How do people end up married to "the crazy"

Inspired by some replies to this thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=499733

Whenever a seriously unpleasant mental illness or behavior is being discussed, there are always a few posters who tell their personal stories. Sometimes the story about the poster’s own struggle with the condition, sometimes their child’s struggle, sometimes a friend’s, but often it is a spouse’s (or ex-spouse’s).

This last always surprises me. You pick your spouse and, unlike a friend, you can’t keep them at arm’s length and interact with them in only select ways. How does one get married to someone who later becomes a message board horror story? Sometimes the conditions being described are on the level of “unpleasant to be in the same room with,” which doesn’t sound concealable in a year+ courtship and these conditions tend to be fairly stable across time (in my understanding).

Note: OP is young and has never been married (working on it…give me a few years). I’ve dated several girls who were either highly immature or, in two cases, clearly in need of clinical treatment (lack of consistent health insurance + mild bipolar = bad), but I can’t imagine relationships like those lasting long enough to tie the knot.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t stick your dick in the crazy,” yeah?

Some people don’t listen. Some even think shudder that they can fix the broken ones.
And, in all fairness, some people with mental illness are really good at keeping it together for a while, and then fail miserably. And all adult onset mental illness has a starting point, where beforehand they were more or less as functional as the rest of us.

My mother is great around new people. Absolutely fantastic.

Then, after about six months of living with someone, she goes bat shit locco. Honey moon’s over, and she’s back to her typical insanity again. Sometimes, by this time, she’s engaged. I could see her marrying someone in that time.

It’s just a honeymoon period.

Sometimes people start out pretty rational…my ex-husband got a little nuttier over time - but it was like boiling a frog - each little step wasn’t really noticeable - and when we married he was only “a little off.”

A lot of people write off young mental illness as immaturity - if you are 21 years old and dating someone, sometimes you are more willing to write off the crazy as immaturity. And sometimes you are right.

Sometimes the crazy manifests during dating as really flattering behavior - jealousy can be really flattering.

This happened to one of my cousins (not that he is the type described in the linked thread). He got married relatively young, in his early 20s. A couple of years later, he developed full-blown paranoid schizophrenia, complete with visual and auditory hallucinations. Sadly, but as you might expect, the marriage didn’t last, but I really don’t think anyone (except him at the time) blamed his ex-wife. He ended up relinquishing parental rights to his daughter when his ex eventually remarried. His daughter comes to family events now anad again, but they really have never managed to develop much of a parent/child relationship.

He is semi-functional now, some 20 years later, but on very heavy meds. Poor guy - he is a sweetie.

Some people can hide the crazy pretty well. Sometimes people just see what they want to see too. Love makes people do weird things.

I really think the conflicting social, cultural, and/or religious expectations surrounding marriage are enough to aggravate emotional instability in people who are not exceedingly well socialized - even if they’re getting along reasonably well as single people. Ie: the crazy might not even be there. Why couldn’t such a freighted and risky endeavor drive someone relatively normal over the edge?

Not everybody should be married. Maybe a lot more shouldn’t than we’re willing to admit.

To quote my MIL, “I want the man I married back”. I’m not sure if my FIL is in the ‘normal turned crazy’ crowd or the ‘very charming and good at hiding his problems’ crowd. The man can behave himself when he wants to. Either way, she didn’t get what she thought she was getting.

This describes my situation, more or less. I was married to my wife for 12 years, and had known her for 14 when she suddenly developed psychotic symptoms (delusions, details here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=447687).

She was fine for 44 years until she wasn’t fine, then she was fine again, then she wasn’t fine again, then last February she has been fine ever since.

She never got treatment or even a diagnosis (she refused to see any specialists when she was delusional, now that she isn’t they confirm that she seems to be normal).

I’ll admit I am not the most instinctive “people person” on the planet and I didn’t really have a huge range of relationship experience when I met her but pretty much everyone we know including her own parents, her brother, and friends that have known her for years were completely taken by surprise by her recent issues. There was little to no warning.

I wonder whether this is often part of the problem. I was once in a very serious relationship with someone who had substantial problems that I thought she might eventually grow out of or learn to cope better with. Eventually I realized she wouldn’t and I moved on. she was a wonderful girl otherwise, i was sad to go.

That sounds like very rough situation, my sympathies. I can’t imagine what it would be like to watch someone go so bad so fast (and so helplessly). shiver Life keeps finding new ways to be scary.

I was in a crappy relationship once and realized “Wow, she’s out of her mind!” but the transition was gradual. You know the way they say “familiarity breeds contempt”? Or that sometimes when couples are together they’ll take each other for granted? It was sort of like that process.

The more comfortable, stable and locked in she felt, the more comfortable she was showing her “true self” and the more comfortable she felt to push the boundaries/manipulate/act nuts etc.

Kind of like the way some people are shy at first, but once they get to know you and are more comfortable, they become more engaging and outgoing. In my ex-gf’s case, it was an ugly side of that. The more comfortable she got, the nuttier she became.

IMHO a lot of “the crazy” - perhaps more mild than full-blown bi-polar - comes with a lot of neediness. Crying, manic phone calls, lots of child-like cuddling, running errands and paying bills for your beloved and crazy sex.

