I Realized My New Wife Has a Mental Illness

01 April, 2017
Q After four years of my marriage, my wife ran away from my house, and I came to know that she was involved with somebody else. She asked for divorce and stated that she no longer wanted to live with me. We had a daughter also, and she gave her custody to me. I accepted the divorce since my parents told me what she had done was against Islam. They also told me to get a new mother for my daughter, so I got married again a couple of months ago. Before marriage, the girl’s parents told me that she suffered from depression since her previous husband gave her divorce, but reassured me that she was ready for a new marriage, and she would take responsibility of our daughter. However, I found out that she is mentally retarded. She doesn’t even know about what marital responsibility is. The second day after our marriage, she asked for divorce and said that she couldn’t handle all this. She told me that she had a very serious mental problem, and in the past medical shorts were given to her. She also said she was not interested in sex at all and wanted to live a normal life, but her parents and her brother forced her into this marriage. Thus, she called me and said she was healthy and could handle everything. Then I told her that since she and her parents hadn’t informed me about her medical past, I wanted to end this relationship. However, her parents don’t accept it. What to do?



As-Salamu ‘Alaykum dear brother,

Thank you for writing to us. I am very sorry to hear of the problems you are having. Your first wife, and now the second wife have caused you much sadness and grief. I hope brother that you have healed sufficiently from the hurt and devastation of what your first wife did in your marriage to be able to deal with this.

May Allah (SWT) grant you ease dear brother and bless you and your daughter. I know the past few years have not been easy, so please stay close to Allah to draw strength and find comfort, and seek His mercy and guidance. It is through these trials and tests that we become stronger and closer to Allah (SWT).

Concerning your second marriage, it is sad and unfair that your wife’s parents were not honest with you from the beginning. Perhaps this was the reason for her first divorce, I do not know. It certainly sounds like there is something very wrong which has already been diagnosed as her father was stating she was “depressed”; however, as she also stated she used to get “shots” for her condition,  this may signal that there may be something more going on than just depression.

Brother, I am not an Islamic Scholar, so I will address the issue from a relationship perspective. (For fatwah, kindly contact our ‘Ask the Scholar’ section or your local imam.) You have a few choices.

1, As you did not get to know her very well before marriage (in a halal way), you had no way of seeing her behaviors, spending time getting to know one another in social settings, observing how she is with your daughter and how your daughter felt about her, nor listening to her speak about her thoughts on marriage, children and life in general.  As her parents did not tell you the severe extent of her illness either, you can choose to divorce her based on the fact that they misrepresented her ability to be a wife and take on responsibilities of a home, child, and husband. As Allah (SWT) dislikes divorce, this is a serious step; however, you have a daughter to think about, and Allah is most merciful. Your daughter’s well-being, safety, and comfort in her own home is highly important and choosing the right spouse, one who is stable is a critical matter when children are involved.

2, You could choose to have a separation wherein you would in sha ‘Allah make an agreement with her and her family setting conditions. I would suggest your new wife would live with her family for an agreed upon time, get regular counseling, receive the appropriate medication (if needed) and in sha’ Allah become stabilized. During this time, you as her husband would receive access to her medical reports and progress and in fact get to know her counselor and have a few joint sessions wherein you learn what exactly the issue is, what the prognosis is, and how you can be supportive. In addition, you both would obtain marriage counseling as well as be having your wife take Islamic marriage classes at the masjid. During the time, you and your daughter (together) could spend time with your new wife to get to know her and see how the relationship between her and your daughter develops and to determine if there is indeed progress being made. If she is progressing, in sha ‘Allah, you could slowly have her come to the home and take on her wifely duties while you are there to observe and begin to form a family feeling.

3, Finally, my dear brother, you can remain married to her and continue to let her live in the home with you and your daughter, while in sha ‘Allah, following the above advice for her getting treatment.  While your wife called and stated that she was healthy and could handle everything, I feel she may have only said this due to severe pressure from her parents. Allah forgives me if I am wrong, but usually, people do not suddenly “change/heal” overnight, especially when a mental illness is involved. If you chose this route brother, may Allah bless you for your sacrifice, compassion, and mercy. However, it will not be an easy time for you or your daughter.

The APA states that “When one partner has a serious mental illness, the situation can become even more complex. Many times, the partner without a diagnosed disorder will assume more responsibilities, at least for the short term. For a person who is already worried about what is happening with his or her partner, having to spend more time maintaining the household or taking care of the children can be especially hard. It is important for the couple to keep in mind that most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness improve over time and that a partner’s attitude and behavior can make an important contribution to recovery”. So, if you chose this option, please be prepared, brother, to take on a new responsibility which will be much different than just taking care of a willing and capable wife, as your wife will have special needs. It will also be important to get family therapy to help you both adjust to the new marriage, her illness, as well as learning special skills or coping techniques that you may need to utilize while she is getting treatment and in sha’ Allah recovering.

I also suggest that you also check with your area’s local Health and Human Resources for support groups for spouses who suffer from mental illness. These groups offer the opportunity to share similar experiences with each other, support one another, learn more about the dynamics of mental illness and offer further insight into coping skills, and the importance of self-care. These groups also can contain a familial component in which support may be offered to children as well.

In sha’ Allah brother, please make istakhara prayer to Allah seeking His guidance before making a decision. Many lives depend on your decision right now, yours, your daughter’s, your wife’s and both your families and Allah (SWT) is All-Knowing (Al-Alim).

You are in our prayers brother, may you find some respite in these words. We do care, so please let us know how you are doing.



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About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.