In my last video we talked how our child’s mental illness affects our relationship with them. So if you missed that video be sure to check it out. Today, I’m excited to be back sharing content after a not being in the studio due to pandemic restrictions, so I decided to get creative and film outside to stay safe and still get you some content. One of the biggest ways that these times have impacted our lives is in our relationships so it’s timely.

Author and minister, Gary Thomas writes about marriage saying, “A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.” That’s true whether mental illness is a part of the equation or not. But when mental illness enters the picture it’s a game changer. A multinational study of mental disorders, marriage and divorce, published in 2011 found that a sample of 18 mental disorders all increased the likelihood of divorce—ranging from a 20 percent increase to an 80 percent increase in the divorce rate. 

While those stats are sobering there’s definitely something we can do to improve our chances at success. My husband and I have been for 25 years, and a big reason why we’ve stayed together is identifying the effects of mental illness on our marriage and finding solutions. You don’t have to stay stuck!

5 Ways Mental Illness Affects Marriage


Feeling isolated is almost a given. Life is different for us and it feels like no one can possibly understand. That feeling can easily pull you into loneliness, and a sense of being separate from others—even people who love you. That puts an even greater stress on the marriage because you aren’t building a community of support for difficult times. That’s especially true right now.


It can cause you to feel ashamed of something that is out of your control, and shame causes you to hide and withdraw. The person with the mental illness may withdraw from their spouse, because they feel like they’re the cause of so much upheaval in the relationship. Either spouse may feel like they’re being blamed for the illness. Stigma makes a heavy burden even more difficult to carry. 


For the spouse without a mental illness there can be grieving process because the relationship can no longer be what it used to be. There are times where the person with mental illness is not presenting with symptoms, and you experience a glimpse of what things used to be like, only to then have it disappear the next day or week.  There’s also grief for the person with the mental illness, processing the diagnoses, the symptoms, and the stress.

Overfunctioning or Underfunctioning:

Murray Bowen, the psychologist who describes this distinction, says that this dynamic throws us into a mutually reinforcing trap.  The over-functioners feel they’re coming to the rescue, and will bend over backwards to fix any situation they’re presented with. It’s all about taking action, and protecting themselves from being helpless or vulnerable. Their spouse may reinforce this “dance” by acquiescing responsibility. The under-functioners, facing a crisis or difficult marital situation, feel anxious and overwhelmed. They withdraw, step-back, and feel like failures. Doing this allows the overfunctioner to step into the superhero role. But at what cost?


All of these challenges will affect your overall intimacy. It’s difficult to feel close to your spouse when they’re withdrawing, feeling guilty, resentful or just plain exhausted from all the stress. 

Recognizing the impact on your marriage is important, but it’s just the first step to finding the strategies that will help your marriage become a strong safe place. 

Let’s remember what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:2-3

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:2-3 (NIV)


How has mental illness affected your marriage? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

And don’t miss out on the next week video: 5 Strategies to Improve Your Marriage When Facing Mental Illness

A big thank you counselors…

Chris Webberley 

Kristal Mathis

Julie Watson 

Debbie Abrahamson 

For consulting with me on this video and to His Heart Foundation for supporting this channel. If you want more in-depth mental health information for you and those you love check out today. 

Connect to resources: 

Divorce Rate Study: 

Watch this video if you want to change your relationship dynamics…The Drama Triangle

The 7 Principals for Making Marriage Work by Gottman 

The Biblical Reference Guide for the Gottman Method by David Penner 

Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder by Randi Kruger 

Connect to a counselor:

Counselor Referral

No more confusion or wondering how you’ll face the roller coaster of life with mental illness. Mental Health Academy is here to take the mystery away, and give you the knowledge and the tools you need to have relationships that last! The time is NOW to get our first course: Trauma.

Please subscribe for videos on our Youtube Channel for our amazing resources. I’ll be sharing great tips and encouragement for whatever your facing—whether you’re fighting mental illness or have a loved one who is.