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Mental Health and Family Law I

At some point, everyone in a relationship thinks their significant other is somewhat crazy. But what if they really are?

I know that crazy is a loaded term and highly disfavored. But if you are in the middle of your significant other's breakdown, "crazy" is the most accurate description you can think of. "Crazy" is what it feels like.

Most all of us suffer from something. Some people suffer from mental illness. That isn't their fault. They deserve no scorn for their situation. This post is not about their culpability in a non-functioning relationship. This post is what to do about it, if you find yourself there.

Lets start at one extreme. What if your significant other is in very bad shape? They are hearing voices or catatonic or actively a threat to themselves or others or something equally dire? What if they are currently convinced they are Napoleon? How do you maintain a relationship in that situation? Do you have a prayer of staying together? Do you have an obligation?

As soon as the concept of obligation enters the analysis, I think it is time to move on. A relationship has no chance of success if it is premised upon an obligation. A relationship should be based upon desire. Not necessarily that kind of desire, but at its core, a desire to stay with the other, to stay in relationship with the other, a desire to not live without the other. If that desire is gone, if the relationship has denigrated to obligation, the relationship has become one of master/ward. It's time to check out.

Let's assume that your significant other thinks they are Napoleon but you still have a desire to remain with them and your desire is based on more than just your passion for French food or somewhat successful battle strategies.

First off, you need to hold a belief that the situation will get better coupled with some evidence that it actually will. Some people will disagree with me. "Until death do us part," is the best argument against my position. But I don't think that marriage shouldn't be death sentence. Viewing relationships from the "we're stuck together no matter what" lens justifies all manner of reprehensible and unrepentant conduct. The opposite of "until death do us part" is "I have a choice." And if you have a choice, you and your significant other are more likely to work every day, be aware every day of the actions which push you closer together and pull you farther apart.

If your loved one is suffering from serious mental afflictions, many medicines work wonders. Therapy is very beneficial. There are objective reasons to find hope. There are objective reasons to plan for improvement. There are objective opportunities to create better. Better should be a viable option. If the status quo is out of control and the status quo is truly your best scenario, you have no reason to stay. You have no reason to surrender your life to never-ending misery.

Some will justify enjoying a life on the side, then. That is their escape. They create an official life to keep up appearances and an unofficial one to seek pleasure and perhaps meaning. That is creating the Picture of Dorian Gray. That does not end well.

Let's assume, then, that better is an option and the desire to stay lives on.
Then work on it, together. Some days will yield more success than others but overall, you should be able to chart, to measure some form of progress. We do this with weight loss. We do this with our children's grades. We do this with our general ledgers. We can do this with our relationships. Objective, agreed upon measures of improvement expedite improvement and take improvement out of the hands of chance and good fortune.

There will remain huge hurdles to overcome. There will remain barriers and burdens that few others can grasp or even contemplate but shared intent can lighten anyone's load. A couple working together to find a path forward, regardless of how difficult the terrain ahead, makes all the difference.

So, if your significant other is genuinely crazy and you no longer care, get out. If there is no chance for improvement, move on. But if you care and if better is possible, dig in. It could still be worth it.

-Michael Manely

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