yet one thing stays certain, the pain.

    As for now, my husband and I are separated. I have no idea what next hour or next day holds. I do trust God. It’s simple to trust Him right now, there aren’t any other choices. I still think my husband CAN change, cognitive therapy, true repentance, true seeking but he holds onto his sickness “it’s too hard to change, I can’t, I’ve prayed …I’ve gone to counseling …I just want to live out my (few) remaining years without sitting in a counselor’s office”. He wants to smoke his pot. He says he can’t change his behavior. He went to church for seven years, sometimes stronger, othertimes a shell of a christian with a hurtful angry and hyprocritical man inside. I yearn for integrity and the marriage all those authors who write about happy christian marriages refer to. Our children have suffered, eating disorder, anger, moving away. Everyone loves him but no one can live with him.

    Our pastor is helpful, his advice “one day, one step at a time”. I still wish there was a “mental illness” chapter or verse(s) in the Bible.

    I end this as I began this, I pray for each one of you to have strength and growth and some times of peace. I pray that your steps are sure and that your children are able to heal. Please pray for me too. Deb

  15. Deb, thanks for your authenticity here and telling us of your struggle. The Lord’s blessings on you as you seek His will through these dark days.

  16. Tammy

    Wow! I’ve been reading through these posts and I realize what I suspected was true- I am not alone! My husband and I have been married nearly 20 years and he was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder almost 16 years ago. Very recently they changed his diagnosis to Schizoeffective Disorder. He has become very detatched emotionally and it’s almost like he has “checked out”. When he interacts with the kids, he comes across as a teenager. For example, he’ll tell them he will take them somewhere but they’ll have to give him gas money or buy him food or a soda. He acts like I am his mother. He will lie about his activities or his use of money because he thinks I’ll be mad. The other day he told the kids he was planning to get his carry and conceal license (a license that allows you to carry a concealed weapon) behind my back because he knows that I don’t approve. The whole situation is just maddening and scary. We are currently separated because his presence in the home was so disruptive and stressful that I felt I had to do something to protect the kids. I have given all I can give to help him accept and deal with his illness. I have attended every doctor appointment with him for the past two years. I have requested that he be tested for every other disease that might cause similar symptoms to what he has exhibited. I have been an advocate for him in every way I possibly can, and yet his mental illness has not shown any improvement. Even though I have made every effort to help him it has been in vain because he refuses to accept that there is any problem at all. It’s sad because although he has always been very kind and well-liked by others, he can’t function within the family anymore. While I have considered divorce, I am not comfortable with the idea at this time. I want my children to understand that this is a covenant, but at the same time we are sometimes required to protect ourselves and our children. At this time I am content to remain separated from him. My life is quite full with obligations to work, full time schooling and raising three daughters. God is in control of this and I do trust him to work things out. Never would I have expected this to be the way my marriage turned out, but again, my trust, hope and faith is in God. He will make all things new and I know that as I am obedient to His will, He will bring blessing. My marriage – even my life story- may not end the way I thought it would, but if my children learn to see and know God through this, it will have been worth it. God is still in control.

  17. Sue

    My heart goes out to all those who are suffering. I too understand your pain. I was a very needy person when I married my husband almost 10 years ago. To add to my neediness, my son took his own life. Even though I saw bad signs, I married him anyway. He immediately plummeted into depression, ended up in a pysch hospital diagnosed wih bipolar. Life was a living hell as he was totally out of control all the time – anger, drinking, smoking, terrible verbal and emotional abuse. I rededicated my life to the Lord and held on tightly for another year until he left and I locked him out – this was an answer to my prayers. Then 15 months later with no contact with him, the Lord told me that He was going to restore our marriage. I didn’t expect it to be right then, but that’s what He meant (I was sure at the time but now question that). In 2002 we got back together and every year has been better than before, although there were definitely ups and downs, until this year. He has pushed God and me aside and showed the hateful anger from the past. We are both in counseling separately. My counselor and I have diagnosed him as Borderline Personality Disorder – ugly! There is very little hope (even from my Christian counselor) for him to improve, even if he gets on medication. You can read many sad stories from partners with Borderline. For the last few weeks, I’ve been praying for guidance if I should end this marriage. My faith was so strong the beginning of this year just knowing that God was going to do great things this year. So many questions like did I really hear God telling me to reconnect – it sure was not my idea because I was doing so well. I definitely feel that he has walked away from this marriage emotionally. He is incapable of having an emotional relationship but doesn’t even try. I have contacted an associate pastor and deaconess at church so they know what is happening. I will need the church to get him out if/when the time comes -it is my house. Meantime, I am searching for wisdom from God which seems to be leaning to ending this relationship. It is vital that I know I am doing God’s will. I’ve messed up too badly in the past. Thanks for listening and any input. Blessings to all.

  18. This post hit home for me. My husband and I were in required counseling through the non-profit organization we worked with. I longed for our marriage to be saved, but not at any cost (meaning deception, covering up sin, etc. just to preserve the appearance of a marriage). It was a relief when I finally received permission to see a Christian counselor outside the organization, to have the new counselor tell me, “My goal is not to fix your marriage. That is my desire, but not my goal.” That made such a difference to me. It removed “a fixed marriage” as a demand on the counselor or me, which had been an impossible demand because of the ways my husband as a brilliant narcissist was sabotaging the relationship (and the previous counseling with mind games that pulled all of us, including the counselors, into chaos).

    This same counselor, though, is also very compassionate and does not just write people off as hopeless because they have personality disorders. His compassion and trust (in me, who was having a hard time seeing straight, let alone make decisions with any kind of confidence due to the effects of the mind games) helped me to see my way through the mess. I did not feel like he was “siding” with me or writing my husband off just because of a personality disorder. But he was openly acknowledging that for all of my commitment and hard work and all the help that he the counselor COULD give, that an absolute guarantee that the marriage could be fixed was not realistic if my husband was not willing to change . Not that I had to leave because he didn’t change, just that the “restored” marriage I longed for wasn’t something only I could make happen.

    When the mind games escalated to more of a physical threat, I was able to tangibly see what I’d felt but not been able to identify before then. My husband’s first response to the separation was huge and dramatic change, but I did not feel safe moving right back in with him. He tolerated that for about six weeks, then became very angry and self-justified again and filed for divorce. It was an ugly process, and still is in many ways (we have four children, and the mind games continue. Divorce was not an “out” for me from that, as he has risen to the challenge of using the law as his new “supporter” for his self-indulgences. I do not regret the separation, though, as without it I was going insane.) Thankfully, my pastor and his wife saw the deception and mind games and anger, and have been incredibly supportive through the whole process, going to bat for me with counselors, in court, directly with my husband, with our organization, social workers, etc.

    The biggest thing I think pastors and Christians can do is believe people who talk about their experiences with an abuser or a person with mental illness (by no means am I saying the two are the same; just noting the similarity in how church leaders can show support), rather than minimizing it or spiritualizing the whole thing in unrealistic ways.

    I think it is important to be able to talk about it and not write people off as unable to live for God or reflect his glory or accomplish his purposes if they admit to a failed (or failing) marriage.

  19. Deborah

    If only there had been someone, anyone, in the early days of our married life who was a Christian and understood mental illness, maybe I wouldn’t be facing the end of my marriage. Both some say who watched the disintegration of my marriage say not. My husband and I were married five years when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or manic-depression, as they called it then. Spent a month in the state mental hospital. Severely depressed. The mania or hypomanic episodes didn’t happen that often in the early years. When I first heard of the diagnosis in 1977, I went to the library and found exactly one paragraph in a book about it. Neither of us had any real idea of what we were dealing with and after years of trying all sorts of medications and talk therapy, nothing really worked until he was put on one of the SSRI drugs in the early 90s. That helped with his treatment resistant depression. But I wasn’t prepared for the hypomania and the irritability and all the rest of it. Turns out no person with bipolar disorder diagnosis should be on SSRIs alone. Can trigger mania, etc.

    But no one can prepare you for all the loneliness and grief of living and coping with someone who has a mental illness day in, day out. Of seeing one dream after another disappear, of learning that just making it through the day intact (not happy, not anything really, but just alive) was all one could expect. There was no planning of the future, of trips, of holidays, birthdays, family gatherings. Many a Christmas morning found me in the shower, weeping, just wishing the day was already over. Not to mention birthdays, anniversaries. No matter how much I cared, how much I did, it was never enough. You pray and read and believe and hope that there will be relief sometime. It’s not only knowing that you are not only a wife, but a mother, nurse, monitor, counselor, working to keep both his and your body and soul together, all the time wondering when will it end? How will it end? I loved him with all my heart and soul and I wanted him well, but all he cared about was getting and feeling high. Playing music. Smoking dope and hanging out with friends who were either using drugs or alcoholics. Using amphetamines. He was a talented musician, but at times, he was arrogant, hostile and difficult to reason with. He was easier to talk to or cope with when he was depressed than when he was hypomanic or manic. But towards the end, I grew afraid of him. I didn’t feel I knew him anymore and I felt as if he didn’t see the real me anymore. He was cruel to me, and I was afraid to say anything to him at all the last two years we were together, afraid of triggering his anger or hostility.

