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

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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 as “Marrying Someone With a Mental Illness Is not an Act of Charity.” Reprinted here with permission.

Originally published: January 14, 2016
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