I found over the years when I was single that it was very difficult to find a boyfriend who was knowledgeable of bipolar illness or of mental illness in particular. This changed when I met a man who struggled with clinical depression. He “got it” while most other boyfriends did not. We quickly got engaged but within a year’s time found that our illnesses tended to feed upon each other. It was if we had allergic personalities — our arguments seemed to accentuate our diagnoses and behaviors accordingly. We did not fight well, but always seemed to end up in the same argument time and time again. We also did not have a faith in God that bound us.
That engagement ended favorably with each of us expressing ourselves and our pain and our ability not to master our relationship’s ins and outs. He initiated the relationship. He initiated the end of the relationship. He also wrote to me about 2 to 3 years later to see if I were interested in reconciliation. At that time, I had moved on emotionally and was not interested. It was not because I was involved with someone else. It was because I was entering a lengthy period of celibacy that lasted about 7 years.
During this period of celibacy in my thirties, I began work on what would later become the basis for a big component of my Spiritual journey. During this period of celibacy, I became interested in Medical Intuition or the use of Spiritual work to help guide illness diagnosis and illness recovery. During this time, I challenged behaviors in myself such as alcohol use or going to bars as a means of meeting a mate. Finally one day, my closest friend suggested that I go on-line. This was in the years before on-line dating was prevalent.
In any case, I worked with my friend on an online bio and had a first date with my soon-to-be fiancé at the Starbucks near a local state park. I prior had resolved that if the coffee date went well, my date and I would go on a walk with my 100 pound black Labrador – half Newfoundland up a nearby mountain. We met at the coffee shop and soon were walking up that mountain.
It took no brains to determine that I had been looking in all the wrong places for a husband. In addition, as I got older there were fewer and fewer places to meet someone. College was out. Graduate school was out.
When I met my future husband, there were four key ingredients. He was aware of mental illness and bipolar in particular. We shared a faith journey in Christ and we fought well together. Not that we did not have arguments. It was just that we recovered from those arguments fairly quickly and with some degree of learning or emotional development. We also shared a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at self and with others.
This is a reworking of a comment I left on a prior blogpost I read and commented on….
I did not meet my husband (one and only) until I was 38 years old. Before then I had been in a series of relationships, some lasting a while (almost three years) and some not lasting long at all. I seemed for years to go back and forth between men who were like my father and men who were like my step-father. This yoyoing back in forth consumed all of my twenties and some of my early thirties. I was engaged to be married to someone before my current husband arrived on the scene.
I learned from that failed engagement that a couple does well to share a belief in God and to argue well. My fiance had clinical depression so on that level we understood each other’s behavioral health challenges. I have bipolar illness. But our relationship was toxic. We always had the same argument over and over. Why aren’t you opening up? Why aren’t you letting me in? Eventually he would call off the engagement, but it was a friendly parting. Years later he wrote and seemed to wonder about our getting back together. I had already moved on.
After the engagement broke off, I began a period of celibacy. This lasted for almost 7 years. During that time I stopped with the yoyo dating and focused inward on myself and my job. It was very important for me to validate myself during those years with something other than a relationship (short-term or otherwise) with a man. I did not even kiss a man for this 7 year period before I met my soon-to-be husband.
I met my current husband (one and only) at an online data service in 2001- this was very early in the web dating sphere. That is a story in and of itself. The first thing I noticed was that our mutual faith in God seemed to make things easier. I also noticed a couple of other characteristics of our relationship as it started to grow and mature. These are my insights into what has made my marriage a successful endeavor for someone with bipolar illness and someone with addiction issues.
For me there are three keys that help my marriage work – though I cannot guarantee these will work for everyone. Hold some sort of faith belief in common. It helps me through the darkest hour if that is not a topic that I argue about with my spouse but one that grounds me in that relationship. Second, be able to argue well. I try not to always go back to the I told you so’s. I try to make each argument have a beginning, middle and end. I try to learn from it once it’s over instead of drudging it up over and over. Finally, a sense of humor goes a very long way. I find it important to be able to laugh at myself and with my partner. It is amazing how a good laugh clears the air.
In addition to these three items, I am adding the ability to be thankful to God for people who are helpful in my life’s journey. I am still working on being thankful every day instead of always asking God for something. There is so much to be thankful for. So here is my two moments of marriage wisdom. Took me until I was 38 to figure it out – still figuring it out at 56. Oh well, later is better than never. 🙂