    He wanted a divorce and it has just become final. I told him I did not want it, but I would not fight him on it. Frankly, I had grown very tired after 34 years of marriage to him. Within the last three years of our marriage, my father suffered three strokes and it was up to me to care for him and my mother, who was also sick, as my only sister lived 3000 miles away. Then my mother-in-law was involved in a serious accident which put her in a rehab center for six months. I was her financial power of attorney. Her husband had left her very well-to-do but with a lot of property that needed looking after, not to mention her finances and cats and houses in two cities over 130 miles apart. Her only daughter did not help. Her son-in-law tended to estate matters. My husband helped very little. Just as he did very little when I was caring for my parents. I collapsed, exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically. For the first time in my life, I was seriously depressed. I could no longer fix or help anyone or anything, least of all me. And my husband left me. And found someone else.

    I went to his counselor for help for myself, but who told me that not only was my husband bipolar, but also had narcissistic personality disorder, and had been diagnosed as such years ago. He was also someone who never wanted to do the work to get better (chemo doesn’t work alone for Bipolar), but had little or no insight into himself and honestly didn’t think anything was wrong with him—it was all me. I had suspected his mother, and even his sister, as classic NPDs, but my husband? When I could no longer do for them, I was thrown away as if I was yesterday’s trash. His mother had told me that she could always depend on me, but when I couldn’t do anything, indeed, I was so depressed I could barely get out of bed, I was told that I was twisted, sick, and had never supported my husband in his music or anything in our marriage, that I hated his mother…all sorts of things that I heard with such astonishment, such amazement, that I was sure I was hearing things, that surely they couldn’t believe those things.

    My friends and family were appalled, hurt, and turned against my husband and that hurt me just as much as the horrible things he was saying about me. I couldn’t believe it. My family and friends protected me from a lot of the things he said, but eventually some of them. I guess they thought it might help me get over him sooner.
    All my married life, I believed in God and His mercy. I grew up in the church. When I married and later found out that my husband had bipolar……I believed in my vows…in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, etc. But for so much of our married life, it was the sickness, the worse, the poorer part of it we had. I grieved for my husband’s losses as well as for my own. He was agnostic, perhaps angry with God for not “healing” him. There were times when I was, too. But when my husband left, I couldn’t understand why, after so many years, it ended this way. Where was God’s mercy? Why was the answer to my prayers the end of my marriage, not to mention the cruelty and the lies and the pain. If my husband had died, I don’t think my grief would have been any less. To be abandoned and rejected by one I loved…He did not seem to realize that he had not lived with the Demon Depression alone……..I had been in that same cell with him, facing those midnight hours of despair, of loneliness, of weariness that colored every day with its darkness. I can remember wondering what to do……, don’t talk…sit with him in the darkness or ignore him, hold him. Get mad as hell or plead with him to stop talking of suicide. Pray. Or grow numb with pain.

    Angry with God? Disappointed with God? Neither Job nor David were quiet with their questions, their pain, their suffering. Life is unfair. That’s a given we all recognize as truth. I’ve been worn down until I don’t know who I am or what I want anymore. For the first time in my life, I am alone. I have no children, a low paying job that barely pays my basic expenses, no alimony(he was adamant about that), and no medical insurance (because of his bipolar meds we were never able to get insurance because he was self-employed), and no retirement. While I am better than I was, I have lost all my dreams and I don’t know where God is in this. My friends and family were loving and kind and generous during this past year, and perhaps that was God’s grace. I never thought I would be divorced. It seems so surreal, and I feel so ashamed, so deeply grieved that the man I love stopped loving me, if it was love. I no longer am sure about anything concerning my husband. Friends, family, even clergy, as well as counselors have all told me that a lot of marriages to bipolar partners do not make it, and mine lasted longer than most. But that is little comfort. I’ve searched the Bible for clues about what God expects from those who loves someone who has mental illness, and I can’t find anything that helps, except all the usual cliches that only serve to make one feel guilty, trapped, and more despairing. I’m afraid that the Church doesn’t really help the families who are coping with loved ones who are mentally ill, much less understand it. When it comes to cancer or other illnesses, they are right there with the potluck suppers and babysitting and driving to doctor appts. None of them really understand the burden of sympathy, of caring for someone who may find it impossible to reciprocate and will neither get well or die with it. Where is the line between loving my neighbor (my husband) as well as myself….when sometimes I felt as if I was being destroyed trying to care for my husband? The Church has failed people like me and my husband. And to be honest, I don’t understand God’s silence on mental illness. Physical healings abound in the Bible. The demon possesed man who was healed may have been mentally ill, but calling him demon possessed only seems to further stigmatized a group of people who have been trying to get out of the Dark Ages in treament and in society for years. Thanks for listening.

    • Beverly

      Deborah my husband was diagnosed with Bi Polar about 2 yrs ago. We are married 25 yrs and I asked him to leave 1 1/2 yrs ago. I encouraged him to spend the weekends so that we could go to church and have family time with my 16 yr old son at the time. He finally consented to go DR 2 yrs ago and was good on his medication for about 6 months. We each had a christian counselor. I just had my last visit last week. He saw his just a few times. We had secular as well as christian marriage counseling several times and he just doesn’t comply with what he says he will do. I haven’t seen him in several months and sometimes sends a text saying “good morning”,but won’t talk to me on the phone. If I ask him a question via text he usually doesn’t reply. He doesn’t call our son either. We have a daughter and a grandson and only approx once every 6 months texts her. I have been standing for the marriage and believe God can heal him yet it hasn’t happened yet. My new church is supportive I had to leave my former church because he was able to manipulate them. He did not accomplish same at this new church and dropped out. I do believe it’s demon possession because of what is in Ephes. :We wrestle not with flesh and blood. I still love him despite all the chaos. I pray for grace for us and the family. I have been standing for the marriage, I believe he is borderline and possibly schizoprhrenic I pray for his deliverance. He recently took himself off meds. I just decided today to call him after the holidays and proceed to divorce. I’ll tell him if he ever needed me I would help him but for now this is what I have chosen for us. I don’t know if I’ll be the covenant breaker or his lack of effort broke it already. If God speaks something else to me before that time I’ll listen and do as He says. There is a bipolar man who is at the church every sunday so he made a choice, My husband could make the same choice. God bless you and I hope you get the answer soon,

  20. Suzanne

    Dear Deborah,
    My heart goes out to you. I can relate to so much of what you wrote about being married to someone with a mental illness. I have also often felt abandoned by the Church and friends who do not understand the pain and anguish of caring for (and losing) a bipolar spouse. One of the things that my counselor told me recently is, “When you rest your head on your pillow at night, know that you have done everything you could have done for this marriage. You don’t have anything to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about.” I truly believe that this statement is true for you, too.
    I completely understand your sentiment that the grief you are experiencing is the same (or greater) than that of a spouse’s death. Allow yourself to grieve. But know that the grief will not last forever. If there is anyway possible, try to attend a divorce recovery group. At first, it will probably seem like you don’t have a lot in common with others there because of the uniqueness of your situation, but you may find that others can understand more than you might think. For example, I recently met a woman who is divorced from a man who is an alcoholic. I was very surprised by the number of similarities in our experiences and feelings. Above all, know that you are not alone. One thing that I have found to be helpful is to read Psalms. Although I haven’t found anything there that explains “why” any of this has happened, I find that there are a lot of comforting passages there. God bless you, Deborah. You are in my prayers.

  21. Anita

    I don’t know how current this is, but I still want to reply.
    I just want to honour you all so far for your honesty and courage. I, too, am wrestling with these issues. You have reminded me that one way of being wise and protective is to be careful whom we listen to. Not to get the answers we want necessarily, but to avoid any further condemnation. I can do that bit quite well enough!
    So, again, thank you all!
    (Yes! It’s not just me!)

  22. Scott


    My married my wife knowing she was bipolar. However, what I didn’t know about was General Anxiety Disorder which was obvious then but only in hind sight nearly 7 years later. At 8 years into the marriage, she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

    We have two young kids, and the last 3 years have been rough. I do everything, I make the money, take care of the kids, clean the house, to laundry, and she occasional handles meals. She sleeps greater than 50% of each day, watches TV in the remaining time, and eats, thats about it.

    I have struggled to stay in the marriage, but lost hope about a year ago. She has been in and out of the hospital, and is now painting me black. All of her problems are because of me.

    I love the Lord, and I believe in salvation as sure as my hand is in front of me. I know what the word of God says, I know what every Christian says, “stay the pain” in essence.

    I can’t do this any longer, I have LONGED for someone else to make the decision for me, cause I didn’t want to be the one to make the decision on divorce. But all my options one by one have disappeared, those who I thought could make it, wouldn’t or turned around at the last minute. It left me with ME… I was the only one that could decide and I believe it was by design.

    Unless something happens, I plan on finding an attorney over the next week or two and filing for divorce and seeking sole custody of the kids.

    Honestly, I’m at peace with the decision. While I know that many will look down upon me, and I have long avoided this decision for not wanting anyone else to stumble… I do realize all things work toward the glory of God.

    May God restore each of you who have experience the pain and suffering that a mentally ill spouse brings. For I know, following the divorce, that God will restore me to who I was before I married.