At first this is endearing for the non-crazy party, especially if they have low self esteem. Everyone wants to feel needed, right? And then you go from needed to co-dependent. Even if you start to get the idea that the person is capital-C-Crazy, you still love them and feel like they would die without you (and/or they tell you as much). So then you think it’d be easier to take care of them if you live together. Oh and hey it’d be even easier if you’re married!

And that’s how you marry the crazy.

I’ve dated several guys who were either just getting out of this before they met me or dumped me in favor of this. I’m not saying it’s only guys who fall for the “needy” thing or that all guys do, but I think it’s appealing to a lot of people who don’t see the big picture.

Some mental illnesses don’t develop until later in life or are subtle at first appearance. A friend of mine went “full blown” with her (if I recall correctly) bipolar disorder with schizoaffective tendencies - basically manic and depressive cycles along with some hallucinations/delusions. She had been showing some manic/depressive cycles but I think they were kind of minimized, plus she was an artist so I think being very “deep” in moods wasn’t scrutinized as closely as it might otherwise. She had gotten married in her mid-20s and it was maybe 5 years later when she had her big psychotic episode; she’d driven hours from home, believing that she was being followed and spied on by the government or some shadowy conspiracy, and finally called her husband in tears and desperation, believing that he was part of this conspiracy and yet she knew somehow that he couldn’t mean her harm, and she needed help. He told her this December, after years of more normal mood but struggling with alternating medication side effects of weight gain/nervous energy/exhaustion, that he was leaving her.

My husband and I went in with eyes open; my husband was diagnosed in college with possible cyclothymia (low level bipolar disorder, essentially), and his father has full-blown bipolar disorder (bipolar I, with few serious depressive episodes) and is intentionally unmedicated because he loves the raging highs too much. My husband swore he would never treat anyone as his father does, and that he would seek help if it got bad. He also experiences seasonal affective disorder pretty strongly, and we do indoor lighting changes/extra lighting and try to go on a sunny winter vacation. I have a history of depression that he knows of as well. In our cases, we decided that the positives outweighed the potential negatives, and that we would be active in trying to help the other as needed. So far things have been even better than they were before, and I am optimistic.

An attorney I used to work for started having problems with his wife. Looking back, she acted a lot like the BPD women as described in the other thread on this subject. After she started with the crazy behavior, he sought divorce, and then she started bombarding our office with insane accusatory faxes and phone calls. It was hell on him and hell on everyone in the office. Something he said indicated she was always a little off, and he was asked why he married her. He said, “She was cute and she had money.” This was during the latter part of the '80s when ambition and upward mobility were everything, and I can see him overlooking some early nutty behavior in favor of the other two aspects.

Not married, but I have dated crazy for a long time, and in my case the crazy was so gorgeous, and the sex so amazing that if I wasn’t separated by an ocean and an unfriendly government right now I would probably try to get with her again.

I friend of mine unknowingly married an insane man. When they were dating, etc., he was taking his meds, and never told her of his diagnosis. I was close with both of them, and believe me, there was no indication of his condition. After they married, he decided he didn’t need them any more. He did. It got really ugly, including physical harm. They are now divorced.

I think Dangerosa and ZipperJJ are spot on (perhaps not for diagnosable mental illness, but at least for borderline behavior). Jealousy and clinginess are easily confused with love and, to a point, are not necessarily signs of trouble. Sometimes it takes a jealous moment to realize ‘Oh wait, I really have feelings for this person. I want to be with him/her forever.’ Sometimes you call someone five times a day just to hear their voice, and it manages not to be creepy at all. And then… well, then it does.

And from more personal experience with actual mental illness: my sister dated a great young woman who is bipolar. Her illness very well-controlled. They dated for about three years or so and my sister saw neither hide nor hair of anything being amiss. They broke up amicably a few years ago (we are all still friends) and about a year later my sister’s ex did end up going through a period where she was struggling with mania. A family member had died and under such emotional duress, the scales had tipped enough for her mood disorder to get the upper hand.

Luckily we all knew what was going on, so she didn’t burn any bridges or mess up any friendships. But for a few months she was very much like a totally different person and very nasty and angry with my sister. She’s been back to her usual self for a long time now, though and there was no harm done.

I knew there were problems. But I had problems too, and wasn’t entirely sane myself. But she (initially anyway) accepted responsibility, agreed to extra therapy and marriage counseling even before we married, and worked hard on everything for the most part.

Up until we were actually married. Then all counseling stopped (they were on my side and were telling her that she needed more help than she was getting) and everything became my fault. I became her primary villain, which was my point during ALL of our counseling - “I can’t be the villain of your story. That’s not Love.”

I quote teela brown because that’s exactly what my wife did during the divorce process. Absolute painfully paranoid irrational bullshit. (I had been seen in her neighborhood, I was out to kill her, she was even afraid to step outside to get her mail…blah, blah, batshit insane blah…) My attorney had to threaten to have her charged with harassment to get her to stop.

In the end, he gave me a stack of e-mails and letters she’d written him - over 1/2 inch thick in a roughly 4 months - that were so far beyond the pale that he honestly should have had her arrested for what she was writing to him. And that didn’t include the several voicemail messages a day for over a month before the legal threats began.

Pretending to be “normal” is exhausting when that’s not who you really are.