Dating, Marriage, and Mental Illness

David H. Rosmarin, PhD [assistant professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School] relates that “From my vantage point the current data suggests there are two main factors to consider when addressing issues of mental health and marriage: (1) Whether the individual can access high-quality, evidence-based care such as cognitive-behavioral or dialectical behavior therapy, and (2) Whether the individual is willing to do whatever is necessary to live the best life possible. In other words: While some mental health conditions may pose more risk to family life than others, when individuals have access to high-quality care and are willing to do whatever it takes to move forward, there is typically no major cause for concern. By contrast, even in “light” cases where people have access to care, when individuals are unwilling to acknowledge their need for help or cooperate with recommendations, the result is often a never-ending burden on family life….

The [outcomes of the] above cases [of severe anxiety, Schizophrenia, and OCD] are consistent with current thinking in clinical science: Treatability in mental health is largely a function of access to high-quality evidence-based care and willingness on the part of the patient to do whatever it takes to get better. Furthermore, present severity or impact of an individual’s symptoms is often a poor predictor of the future course of the disorder.

Some individuals suffer severely, but their unrelenting desire to get better and willingness to comply with the demands of treatment pull them through, and they remain mentally healthy for life. By contrast, other individuals suffer with low levels of distress but experience a gradual decline over time because they refuse to acknowledge their need for help, or because they don’t have the courage and strength to do what it takes to get better.”

Excerpted from, David H. Rosmarin, “Dating with a Mental Disorder,” Jewish Action (Spring, 2019),4-6, https://jewishaction.com/family/marriage/dating-with-a-mental-disorder/

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski told the following story:

A woman once came to me and told me she had found a wonderful man to marry. The only problem was that his brother was diagnosed with a severe mental illness. She asked whether she should marry into such a family. My response was, “At least you know what mental illnesses abide in his family.” In other words, mental illness is so ubiquitous and often so well hidden by families that ruling out a certain marriage prospect because of a sibling’s illness is ludicrous.