  23. john

    the above post have been enlightening to me, as i now believe that I am married to a woman that is either bipolar or has borderline personality disorder.
    I have now been married to my wife for just over 6 years. about one year into the marriage I caught her in her first lie to me. Since then I have learned that she has always been willing to lie to get her way or hide something she didnt want known. She is also very nonconfrontational afraid of any confrontation in fact. We have never had a yelling screaming fight. we have generally hid any negative emotions from the other.

    a little over 3 months ago I came home to find her and our 2 children (1 and 3 yo) gone. The next day I learned she had falsely accused me of 1) sexually abusing my daughter, 2) wanting to go an a shooting rampage 3) having child pornography, 4) abusing her emotionally and physically. after reporting this she checked into the local battered womans shelter, where she stayed for a few days before dissappearing and going to another state. She contacted one of her friends and said “if i can stay here 6 months I can divorce him and keep the kids.”

    I have subsequently been cleared of all her allegations and was able to get legal custody in my home state and the state where she was living. While she was there she continued the story that she was fleing from this monster abusive husband who sexually molested her daughter. I was able to take physical custody of my kids last weekend.

    I also conversed whith her last weekend and it was NOT the same person I had been married to. I confronted her directly with all the accusations that had been written in the offical report. She denied almost all of it and just claimed to be trying to get to the bottom of “why our daughter was saying what she was saying, and why her behavior changed” Of course there had been no change in our daughters behavior. she denied making allegatins that I physically abused her and that i wanted to go on a rampage.
    Another interesting thing is the morning of the day she left I kissed her goodbye and she acted very contented at the kiss. When I asked her about it she replied ” I am savoring the moment”
    Somethign very scary is I think she is actually delusional and actually believes some of the lies that she told. I once confronted her on one of her lies and her response was “sometimes I do not know what is true or not” at that point I thought she was just making excuses for lying, but now I think she can break with reality.
    I had to file for divorce to be able to get legal custody of my kids. she was just served papers earlier this week. I still do not “want” a divorce. she took the MMPI test last friday and has a follow up appointment next week.
    I am terrified of what this woman has become. I desperately want my family whole. but am afraid of her trying to frame me again, and or taking the children and hiding them from me again. I feel if i take her back that I will be terrified every time I leave for work.
    Is there anyway I can restore this marriage and once again have trust in my wife?

  24. Jim

    I ran accross this site looking for help and my heart bled for the stories I read as my situation is similar but unresolved yet. My wife has Grandiose Paranoid Schizophrenia and refuses to get treatment. I have been fighting this illness off and on for 33 years but the untreated sickness has gotten much worse this last 5 years. Her delusions have caused me to lose my job and created havoc with my and my kids lives. She refuses to believe she is sick and will not go to the doctor. I tried to have her put in the psych hospital but after 3 monthes they released her as she was not deem a threat to herself or others. Her behaviour and thoughts continue to be bizarre as she thinks terrorist people are coming in to steal her things yet she throws away those things herself. On three ocassions she has thrown away my own diabetes meds and so I must renew perscriptions and take my own pills secretly plus hide them so she does not know otherwise she will throw them away. Many times she has thrown away important documents such as house, car and health care insurance renewals(these lapsesd and I had to get new policies twice) as she insist on screening our mail. I have looked into getting her committed but can not for the reasons above. I have tried not to give up and abandon her but I have gone into a deep depression as I try to look after her 24/7. My own health and sanity is suffering as I have had thoughts of suicide or violence as I can not continue to live like this.
    I do not know what to do as I am caught in a revolving door with the medical system that can not help. What is the christian thing to do continue to help her or to try and save our own health and sanity.

  25. Carla Lynne

    I have been in this marriage for almost 20 years. My husband has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. He overspiritualizes everything. He wont let the kids go anywhere, we have no cable, he wants to pray all day and do bible study constantly. He will leave work to go pray. He feels as though only he can hear GOD” and everyone else, pastors close friends , elders are all trying to mislead him. We have moved close to 20 times because he will walk off of really good jobs and quit. God told him to do it. I am exhausted and have been in hundreds of counseling appts. No one know even how to counsel me anymore. My kids are turning away form their faith because of overkill of religous addictions. Many times he is looked upon as a very prayerful man….he will work when he feels like it and it is extrmely hard on us. My kids are begging me to divorce him. Even though we all love him ..he is so blinded and will never listen to counsel from anyone. He sees this as the devil trying to get him off track. He comes up with these ideas to move out of state and will announce to the kids we are moving to …………..It has taken a toll on us all. I do not believe in divorce but I am there…..If he chooses not to listen or take meds…he is off and on. What can a family do? I feel as though if I do not step in and separate he will completely damage us all. I feel so damaged already and very depressed and I am now having health issues. The church is so in the dark with mental illness and I would Love to see the church equipped to be able to be there for families and help them. Our background is missions and church planting but I feel as though I do not want to even get involved in ministry with him. He is very angry over this and has expressed this many times. When I start to worry over finances he will say “have faith honey”. When I got sick a month ago and started to hyperventalate he would let the paramedics take me to the hospital. he feels the LORD will heal us. This is getting worse…..Any comments I would appreciate. To all who have gone through constant years of up and down….you need to take care of yourself..especially tru of you have children!Get counseling and try to be with the Lord ona daily basis..and most of all ..don’t give up. He will never leave you or forsake you. God loves you all.

  26. Carla Lynne,

    I’m sorry to hear of your travails. You are right in that the church (actually most everyone) doesn’t understand the depths of suffering of the family of a a bipolar person. The pain and agony are so great because the person is completely unaware of their disregard of the second great commandment (to love their neighbor).

    Further, you are right to not be in ministry. While everyone has a gift to offer the Lord, it sounds from your description that your husband is not in any shape to plant a church.

    Pray for a church leader willing to sit down and listen to you and really understand what is going on. Pray also for support as you decide which form of suffering (in the short run) to take: keep moving with him or choose to stand up and say no (thus making it more likely that a separation or divorce ensues).

    I think Jim Petty’s 3 circles of the will of God are helpful here. The inner circle (black/white parts of Scripture) represents the clear dos and do nots. The outer circle is christian liberty. The Lord gives us tremendous freedoms to choose things to our liking. The middle circle is the “law of love.” These are things that may not violate a commandment but do violate loving the neighbor first. I think it legitimate to stand up to one who wants to move or do something of tremendous impact on others and ask them to reconsider based on loving neighbor more than self. I can hear you say, though, that if God has told your husband to move, then move he must. And yet, that command of God cannot violate the sacrificial love commanded him in Eph. 5 to love you (an by extension the kids) more than his own ministry desires.

    I wish I could offer you more. You are in my prayers.

  27. Jess


    Any chance you have a link for the three circles that you mentioned? I Googled “Jim Petty three circles,” but I came up empty-handed.

    • Jess, Sorry no link. But, you can find it in his “Step by Step: Divine Guidance For Ordinary Christians (originally published by P & R in 1999). First shows up on p. 103. He actually calls them 1. Areas of things prohibited (innermost circle), 2. Area of Application of God’s positive commands (guidance by discernment, can be in or out of God’s will), 3. Area of Christian liberty.

      Hope that helps.

  28. Robbie

    I was married for 12 years to the love of my life, but the marriage became a nightmare due to mental illness in him. It has been 19 years since then but I still recall the experiences and feelings I had which have been shared by the others on this site. I also believed that God would heal my husband if I did everything I could do but it didn”t happen. I too found the church to be absent in understanding and help. I can only say after all of these years that we cannot bargain with God-he doesn’t HAVE to heal our loved one if we do “our part” and pouring one’s sanity, dignity and health down the drain in the name of maintaining a marriage is wrong. The second thing is that anyone can marry someone who is secretly mentally ill or becomes that way. Church people who have no understanding or empathy truly blame the spouse at times. Even if you pick someone unwisely, Jesus didn’t condemn those who reached out to him and admitted their need; he condemned the Pharisees only. Mental illness shows us our need for God and it is a lesson I hope I can learn in my lifetime and perhaps can find some gratitude for it. Thank you and God Bless.

