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No moral obligation to embrace mentally ill suitor

While I'm away, readers give the advice:

On relationships and mental illness

• I was married for five years to a man with bipolar disorder, and my son is now married to a woman with chronic depression.

To the woman who frankly admitted that she was not willing to marry her mentally ill suitor, I say: Congratulations on your self-knowledge and your honesty! And I ask anyone who castigates her for being shallow or whatever: How much time have you spent in an intimate relationship with someone who is mentally ill?

My bipolar husband was brilliant and charismatic and many women were attracted to him, but he was so very high-maintenance that few of them, before or after me, managed to stay with him so long. I stayed not because I was some goody-goody altruist/social worker/caregiver, but because we had a passionate attachment to each other and because I learned as much from him as he learned from me.

I feel that I made a major contribution to his well-being — and I also feel that I did my share of the work of keeping him going. I feel no shame at reaching the limit of my strength with him, and he too was ready to move on. We parted by mutual consent, and remained friends until his death.

My daughter-in-law is far less severely ill, and my son, from his exposure to my second husband, whom he adored, had some idea what he was in for when he married her. They hit some very rocky passages all the same, and he needs to remind himself — and her — when an unusually bad spell of depression makes her unable to receive or give love for a while, that the problem is the illness, not their relationship.

This rare degree of insight usually comes from training or experience of some kind. I would never recommend anyone to undertake such a marriage unless he or she is emotionally fairly stable; unusually self-aware and flexible; able to distinguish, when faced with reproaches and/or withdrawal, between what is personal and what is the illness speaking; and above all, able to care for someone who is ill without any diminution of respect.

Simply, love alone is not enough. This kind of work is not for everyone, and the self-knowledge to realize that one is not truly equipped to handle these kinds of challenges is not a moral failing.

A.

On putting me out of business

• I have a general thought for numerous topics that could perhaps save people an enormous amount of anxiety and time.

MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS! If we all minded our own business as much as we minded everyone else's, if people focused more on making themselves better people, there wouldn't be so much time to criticize and worry about what everyone else is doing.

Last thought, GROW UP! Not all events revolve around you, so stop judging . . . sometimes you may not have all the facts.

L.Z.

No moral obligation to embrace mentally ill suitor

07/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:55pm]

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