Mental illness & marriage?


Do you suppose that mental illness is always an impediment to marriage and parenthood? What about child abuse survival?


Like any illness, mental illness will reduce your ability to be a good parent, or a good spouse.
However it is not an impediment to marriage.

Being sinners, we tend to respond to ills done to us by taking them out on other people, often wholly innocent parties. Whilst it is unrealistic to say that you will never do this, you don’t have to do so to any great extent, certainly not enough to compromise your ability to marry.


I suppose it depends on the nature of the illness and its effects, its treatment, whether or not with medication and other therapy the person can live a normal life and carry out the normal responsibilities of family life, whether or not the affect of the illness is detrimental to relationships and so forth.

child abuse survival is not a mental illness, although it may understandably require therapy, prayer and other assistance to cope with its effects.


The range of mental and nervous disorders is too wide to make an absolute statement, as with physical disorders. Many syndromes are manageable, again, as with physical syndromes. Many “acceptable” behaviors in our rather dysfunctional society are approved and tolerated, and yet are rather neurotic. Cultural consensus labels people, but not always justifiably.

Respectfully, I would like to amend the statement mental illness will reduce your ability to be a good parent, or a good spouse - a bipolar spouse oriented toward kindness and prayer would be a considerably less challenging parent than a “normal” spouse oriented toward anger and judgment. It’s never what you have, or don’t have, its what you do with it.

Child abuse survival? God Bless you. Dive into prayer, keep your heart open, and possibly seek therapy from someone you can trust. Big healing needed here, but God can do it! Remember that asking these questions is a testament to your ability to witness and grow. I’m praying for you.:wink:


That is a loaded question. I suffer from severe depression and anxiety. I would be considered to have a mental illness. I am married and have been for 13 years. My wife and I live a happy and normal life. We have three kids that are doing quite well despite their dad. All I would say is that not all mental illenss is untreatable. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker in marriage or child rearing. It would be over generalizing to say all those who suffer from mental illness always have an impediment to marriage and parenthood. I know a lot of people who suffer from depression who live “normal lives”. I know of others who are bi-polar who live happy lives. PM if you have any questions.


By their fruits ye shall know them…

I think when it’s so bad that it is an impediment to marriage it manifests itself by ended marriages. A good healthy marriage between two stable loving people who follow God will not end. By its nature it is indissoluble.

Marriages that are fundamentally unsound collapse like a building built on sand. Unfortunately you often don’t know till after the fact.

So when dealing with people with their issues, you can’t count out beforehand who will not succeed and who will, except by looking at how their particular issue manifests itself in how they treat others around them. Their family, friends, waiters, store clerks, the poor, animals… How they treat others is a good indication of how you will be treated eventually. But mental illness in and of itself is no more a deal breaker than physical illness.


Well we certainly cannot deny the privileges of marriage to the mentally ill. That would be putting an undue burden on a hefty population that usually gets their illness in their early 20s.


That is not entirely true. Every case is different - and if someone were to enter into marriage and not have sufficient mental capacity to understand the Sacrament and what it entails, then yes the marriage could be deemed to be invalid. But that is for a Marriage Tribunal to decide, and priest to consider prior to performing the ceremony.

This could be an extremely complex and difficult case and would require an extremely holy and sincere priest to discern carefully and appropriately.



I don’t think either one is an impediment to marriage. I am bipolar, and i am a child abuse survivor, and I plan to marry in 2009.

I have been in therapy since 2005 though, and definitely would not marry if I am unstable. My goal is to get as stable as I can before then. Will there still be struggles and hardship from my illness and past? Oh yes, I’m sure there will be. But it will not keep me from having the happiness of a man who loves me and any children God might choose to bless us with.

It is possible to still be happy even if you have a mental illness or difficult past. With God, all things are possible:thumbsup:


To me, it’s as absurd to say that mental illness is always an impediment to marriage as to say that physical illness (which can also place burdens on spouse and family) is always an impediment to marriage. Certainly there are individual cases where marriage is not advisable due to either extreme and unstable mental illness or extreme and unstable physical illness, but a blanket statement about either situation doesn’t make sense.

Just as in physical illness, there are many degrees of mental illness and many stages of treatment. Anybody who has serious doubts about their ability to enter into marriage due to their illness should definitely seek out more counselling and advice from a priest. There are plenty of us out here who have dealt with mental illness who are in very happy, stable marriages.


Mental illness comes in many forms and degrees. There is no way to say that it is always an impediment. Especially with treatment, many people with mental illness react and act as normal (or even more normally) than people without.

Being abused as a child is not a form of mental illness, although it may require very similar therapy. People who have been abused can also go on to be excellent parents, especially with understanding and support from their spouses.


My parents were both severely depressed for most of their lives, still they were happily married and good parents to me. My dad had a very severe breakdown, from which he never recovered really, when I was 2-years-old, he then had cancer for 5 years until he died when I was 7. But despite all that…he was a great dad! And he was my mom’s love of her life and a great husband. They coped, they tried their best to manage their conditions. My husband and I are bi-polar, too, and I don’t think it stops us from being good parents or good spouses to eachother…it just means we have to ‘work at it’ a lot more. I was also abused by my uncle as a child, and can’t say that really had an impact on my marriage-only in that there are certain ‘practises’ I still wouldn’t do…So, I wouldn’t rule out all mental illness from the get go. Ofcourse someone who is paranoid schizophrenic/delussional and psychotic might well be a danger to the family…but if you rule out all depressed people, you’d rule out a LARGE proportion of the population!

Anna x


I suffered a nervous breakdown several years ago, with PTSD and reactive pschosis. I was very careful (and my husband followed up) to take my meds. I am now fine.
I think before entering marriage with a mentally ill person, the healthy party should check into available meds for that person and whether the afflicted party is willing to work at their own recovery process (or if it is chronic, like bipolar, that they take their meds regularly.).
Much depends on whether the afflicted party is willing to work at their own problem with a lot of determination.


Very good questions. Someone here stated that child abuse survival is not a mental illness. That is technically correct. However, many survivors of CSA do develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which is a mental illness.

My wife suffers from PTSD. She is, and always has been, a wonderful mother. We, as a couple, had to face some difficult times due to her abuse but we are making it.

Feel free to PM me if you think I can help.


Thanks for all the helpful insights, everybody. :slight_smile: They are very much appreciated.

Just to be clear, I already know that child abuse survival is not the same thing as mental illness. I am asking two separate questions here.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!


My answers would be no and no.:thumbsup:


No, but both are things where if that is in the “baggage”, they should be fully discussed with the intended spouse before proceeding with the marriage and under the understanding that those topics need to remain open for the other party to raise questions and concerns (and be given honest and complete responses) throughout the marriage. If the person with those issues is not comfortable being fully honest with their intended, then they are not yet at a point in dealing with those issues where they should be considering marriage.


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