  29. Aivilo

    Wow – this is the 1st sign of help/relief I’ve found after searching websites, Focus on the Family, counseling, church leaders… After struggling with my husband’s very acute and severe depression/anxiety for the last 1.5 years and being at a loss of property support from the Christian/church community, I feel some sense of relief finding others with similar experiences.
    He doesn’t seem as delusional as some of the posts above, nonetheless, my life has been utter chaos. We married only 4 years ago, both 1st for us and we were mid-30’s and mid-40’s. When I married him, he had struggled over 26 years with very severe sleep disorders in the form of Restless Limb Syndrome (ant crawling sensation when trying to rest). As a doctor myself, we searched high and low to help address this. Now a psychologist thinks it has the makings of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (from childhood molestation). When we moved to Los Angeles 3 years ago, it’s clear his anxiety levels increased. He was getting nightmares and night terrors. Then not having worked for over 2 years after that and being forced by me to apply for unemployment, last January 2008, he started being very depressed and soon started repeating himself about his career being over, his life being over. By last summer, he was suicidal. We started a journey of psychiatrists and Christian counselors/psychologists – to no avail. Meanwhile, he was getting more paranoid about being locked up, started telling me he didn’t love me and became wrecked with guilt that he should leave me. He started pulling away from GOD and is convinced (no thanks to many pastors and lay leaders!) that he’s going to hell. Got him hospitalized last December with the intervention of his brother and best friend – but that experience was a complete disaster at Loma Linda Behavioral Medicine Center. The quack doctor overmedicated him after boasting that he could control anyone’s sleep problems. He gave my husband so much drugs that my sweet, gentle, athletic husband started developing Parkinsonian symptoms, shuffling his feet and having the stiff deadpan look on his face. HOW MUCH PAIN CAN ONE ENDURE when you put yourselves in the hands of professionals hoping for them to help, only for them to make things worse?? I pulled him out after 6 days. He’s been resistant to getting help as his brain is so muddled that he can’t focus during therapy sessions. His guilt is so strong that it makes it impossible for him to see hope and redemption. He’s been sleeping a lot, been paralyzed in doing any activity including personal hygiene, withdrawn socially. After the hospital trip, I forced to continue with Partial Hospitalization Program – but since it’s at the same Loma Linda facility, he feared for his life daily of being locked up as several patients have been pressured to having electroconvulsive therapy (like in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). He didn’t benefit from the program due to fears and being overwhelmed by all the handouts from the group therapy sessions (remember his brain is muddled). It made him feel more stupid. He was rearended going to the PHP one day and used that as excuse to stop. I said OK as long as he continued with therapy at least 2x/week. He didn’t keep it up for long, without my nagging. I soon was too exhausted and gave up trying to help any longer. Between having to be the sole provider for the insane overhead of living in L.A., then having to move out of our house because we couldn’t afford it any longer, then moving to my parents’ and having to battle him daily to get him up and functional and eating, I’m wasted. HOW DOES ONE HANG IN THERE? Seems like with some of the post above, the sick party is still capable of working. Was finally able to convince him to go visit his parents in another state. On the day he left, he said he wish he never met me. The 2-week trip is becoming over 2 months now. He barely contacted him while he was gone. I feel I have no marriage any longer. I told him if he wanted to stay married, he needed to call me so I know what’s going on his end. After weeks of mostly silence, I’ve had it. I wrote him an ultimatum of either returning and focusing on getting well…. or being on his own, in which case I’ll cut off all financial access and he’ll be responsible for his personal bills including taking care of his one rental property (or he may lose it due to foreclosure). He’s since called 2-3x/day wanting to talk but I’ve avoided all his calls for 3 weeks now. I’m tired of the rambling fear based talk without addressing my concerns for his well-being. I LOVE my husband SO MUCH but I can’t keep up with the cruel comments stemming from the sickness and watching him deteriorate before my eyes as he lay wasted in bed daily…. all the while being completely exhausted from cleaning up our financial mess right now. As one lady commented, most of my short marriage has been for ‘worse, poorer and sickness’. I don’t want a divorce – I want to stay married… however, as I’m reading the above posts, this may never end, he may not be better, how does one survive this? Due to his night terrors and sleeplessness, I’ve been very sleep deprived as well, in addition to having been punched in the back and face in the middle of sleep. When he was around, my fatigue and anxiety level was very high. I miss him so much but don’t know if I can handle another round. I want him back but unless I have a strategy to move forward in a positive, hopeful way, I’m afraid I’ll be lost in the pit of depression myself. The latest psychiatrist is still convinced he has MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) but I’m afraid he either has Bi-Polar disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder in addition to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. With my more spiritually discerned friends, they think he is demon possessed or oppressed with generational sins being a strong component (his mother suffers from occasional bouts of depression & his grandmother from anxiety disorder). Medications? Deliverance Ministry? Counseling? Nutrition? We seem to have tried it all…. and my poor darling husband appears to have given up hope…. and I’m not too far behind.
    ANY HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS ANYONE? I so want to call him back (I now am renting a room at a friends’ home) but don’t know if I can handle it. I feel a deep responsibility to help him due to my love and my marriage covenant… in sickness, in poorer and for worse.

  30. Robbie

    I do have a suggestion for Aivilo. The answers are quiet and simple and start each morning and end each night. I will tell you mostly how to find peace with God and peace with yourself. It has taken me about 20 years to get to this. I have faith it will not take you so long. This is it….when you live with and love someone whose life brings profound chaos to you, it will make you sick too. You will begin to exchange sleep and food, hobbies and friendship, exercise and worship for sleeplessness, unhealthy food or over/undereating, isolation and stress and a desperate search for fixing the other person. This change on your part will, in fact, make the other person no better, and perhaps worse, and you will definitely become sicker. The simple answer is that moment by moment you must choose healthy actions and not permit your loved one to take this from you, nor should you take it from yourself as a punishment or as a bargain with God because he doesn’t promise to bargain with us-our sacrifice for the health of our loved one. Remember that after God gave Adam and Eve each other, the next thing he gave them was the ability to choose their actions (with the fruit). Giving others the right to choose their actions is, in fact, a holy behavior. The Bible will not promise you that it is or is not allowed to divorce in this very terrible situation so no need to keep searching for permission. No Christian will or can tell you that it is ok, either. You have to give yourself permission to stay or go when your limit has been reached. As a loving parent, you would never tell your child to stay in danger, so that should never be something you question regarding God, OK? God is so great beyond our greatest imagination. He knows your heart and motives which are obviously so good. He will give you love and mercy so don’t be afraid of him about staying or going. Measure your actions daily by whether you are moving toward chaos or toward wholeness. Your wholeness may help your spouse, but if not, it certainly won’t make them worse. If you destroy your health, your finances, your friendships, etc trying to save him, it won’t accomplish this and you won’t have anything left for other loved ones who you value. I know because I have done this. I really believe that no medicine, no church, no doctor, no program can fix things to have the family we dreamed of as young people. All these things can be tools and have a role, but the answers are mostly in using them to intentionally choose actions, thoughts, attitudes throughout each day that create health and stability in our lives-not chaos. Well I hope that helps. You are not alone…

    • aivilo

      Robbie – thanks for your response… I read it thoughtfully then last July and just re-read it again. I’ve separated from my husband since December and he has since continued to refuse psychological testing, which I required after much counsel so we know what direction to take. My safety continued to be at risk, with my having to lock the bedroom door when I go to sleep at night and being awaken by every noise I hear in the house. My life is more peaceful now as I continue to work and manage the fallout of our real estate investments in this crazy economy. My friends have been very supportive. My question to the LORD, as I continue to draw close to Him and pray for healing, is whether I continue separated from husband for the rest of my life to keep my marriage covenant (which appears then to be just a shell of a marriage)…. or to divorce (which is so grating to my spirit and I’m sure, GOD’s). I am now convinced that his rebellious spirit has opened him up to demonic influences (that we like to call mental illness in psychology) and he’s chosen to obey the enemy’s voice over GOD’s truth. I know David had to handle such a scenario dealing with King Saul…. yet David continued to walk with GOD until GOD’s time for him to be king for David didn’t touch GOD’s anointed (though Saul was not walking with GOD). I guess, in my search for an answer, I trust the LORD will provide me one. My task is to take each step each day with purpose to serve HIM… and He’ll continue to direct my path and not strive for a definitive answer. The answer will come in HIS time.

  31. Chauntel

    I just sat here weeping with the core realization that my choice to not allow myself to be destroyed after 14 hard years with a bipolar husband is not unique.
    He is loving. He is a Christian. He has even stayed on his meds for almost 5 years without much self medicating (mostly prescription anti-anxiety meds that he seems to be able to sweet talk our MD in to giving him, almost always without my knowledge until he has a severe reaction).
    We did marry young. Immediately we knew our personalities wouldn’t mesh well but felt through God our covenant marriage could/would work. Then came the mania. For the first 9 years of our marriage we didn’t know what it was. We just thought it was “him”, his enthusiastic personality. 3 kids, one of which is autistic, led me to be a stay at home mom becoming completely dependent on him.

    He was hospitalized the first time & let go after the 72 hours with a diagnosis of overdosing on diphenhydramine and that is what brought on the mania.
    Our church at the time just brushed it off. Tried counseling and the counselor attributed it to his childhood/parental/father issues.
    It was only a year and a half later that he had a full manic breakdown and spent 6 weeks in 2 different mental units. No meds would work, it was almost to the point of having him sent 2+ hours away to UCLA where they could go further with his treatment. Thank God one of the doctors here came up with an out of the box solution of trying a schizophrenia medication. With the correct dosage he’s been stable for almost 5 years.
    Unfortunately, our church helped immensely with support at the time. Emotional, spiritual & even financial but as someone else stated above, with time the dire situation abated and it’s easy to go back to pretending everything is healthy & normal. I say it’s unfortunate because it’s easier to ignore the crazy than to deal with it.
    For me it’s never been healthy or normal. I continually pray for guidance in my dealing with my husband. Guidance that I won’t lose myself completely and become this person that is unrecognizable to me (which I borderline have). Guidance for our marriage. Just because medication is being taken doesn’t mean the disease is gone. I am always 2 days away from complete chaos. 2 days of no meds is all it takes for the mania to rear it’s head.
    Now I am at the point of deciding how much I am willing to risk with my kids. Does my marriage come first in this instance or my kids stability & future? As many know that have to deal with this disease, finances are almost always in ruin. The skewed decision making process, even when medicated properly, is ingrained in him. My husband tries. He just can’t make logical, realistic decisions for the family. And as a Christian man being the head of the household that places a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. Whenever something too good comes along he is sure it’s from God. I live by the old adage; if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
    Lately with the weight of the decision we (my husband and I are discussing things very rationally at the moment, that is a nice change) are trying to make, separation and then possibly divorce, diving in to the Word and prayer has been very sad for me. I am not dealing with a normal person, in normal circumstances that the verses in the Bible speak of when it comes to marriage & divorce. Our church is going through a serious time of transition having lost our pastor of 12 years (that caused major trauma to my husband who loved him like a brother and was a great counselor). The elders are not approachable and when I have spoken to some of my sisters in the church I get one of 2 things: don’t fix what’s not broke (meaning, he’s taking his meds, it’s all good!) or that side long apologetic yet unfeeling look since they can’t relate.
    I am just so thankful to have found your site and all the comments that have gone along with this post. God definitely answered a prayer for me this morning.

