Marrying Someone With a Mental Illness Is Not an Act of Charity


I came out publicly about my diagnosis in 2015 after more than 20 years of silence and secrecy. Over the holidays, People published an article about two men who saved my life. My husband posted the article on Facebook, so many people who didn’t previously know I have schizophrenia found out.

Now, people have started coming out and telling my husband how “great” “amazing” or “special” he is. Don’t get me wrong — I would be the first to tell you my husband is all those things. I’m my husband’s biggest fan, and every day we’re together I feel like I won the lottery. But I don’t feel that way because he married someone with schizophrenia, or because he “stays” with me.

Our marriage is not an act of charity. We have a marriage involving two people, not a one-sided caregiving arrangement. We do deal with my symptoms, and I have to admit my husband has become an expert in helping me manage instances of paranoia, panic attacks, fatigue (from medication), etc. But other couples have issues they deal with, too. Some fight about money. I don’t think my husband and I have ever had an argument about our finances in the almost 20 years we’ve been together. Some couples get mad about each other’s habits or for their hobbies. My husband and I laugh at each other for the things other couples might find irritating.

We laugh a lot. We enjoy each other’s company. We give each other advice and listen to each other’s hopes and dreams. Is our marriage perfect? It is to me. We have had some significant challenges in our marriage, but we’ve worked through them together. We’ve gotten better over time at putting each other first, communicating and not letting little things build up.

So if you hear about someone who’s married to a person who has a mental illness, please stop and consider the message you’re sending if you say that person is a “saint.” You’re saying that marrying someone with a mental illness is somehow extraordinary, and makes that person automatically special. But a mental illness doesn’t change the core of who a person is. If the core of a person is kind, smart, funny and loving, why wouldn’t someone want to marry her?

Is someone with cancer or diabetes a burden to their spouse? No. Life happens to all of us, and marriage is for better or worse – and in my house, there’s so much more of the better than there is of the worse.

Rebecca and her husband make funny faces in a photo booth.

All rights reserved. A version of this article originally appeared on PsychCentral.com as “Marrying Someone With a Mental Illness Is not an Act of Charity.” Reprinted here with permission.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Schizophrenia

A Letter to Santa: Please Find the Men Who Saved My Life

Dear Santa, There’s only one thing on my Christmas list this year. I’d like you to find two men and deliver this letter in a sealed envelope in their stockings. If they don’t have stockings, can you hang one for them, please? Here’s all I know about the men and why I want to give [...]

People Told Her Not to Call Herself ‘Schizophrenic,’ So She Made This Comic

“People-first” language, referring to a person as someone who has an illness or disability, rather than the illness itself, is advocated by some in the disability community — but not everyone prefers it. In a comic originally posted on Everyday Feminism, cartoonist Christine Deneweth, who prefers to be identified as “schizophrenic,” expressed her annoyance when people tell [...]

This Was My Life With Schizophrenia Before I Was Diagnosed

This year, Syrena Clark was diagnosed with schizophrenia. This is her story:  At 18, I started showing the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. But my doctors were hesitant to diagnose me. Hallucinations, false memories, delusions and disorganized thoughts plagued me regularly. By 19, I was living with psychotic symptoms every single day. By 20, I was [...]

People With Schizophrenia Literally Wipe Off Their Labels in Moving Video

In honor of the U.K.’s Schizophrenia Awareness Week, Rethink Mental Illness released a moving video featuring the faces and stories of those with schizophrenia, a mental illness that affects up to 1.1 percent of the world’s population and about 3.5 million Americans. In the video below, each person features a different design on his or her face representing a form of [...]