How We Met, or People With Mental Illness Marry Others With Mental Illness

The other day I was reading an article on a science web site entitled, “People with Mental Health Disorders Often Marry Each Other”. Well, I have bipolar and so does my wife. So that statement is true of us, and it’s also true of other couples I’ve known in real life and on the Internet. The article went on to say that the study indicated that people with other illnesses did not show the same likelihood of marrying others with the same illness.

The article may be found here: http://www.livescience.com/53827-people-with-mental-health-disorders-marry-each-other.html?cmpid=NL_Health_weekly_2016-02-25

The study did not explore why people with mental illness married each other.

A Psychologist, Scott Wetzler, not associated with the study, said:

People with severe psychiatric disorders tend to have a very hard time establishing social relationships with others in general, and people without psychiatric conditions are less willing to marry people with such conditions.

There is certainly some truth to that, however I feel that these are not the primary reasons for this phenomenon. The actual reason, or what I feel is likely the actual reason, may not be obvious to someone without personal experience with mental illness (and not necessarily only lived experience, friends and caretakers have probably noticed this as well).

Where do people meet their significant others? In the places where they spend a lot of time. At work, for instance. I met my first wife at our then place of employment. Church and school are other common places to meet. Some people spend a lot of time at parties and bars, meeting others there. Nowadays people meet on line.

People with mental illnesses definitely meet in such situations, but other places they often meet, and are more likely to meet others with a mental illness, are places specific to those with mental illness. Support group meetings, counseling groups, waiting rooms at mental health centers, mental health clubhouses, and also on inpatient units.

Where did I meet my wife? At a support group meeting. I went to my first NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) support group in 2003. I was quite impressed by the woman who was facilitating the group. I got to know her a bit, but didn’t get too involved because I was married and it would have been improper. However, in 2004, I got divorced, partly due to my first wife not accepting my mental health diagnosis.

About that time some of us at the support group started going out for soft drinks after the meetings. I got to know her better at this time, and became even more impressed. Finally two things happened. A mutual friend from the support group asked her if she’d ever been married. She said no, and he replied that he’d pray for her to find a mate. Almost the same day, another mutual friend at the group told me that I should ask her out on a date. This made me nervous. Was I as interesting to her as she was to me? He said that I shouldn’t worry, and strongly encouraged me to ask her out. So I did. We got married a bit over a year later.

We’re on our tenth year of marriage, and it’s been great. I’ve heard it said that two people with bipolar should never marry, but it has certainly worked out well for us!

We now have 7 kids who we’ve either adopted, or are awaiting adoption, and have fostered over 30 more. We’re both active mental health advocates. We both have many other interests as well. It’s been a great 10 years, and we’re looking forward to many more.

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