  32. John

    I feel like I have found a candle in the dark by reading all of these very sad stories. I can relate to much of this as I am currently married to my wife of almost 14 years. About the past seven or eight years things started to get strange with her. Her belief systems regarding day to day life clearly have a great deal of paranoia and last March when I received a call from the Department of Children and Families stating, “are you aware your wife might be suffering from mental illness?” I knew I had to do something.

    I live in Florida and tried to have her involuntarily committed (Baker Acted) which was a joke. Testimony later showed she saw a doctor for 20 minutes, 10 minutes of which he read testimony her mother and I had provided and the other 10 talking to her….all with her attorney’s present.

    Unfortunately, the line for many of us to get help for our loved ones is life and death. If that standard can’t be met then you’re on your own. I had to file for divorce and ask for a parenting and psych evaluation for us both, because I knew if I asked for one myself she had no grounds at all to say no. 7 months and $15K later (attorney’s fees NOT included) the report said exactly what we all thought – she is suffering from some sort of paranoid delusional ideation.

    I am completely exhausted by it all and although I love her and want to keep our family of five together (3 girls), I just want out. I came to this site as I googled ‘Is it ok to leave your spouse because of mental illness’. As many of you have said, if it was cancer or some other physical illness, it would be a different story for us all, but what no one recognizes is the toll that mental illness takes on the true victims – the loved ones.

    Like an earlier post I read, I have been looking for others to help make the decision for me, but right now I know that it is something I must make alone with God. It is times like this that it is VERY difficult NOT to lean on your own understanding when you just want to survive.

    God Bless you all and thanks for sharing.

  33. Gary

    I am in the process of deciding whether to separate from my wife of 20 years. She recently was diagnosed as being bi-polar and borderline personality disorder (although it has been decided to refer to this as borderline “traits” since the disorder is so bad).

    After 20 years, I finally have an answer to why things have not been right since the marriage started. I also recently learned that, because of a sexual assault at age 15, my wife has always been wary of sex.

    When we first started dating, I fell for this attractive, smart, ambitious woman. Along the way there were some very odd behaviors which I didn’t quite understand. She was extremely jealous but I just chalked that up to someone who seemed to adore me ( a common borderline trait) and that everything would work out over time. We both grew up in the same church, have very similar viewpoints, and never argued.

    But things quickly changed. My wife lost her ambitions. She also decided that rather than not having kids, she wanted them right away. In a slow and subtle way, things began to change. I was working hard and doing well; traveling a lot. So I didn’t connect a lot of the dots. Within 16 months, 2 children came along and at the ages of 2 1/2, both were diagnosed with autism. Then my life really changed. Focusing on their needs, she suffered her first depressive episode and attempted suicide. She got help and seemed better so I still had not connected the dots. But I always knew something was wrong. Our intimacy was never what it should be (now I know a big part of that issue), she always seemed obsessed with controlling the relationship and she always had a sense of emptiness. Worse, this talented, lovely person actually told me that she loathed herself. If things were not perfect, they were a failure. This is lack of self-esteem in the extreme.

    Over the last several years, I saw her sinking deeper and deeper into depression. Nothing made her happy. Over time, all her religious beliefs had been abandoned. My autistic son was diagnosed bi-polar as well. Day to day existence is sometimes daunting though there are good days as well.

    As she sunk deeper into depression, I noticed cuts on her arms one day. She was taking a knife and cutting herself from her wrists to her elbows (another hallmark of borderline) in order to let the physical pain take over from the emotional pain. I had her committed to a psychiatric hospital. That was about a year ago. Since then I have learned of the bi-polar and borderline diagnosis. She is undergoing intensive therapy but the emotional abuse I have sustained has caused all the love to flow right out of me. I love her as the other of my children and I desperately want her to be better but any feelings as a husband for a wife died some time ago. I’ve been searching to see if they would come back but I simply can’t find the will to try. I don’t know from one day to the next whether I’ll meet Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde when I walk through the door at home. For years now, I have dreaded the weekend. While most people live for the idea of being together with their family, I can only think of the tough times ahead until Monday rolls around.

    I have beat myself nearly to death wrestling with guilt and obligation. Guilt about wanting to leave and find happiness and the obligation of sticking with a spouse who’s emotionally abused you but you say “it’s not their fault…they’re sick!”. But in your heart you know it’s never been right and you know if you stick it out you’re not giving them the love they need. It’s not a genuine love. You’re staying out of obligation and that will only lead to additional regrets and resentment down the road.

    You pray and ask for God’s direction. You get mad at God because they’re are days you’re pretty sure He’s not there. At least he doesn’t seem to be. The church? My pastor lives on my street and the only conversation I have with him is superficial at best! I read all the Christian literature about divorce and most of the time I react by thinking “you people don’t have a clue”. I’m not talking about a failed marriage due to infidelity. I’m talking about mental illness, about abandonment, about abuse….these are very difficult issues and seem to go way beyond Christianity 101 as espoused by those who have not experienced life with the mentally ill. My greatest sources of grace have come from secular friends. The ones that seem to care and have the ability to tune in to what is going on and not just through out one cliche after the next.

    In these circumstances, it is very difficult to know the mind of God. But I have gotten to a point, where her behavior was destroying not only her, but me. I cannot continue like this and I can’t let my kids grow up thinking it’s Christian to sacrifice yourself for someone else’s happiness. There are a lot of things worth sacrificing and dying for. Someone else’s happiness is not one of them. So as I move closer and closer to a separation, I am gaining peace. And my doubt in God and questioning whether He is there and really cares, is starting to recede. Through this I have realized some traits that I have and need to work on that allowed me to get into this position. I don’t know what the future holds. I have come to doubt that God always intends for relationships to last forever. I’ve come to understand that even if a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean it was a failure. I’ve learned that people come into and out of your life at different times for different reasons. And i’m learning that God’s grace was always there. At my darkest hour He sent people into my life to help me handle this situation. And so I’m learning to throw off the dogma of those who pretend to know the mind of God. Those that teach a one size fits all form of theology. This is the most painful time of my life. Yet, I am growing emotionally and spiritually for the first time in a long time.

    Thanks for letting me share my story with you.

    • chantal

      gary-and adrian if you read this-please email me

      my son who is just twenty years old-who grew up as a christian in a christian home-married a girl when he was 18 beleiving he could save her-and the long and short of it is this-he was far too young and naive to ever know what he was getting into and has recently decided to divorce her because as he puts it ‘ i can’t stand who i am becoming in this relationship’ and ‘wanting to die just to get out is not a feeling i ever want to feel again’

      please someone email me-it is the most heart-wrenching thing to ever watch-your son be tortured and to feel you can do nothing because ‘god abhors divorce’ and to watch him grow to ‘hate’ all that christianity is because christianity dictates that he stay with her….

      this site has given me hope for him-but it is HIM who needs the hope-to love and trust the lord again even if he makes this decision-

      i am actually thankful that it is ending now before there are children involved-i am praising jesus that he never allowed that for them

      • gary

        Sorry for not responding sooner. It can be a heart-wrenching situation to see someone go through this. I absolutely believe that the church does a terrible job of dealing with these kind of issues. Mental illness can be so difficult and even trained professionals have a hard time dealing with it, much less part-time Christian counselors who are doing other jobs as well.

        There is obligation and guilt surrounding the decision whether to divorce a spouse. I grew up in a very religious family and was afraid to tell my parents about what was going on and that I was contemplating a separation. Thankfully, I didn’t receive any of the traditional dogma from my parents and they have been very supportive. I think I would describe my basic belief as a) my spouse is mentally ill, it’s not her fault but I am the recipient of emotionally abusive behavior b) I have as much blame in the failed relationship. I thought I was doing the right thing by keeping quiet and sacrificing truth for peace in the hope it would get better. I was wrong. Had I had more courage, perhaps I could have prevented the relationship from devolving into what it is now c) marriage is a human institution and society is better off for promoting stable and healthy marriages d) unfortunately, many people are stuck in bad marriages because of guilt and obligation with no way forward and no way back….and that is not a good scenario e) we are all human and we all make mistakes. it is impossible to foretell the future and we have to understand there are situations beyond our control….consequently, even with the best intentions, things don’t always work out f) at the end of the day..i believe God is more concerned about our relationship with him more so than whether we stay in abusive and dysfunctional relationships

  34. John

    Gary, I know EXACTLY where you are at. I am there myself….actually, a little bit ahead of where you are. If you are interested in talking at all let me know.


  35. Adrian

    I just would like to show my appreciation to all these tremdous people who have shared their stories. I have unfortunately got a very similar story to share, my wife was diagnosed with Bi Polar disorder 5 years ago. My life has been in turmoil ever since. We have seperated over 8 times during this period, we are currently in the process of a divorce. The last time I left was for my children. I could no longer let my children suffer the way they were, just because I still was in love with her. Unfortunately the person I am in love with does not exist anymore. My wife and I are both Christians and I strongly believe that the Church leaders need to be more aware of mental illness. When mental illness (depending on severity) it is not just a case of spiritual wellfare, there is an actual physical defficiency that needs to be met ie meds. Reading these blogs have helped me to be more comfortable with my decision. Although I would never wish these experiences on anyone, it is comforting to know that other people have decided the same thing. I no longer have that false hope that the beautiful, joyful, driven wonderful is ever coming back. Sadly it is what it is and it aint what it aint.

  36. fedup69

    This is so amazing, because I stumbled across this today due to my own personal wrestling with this issue. My story is a long one, and i will not go into the detail of it all, but basically I married an unequally yoked person 3 years ago, which I should not have done, but there has also been hurts from the past and also from christians that have all contributed to this descision. It turned out that everything went pear shaped the moment when there were disputes and conflict situations..I started getting depressed and could not understand why I was feeling this way. So, through blogging I come to discover that there might be a possibility that I might be dealing with a person that has a disorder. Things were bad. Everytime when there was a dispute, it would be turned around and the blame game started and the excuses for the behaviour, to be told sorry, and then just thereafter it all happened again. I picked up narcasstic behaviour patterns, cruel mean things were said to me, and then just the next day he would act as if nothing had happened and not understand why I would be distant and miserable….then even blaming me for my behaviour ….see, everything was my fault and still is today. I was told the meanest things..and there was never compassion or empathy shown…just downright weird behaviour. I done a lot of research and came to the knowledge I am dealing with passive aggressive behaviour. When things got to the point where I would cry and puke because of all the stress, living in a marriage where there is no intimacy, no s*xual interaction, no tenderness….things get thrown in my face..and this whole selfishness that is beyond bizaar, I turned to a psycologist for help. We both went….she confirmed through diagnoses that he has Schizoid personality disorder….what a blow! I searched the websites high and low to get christian feedback on this, and even contacted a paster from a website that deals with these type of things…actually listened to a podcast where these pastors where discussing this scenario of personality disorders in church…and they even came to the conclusion that it was reeking havoc in the congregation and discussing how they would manage it. This paster specifically wrote that people with personality disorders should actually not marry, because they are not fit for it. When I sent a personal email to this pastor, I was told I had to conform to the image of Christ and that this might be just what God put my way to conform me to the image of Christ? What a paradox from what he was saying on his website. I do agree, that many christians have no capacity to cope with this scenario of disorders..and they give you this verses that I find hard to swollow. I am also contemplating what I should do, stay or get divorced..because the emotional damage that is done is just too much to handle, I so much want children, and my husband told me, he does not want kids with me in this relationship and this story and that story..and then tomorrow he sings to another tune I am constantly left at his mercy. I love the Lord, and feel my talents and dreams for my life is going down the tubes because of this situation. There is no concern for my wellbeing, my dreams, my feelings, my thoughts..I am so lonely and frustrated. Not even christians seem to have the answers and I am trusting God to show me what to do. I feel for everyone facing personality disorders in marriage….you really face emotional abuse actually. People with personality disorders are very self absorbed..even if they do something for you, you will always hear it afterwards…they are manipulative and controlling…and they leave you never having peace or ever being able to trust their motives..things are just never transparent with them…so a healthy marriage is something you will never have. This is an area that really needs more scope and study, because I believe many people are just bound by the ‘God hates divorce’ scripture…..God hates a lot of things…..and I cannot for one believe that a loving God would want his children to suffer in a situation that is destroying them emotionally, spiritually and mentally and physically…..we put the constitution of marriage as of more importance than the people therein…something is off about it..aspecially when you are in an abusive relationship..I do not understand how the church can turn a blind eye to this…it is very serious issues.

  37. fedup69

    I want to add to this blog by encouraging all of those suffering from a spouse with mental illness. I have been seeking God very earnestly the last 6 months, and it has been an enormous path of growth. I will tell you how God dealt in my situation with me. First He healed me from emotional wounds, then He led me to forgive and set my husband free, praying for Him, then surrendering my life and future into His hands, then leading me through His word to stand on His words in the midst of the suffering, then filled me with peace and joy, then through meditating on His word, the Holy Spirit gave me devine revelation for my given situation, God started building me up, making me aware of who I am in Christ, His promises and His vision for my life. My husband has filed for divorce today, but the Lord already prepared my heart and has been my personal guide through out this situation. The reality is that in my case, I never consulted God when I chose a marriage partner, I done things my way. And this pain was my own doing by making descisions without God. A lot of valuable lessons have been learnt, but the Lord will make everything turn for the good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. I was reminded of a tree, it takes time to bear fruit, can take years, but a tree can only bear fruit in due season if it is planted in healthy soil. Some of us have positioned ourselves in unhealthy soil, and this is why we are battling to get the fruitation seen in our lives. I really believe Jesus is also the healer of mental disorders, and I believe that this is something close to the heart of God and there will be a move coming to deal with this exact issue. I cannot say that all marriages will be saved due to this, but I want to encoure everyone struggling with this, God has not forsaken you and He sees your pleading, your tears, your anxieties. I appeal to you, turn to Jesus, turn to the Holy Spirit that will lead you and guide you into all truth for your specific situation. God deals with each situation in a unique way, and His arm is NOT too short to help you and your loved ones. I have been through this process, I have experienced the same things, but although the relationship came to an end, I have peace. And you can run from pillar to post trying to get information and advice, which is a good thing. But, most importantly, draw near to God, and He promises to draw near to you. I am not babbling trying to be high and mighty, I am not trying to sound impressive. I humbly can say it is true! Jesus still is in control of your life even if you don’t feel it is the case. Build yourself up in your faith, you are the only one that can do that. Strive for health and dare to believe that God is in the business of helping people. The problem is never with Him, but with us. We so easily get wrapped up in the circumstances surrounding our lives and lose focus. This is the first thing the Lord brought to my intention. Don’t look around in terror, do not be dismayed, I am your God, I will protect you, deliver you and save you. So I want to encourage everyone here today, although it seems dark, you have no answers, you are afraid, Jesus is still who He said He is. Draw close to Him like never before and see how He undertakes for everyone of you guys. He loves you and cares deeply for you and its not His will tht you would suffer, that is why He came, to show us His character, to heal those that are sick, to give sight to the blind, to set the captives free. You might feel blind and like a prisoner iin your situation, but don’t lose heart, He will set you free if only you allow Him. I wish you all strenght and peace and joy and that you might have a revelation of just how much God loves you all. He has brought me out of the pit of dispair through the same experiences than you, if He can do it for a simple person like me, He WILL indeed do it for you. Never forget just how valuable you are and how precious you are to Him. God bless all of you.

    • Erin

      To FEDUP69
      I hope u survive this with your divorce and cut clean and never look back..thank goodness u have no children with him to suffer this also..I have been married 3 times to mentally Ill men so my advice is this RUN!!! and make sure the Holy spirit heals what ever it is inside your soul (and all of you on here)that attracted this type of man in the first place. As it can and will be repeated if u don’t…imagine 14 years of this horror with different mariages and thats my situation (plus autistic boys from each)…keep in touch…
      Also side note :I can not think of any where in the Bible where Jesus dealt with mental illness yes there was the demoniacs but they were set free . so unless they get set free I believe these men are from satan himself to try and destroy others from following Christ…As Jesus said there are those who appear as Angels of light to deceive even the Elect if possible ..You will know a person by their fruit and if their is darkness in them how great is that darkness . remember how the Serpent came to Eve he twisted the word he was crafty and cunning like these type of men Their Father is the devil because the devil is a liar and the truth is not in he reffered many times in the book of John to the Pharisees…well hope that helps and until judgement day comes only Christ knows who the wheat and tares are …the true Judas’s and Pharoahs to trap God’s people.. But unless they get set free they are only there to harm and u need to value your life!There are Scriptures in Duet. about a woman being free from vows if they are broken this really helped me to get through the holier than thow religious mind set that many Christians stay in bondage to when it concerns leaving someone …Jesus came to set the captives free! It was always the Religious pharisees who wanted the people to remain in bondage and argued with Jesus when he set them free. It was that way because they didn’t know God initmatly as a loving Father .

  38. laura

    I found this after a sleepless night and wrestling with the question of whether to stay and protect my marriage or leave and protect my sanity. My husband has NOT been diagnosed with anything. He has these psychotic breaks. He is currently in the mental health unit at the hospital where he has been for 3 days. He will not be released until he is stabilized, but they are having a hard time stabilizing him. I’m so lost and devastated and if I’m truly honest, ANGRY at God. We are good church going Christians. I’m angry that this is happening to us! Why can’t it happen to someone who “deserves” it. A child molestor, a drug dealer, a murderer! Why US? Then I realize….why not us? We are not any more special than anyone else. I’m still angry though.

    My husband has been committed 2 times to the mental health unit in our town. This makes 3. This all started happening about 2 years ago. He is on a cocktail of medications but none of them can stop these psychotic breaks when they happen.
    We have a 1 year old child. He is my first priority. I have him to protect. I’m young! Tomorrow is my birthday and I will spend it at the mental health unit at the hospital. This makes me so sad. I will be 28 years old and sitting in the mental health unit with my husband when I should be out to dinner and a movie or something similar.

    I know this is scattered and off but I’m so exhausted and devasted and hurt and angry that nothing really makes sense. Thank you for letting me vent.

    • John

      Hey Laura:

      I feel your pain and know exactly where you are at. In many ways I feel like I have given up hope because there just doesn’t seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. What makes mental illness so sinister is those ‘moments’ when you see the person you fell in love with….only to be robbed a few moments later by the destructive behavior which they can’t control themselves. I wish I had something more encouraging to say, however; I have found that sometimes the most encouraging news I hear is when others say……”I know exactly what you are going through”. Many of us do and are suffering just as you are right now.

      • Laura

        Yes! The moments where you see that person you love so much or when I look into my son’s face and see his father there. It breaks my heart all over again. I walk on eggshells and wait for the other “shoe to drop” for months after one of these episodes. I’m so lost. I just want him back. I just want him whole again.

        It does bring a sort of relief to know that I’m not alone and that others DO understand because no one in my “real” life does. No one has been through it so all they can tell me to do is pray and have faith. I HAVE been praying and have maintained faith for a long time and it keeps happening! How do I keep going?

        I just feel so lost and I don’t know what to do………

  39. Mindy

    I just found this site after doing a search online for how the christian church responds to mental illness within marriage….after hearing yet another sermon on submission yesterday. Allow me to say I dont have a problem with the idea of submission, and that’s not my concern per se. What I have a problem with is the lack of understanding and knowledge of how these principles don’t work the same way when your spouse is mentally ill. My husband has bipolar, but remained undiagnosed for years and years, finally recieved a dx and tried medications for several months, didn’t like how they made him feel and went back off, ultimately deciding that the diagnosis itself (and the psych) were simply wrong and he didn’t have any issues at all – after all, he’d “managed” without any of that thus far in life at age 36. We are currently separated and although I struggle greatly with the notion of divorce and have no desire to have that occur, I also cannot consider living with him again as things stand. The damage to me personally, but more importantly to our three children, has been incalculable, and my biggest regret right now is that I did not protect them from their own father earlier, by leaving if necessary. I have been under the impression, from well-meaning, loving Christian friends and other Christian resources such as books, counselors, family radio programs, etc, that having a father in the house (short of outright abuse) was better for them than having an absent father. Furthermore, that my role as wife and mother was to be in submisison to him and his leadership and to consistently support his decisions as the head of household. At this point, I can say I respectfully disagree in the case of mental illness. Unless you have experienced the chaos, the total inconsistency and unilateral rules that change from day to day, walking on eggshells, and never ever knowing what will come through the door at the end of the day, you would not understand what having that person in charge of short and long term family decision-making is like…and in my opinion, you also cannot tell me how to manage that very situation to protect my self, my children, and also my financial household. Just reading the comments on this site – just finding that it existed!! – has been truly a God-send to me this day as I once again struggle with this situation. Thanks for letting me vent – this alone has helped tremendously!

  40. I stumbled upon this in search of solutions/answers to my wrestlings with biblical views on divorce when it comes to mental illness. Thank you all for sharing. It is so helpful to me. My bipolar spouse and I have been married almost 15 years and our 2 children (1 each from previous marriages) are now adults. Both were affected by constant chaos and turmoil in the home, but it seems as though they’ve faired alright over all. I have to be honest though and admit that both were happier when not living in our home. I have mixed emotions regarding what was the right thing to do and what is the right thing to do even now. He and I are both faith believing Christians. We’ve always struggled but after my husband lost his job a year ago and doesn’t seem to have interest in giving up his marijuana addiction to get another one in his field, things have really gone down hill. His addiction is the way he has chosen to cope with his illness and I will admit for a few years of our marriage it did settle some of the angry outburst. Now though, as with all addictions, he seems somewhat immune to it’s calming effect and abuses it more trying to get that feeling back. I have lost all feelings of respect and security for him and find myself struggling between feelings of anger, irritability, resentment, disgust, sympathy and dread. I am not a person who can easily hide my feelings, so he’s quite aware of them and it feeds into his inferorities even the more. We are definitely in a cyclone cycle. We’ve tried everything, 13 years of marriage counciling, several years of various support groups and both have attended church for most of the marriage. I feel so hopeless anymore. A couple months ago things escalated out of control and I called the police. I filed a protection order but later dropped it due to it’s repercussions toward his career. Regardless, we separated for almost 2 months and I really was happier during that time. I ended up though inviting him back in the home because I struggled with what God’s true will is regarding marriage, my promise to “love him in sickness (including mental) and in health” and feeling sorry for him because he was pretty much homeless. He is home under the pretense he must respect my boundaries and we live like we are separated for the most part, but of course that isn’t what is happening. My boundaries are being invaded, I’m angry and we are both confused how we can live apart when we live together. I know no one can give me an answer, but sharing each other’s experience, strength, hope and thoughts is getting me through one day at a time.

  41. anonymous me

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your stories with such openness and honesty. May God’s grace be experienced by each and everyone of you. Robbie (July 9, 2009), thank you for your words of wisdom. As I ponder what to do in my own situation, it helps me to hear others’ desire for the Lord’s will in their difficult situations. My husband and I have been separated for 9 1/2 months. While there has been no official diagnosis communicated to me, I believe with certainty I’m dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder or something of the like. I, too, share in others’ experiences stated above with regard to my husband … emotional abuse, mental abuse, addictions (pot, porn, spending), physical abuse, control, jealousy, fear of abandonment, intense unhealthy emotional states, lack of follow-through with treatment (at a heart level / long-term), manipulation, lies, extreme and constant boundary violations, impulsiveness, dissociation, etc. This is my first marriage, and we’ve only been married for two years this month. (We married after only 6 months of courtship. Little did I know this was a red flag! I’m still responsible for my half of that decision, though, and I am fully in check on that.) I married at the age of 30 (he was 36) and was blessed to have been in past long-term relationships with very emotionally intelligent and spiritually strong men prior to my husband. So, I know what a healthy, loving, respectful and mature relationship looks like. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself in this kind of situation. Who does? My world has been completely turned upside down. In the past year I have… experienced depression (not officially diagnosed), thyroid problems and weight loss as a result of the stress, secretly planned an escape from my house after finally breaking the silence of the abuse to a friend, got a TPO (temporary protection order) against my husband, left my job because it was absolutely too much responsibility for all the stress I was under, had individual counseling for a little over 3 months, totaled my car (was carless for 2 months), have lived in an extended stay motel (which was breaking me financially) and now share rent with a friend because I have been holding out – hoping my husband will get on a good path and I can move back “home”, have fought hard to establish and uphold boundaries, have tried Christian marriage counseling… again, and am now considering an offer from the church to undergo the PeaceMaker program. He has honestly made some behavior changes that would be viewed as improvement to those on the outside, but he just doesn’t seem to grasp the magnitude of his issues or the depth of his self-imposed damage – to himself or me. This concerns me because without the awareness there won’t be any longevity to the changes because the change isn’t at the level of which the problem truly lies. He still goes from deep depression to passive aggressive “get-you-back” anger to elation over the smallest of things. He still smokes pot – going back and forth between admitting he has an addiction to it and not. He is still very grandiose with his carrying on – huge confessions and apologies and pleadings for me to come back, but then continues many of his same behaviors. He still exhibits dissociation – not always remembering the very things he did to create a damaging situation. He still manipulates and lies. He still struggles with abandonment issues – which make him very unpredictable and, at times, dangerous. The main areas he has improved in are emotional and physical abuse and boundaries, which are actually big deals. However, I also realize that I am not living with him now and these things could easily be predominant again. I just don’t know what to do. I know I can’t go back to him at this point. Considering he has undergone over 6 months of individual counseling, drug/alcohol counseling, has joined a small community group through church, joined Samson Society (Christian addiction support group), has already started the PeaceMaker program individually, has undergone marriage counseling for a little over 8 months total (across 2 time periods – 6 months before and 2 1/2 months since separation),…. and reading about all the years many of you have invested in your relationship and your loved one with little-to-nothing to show for it – relationally speaking….. it’s feeling pretty hopeless. On the surface to others, it appears he’s wanting reconciliation because he’s jumping through all of these hoops. However, I have a strong suspicion it has much more to do with his deep fear of abandonment. It’s crazy, but when you suffer from such a gross lack of self-worth – as people with BPD do – you go to whatever extent necessary to hold onto the thing you perceive shows others your worth and lovability because it’s all about appearances when you feel empty inside so you can mask the emptiness. Because I don’t know the state of my husband’s heart with certainty, though, I try to leave room for the possibility that he has undergone everything above because there is a part of him that wants it for all the right reasons but struggles because he has a personality disorder. Regardless of the answer, while I may intellectually semi-understand why he has chosen the destructive behaviors and habits he’s chosen, I still yet can’t emotionally, spiritually, and mentally endure the poor treatment.

    For the first time ever since our separation he has actually gotten his communications to a semi-manageable level. (This was after a contract was signed, of course, in the presence of an elder and his wife at our church (PeaceMaker Conciliators) stating what his communication limits were for a stated period of time so that I could get re-connected to myself and my Lord without the drama of my husband’s craziness. He expectedly broke the contract on several occasions, but it was still a vast improvement to what I had been dealing with.) What I’m now experiencing is – having finally had some time down time from my husband – a self-preservation mode. I DO NOT want to enter back into the instability, chaos, and uncertainty that interacting with him brings into my life. I become very anxious when I know I’m going to be where he will be (ex. church related activities) because I’m worried he will create a set-back for me. I’m still without full time work (because jobs are just hard to come by where I live). So, I’m struggling financially. I just started work at a temp-job and can’t risk him causing me problems while I’m having to concentrate on learning new things, develop co-worker relationships, etc. I’m also still not as grounded emotionally, mentally and spiritually as I would like to be to even think of dealing with him again right now. Even with these very legitimate concerns, I’m also concerned I am creating a new “norm” for myself as time passes – and my norm isn’t including my husband. I have good days and bad days, but overall it feels so nice to be without all the drama. Biblically, I am still not so sure divorce is honoring the Lord’s will for our marriage. I DO believe God wants to continue loving and healing me, and I DO feel space is what I still need for a time to enable this to take place. I’m just wondering if I need to re-start SOME interaction with him in order to avoid what I already feel occurring — my moving on.

    I have Christian compassion for him. But it’s only been because I’ve had a little bit of space away from him that I’ve been able to feel this compassion. It hurts to see him so void of wholesomeness and truth. I want him to know these things – wholesomeness and truth. I want him well – for him and for me. I don’t want him to feel like I want to discard him because he’s a difficult person. (that is how he will view it) I keep waiting to see if he will eventually start connecting the dots to all the consequences his decisions create because without that there’s no hope of real change. I have to keep my life moving in a forward motion, though, too! And I’ve yet to find a way for the two to co-exist … to feel as though I am moving in a positive forward motion in my life while simultaneously sitting in the reality that our relationship/marriage is a broken one due to a likely permanent illness that – at best – he may develop better coping skills for. Ugh… 😦 I know life will go on after divorce, but I want to choose what the Lord would most desire me to choose. Only He knows if healing and positive change is in store for my husband. So, I seek His guidance. I’m just worried He’s been trying to deliver the answer, and I’m not seeing it or hearing it. Please pray I will receive His answer to my situation with an open and willing mind and heart.

    • Psychie, Welcome and thank you for sharing your struggles with us. Your struggle is similar to so many others–just silent in most so the rest of us don’t get to see it too often. I think the challenge is this: just what can you hope for and how much change is enough to warrant a return. And then what to do with just enough change to stop the abuse but not enough change to feel cherished.

      To the rest of the readers, would you who have posted here be willing to participate in helping me write something (for publication) by participating in an extended interview (likely by email). I have been mulling over the best way to make your stories and struggles known to the church. Obviously, you won’t be asked to be identified or to reveal anything you do not wish to reveal. I am just amazed at the amount of stories here. They keep coming. And I know that for every one of you who posts here, there are probably 10 who read but choose not to tell their stories. You are not alone.

      • anonymous me

        Your response to my post was very well said and much to think on.Thank you. To answer your question to all of us here who have posted… I would be willing, Phil. I appreciate anyone’s concern and advocation for these matters so long as it is done in the right spirit, and I trust this is the case with you. Fortunately for me, my church encountered a similar situation with another couple about two years ago. At first, they didn’t believe all of the stories the wife told them when things reached a breaking point because the husband was so manipulative (they were the worship leaders). However, over time his lies and manipulation were revealed. He was eventually diagnosed with Narcissism. It was a real eye opening experience for the elders involved in their situation. Sadly, the marriage ultimately ended in divorce. But I’m so thankful I’ve be able to benefit from the church’s learning experience alongside advocation from the wife mentioned above, as well as two other women friends. My church still has a very long way to go, but at least I am believed by the ones who have lovingly involved their selves with our situation. What’s even more beautiful is that they are showing my husband just as much love, support and accountability – despite the things he’s done. The church I grew up in – as much as I still love that church – would NEVER have gotten involved in our mess. So, it’s a blessing I attend where I do.


    If there is repentance”True Change” then work it out . If they refuse to stay then you are as crazy as them expecting change without results. Jesus Christ gives women a way out or men if its men who are the ones married to a mentally Ill person , We dont live in a third world country where we have no say so and We dont live under the Law (even the law was merciful and let people out of these situations) Why do you put yourself through this torment ? You cant change them Its a sickness or demonic opression or both . You need to lay your cape down and your tights your not a super Hero and whatever payoff your getting from staying with someone like this you need to let it go and get help for your co dependency nature which is also a sickness. (the need to be needed) There is good and Evil in this world if it werent so we’d all be going to Heaven .Unfortunatly most of these types say they are Christians at first then their true nature comes out with time. You have the right to have your sanity and your peace and protect your children form this devistation .Mentally Ill people are very smart too don’t forget and they choose people like you to marry because your weak minded and easy prey and are the only ones who they can manipulate .Wise up and dont let them take you for a ride in their mind games of control and using Religion to snare you and keep you in their power. Study as much as you can on their sickness so your eyes will be open to the truth. I left my first Husband after saying all the things you all have posted here I got out after two years and it nearly broke me in two with sorrow butguess what?/ He is still the same on His 3rd Marriage and didnt changea bit . That would still be me if I would have stayed all these years later . I am Happily Re married now and have peace in my life and looking back say to myself I should have left Him sooner . But we all get so super spiritual playing the Martyr as If its gonna get you points into Heaven when Jesus never told you to stay in the first place! Religion has trapped a many people but Jesus came to give a light Burden and yoke and rest for your soul. If you chose to stay with Evil then your life will reap it for no Holy man would treat u that way that is truly a Christian . I didnt say it but Jesus did He said you will know a person by their deeds .putting up with their meantal illnes sis an exuse for putting up with Evil behavior in which as Christians we arent permitted to do. As for all the false submission scriptues people use to stay you are taking them outof context if you read your word for your self you will know that its a two way street and As they SUBMIT to the Lord then you do too If they are treating you like this it’s clear thats not Godly behavior and therefore u have the right to not submit to their Evil..God NEVER requires His Children to SUBMIT to someones Evil ways ..Please stop pulling your hair out you all know what to do deep inside thats why your on here . Whats more important? your sanity or what people think ? I hope you choose your sanity and let God restore your soul away from someone who unless their is proven change will only end up destroying you in the end . The scriptures dont lie Bad company corrupts good morals Keep what morals you have left and LEAVE them to God.Your co dependancy is furthering their behavior from getting the help they really need . You are rewarding their behavior by staying and saying NO to Evil by leaving ..Sorry but the deffintition of Insanity is expecting different results by doing the same thing over and over ..Has everything you have done come up with different results yet? No it hasn’t maybe your the one who is the insane one then and needs Help ..

  43. Anonymous

    I need to talk to this man. I’m a Christian and I’ve been struggling with the same situation for a very long time. Please email me… Need someone to talk to!

  44. gary


    Many of us have been where you are and the struggle with our faith and doing the right things is immense.

    I have been separated for a year and divorced for 6 months from a bipolar/uBPD wife of 20 years. I still struggle with whether I did the right thing even though I am more at peace and I am more happy than i’ve been in years.

    The church has much work to do in this area and so I would also participate in interviews if it would help the cause of exposing mental illness to those in the church who don’t understand it.

    Only time away, peace, quiet reflection, prayer, etc will help lead you to an answer. Living with a BPD person can be very traumatic and your emotional health has suffered. Only after you’ve become emotionally healthy can you be in a position to make a wise decision. By your description of the situation, you’re moving in the right direction but you’re not there yet.

    Your gut instinct is probably right about his motivations for appearing to be in the process of changing…one thing you can be certain..real change is long lasting, if his motives are selfish, the appearance of change cannot be maintained indefinitely.

    I have much more that I could share but I’ll stop for now….

  45. Pete

    After reading this article, & the score of replies, i have concluded there is no resolution for Carl or any of us with spouses with mental illness. After decades of energy invested on appeasing, accommodating, & chasing my tail to to do everything well enough for a bipolar narcissist who requires absolute control & for whom nothing is ever good enough, & watching how it has crushed the self-esteem of our adult children & likely ruined them for ever finding the beautiful marriage relationships that Christianity implies God provides for, values & supports, i have concluded that although God is sovereign, he could absolutely care less about our happiness, health & wellness. He is just too busy being awesome. We all have prayed within God’s will for nurturing God-glorifying families; it’s not like we have prayed for money, cars, mansions & extravagance. If awesome God wants us to glorify him, why all the gut wrenching strife – what a fool i have been to think God will resolve any of this. What a divine slap in the face to waste decades in misery with a destructive, name calling, threat making foe, who constantly criticizes, without any intervention from the very one who claims “my grace is sufficient for thee.” Thanks for nothing.

  46. Julie Kong

    I relate to every single thing Carl Ellis says here ….. except that in my case it’s being married to someone with undiagnosed Asperger’s, perhaps best described as a mental *condition*.

    And I have been *far* more traumatized by a biblical counselor at a well-known Christian counseling organization dismissing my confused attempts to cry for help during “marriage counseling.” This counselor had no name for what I/we were experiencing, but even worse, wouldn’t seek to try to understand my distress.

    Please. Please start learning about undiagnosed (or even diagnosed) autism especially in *marriage relationships*. The DSM doesn’t even go there yet. It’s more prevalent than you might think!

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