That I have felt loved by my family of origin as well as my family by marriage including my in-laws who put up with a lot of crazy behavior from me in the postpartum period has made a huge difference in my ability to move forward in my prognosis. Although it felt at times I was going it alone, in reality I have had and continue to have huge support from my family – as much as they were capable of providing given knowledge of the illness at the time.
Throughout my twenties and thirties, I seemed to pivot back and forth between the two models of successful marriages that I knew. At times I would fall for a guy who had no delight in earthly things (more like my Dad). At other times I would fall for a guy who was very established in his career and financially secure (more like my stepfather). This back and forth continued through the time that I met my first fiancé and ended when I met my current husband. My husband James was a perfect blend for the most part of the values of my Dad’s remarriage and the values of my Mom’s remarriage.
When I met James, he was very informed for a lay person about bipolar illness. He was successful in his own recovery from addiction and had heard many stories of bipolar illness in that context before hearing mine. Most of my prior boy friends had little if any experience with bipolar illness. In addition to his familiarity with my illness struggles, another aspect of our relationship was that we tended to fight well. Regardless of the topic, our fights were usually brief and seldom fell into the same old rut that marriage disagreements often follow. We continue to fight well today although we do have our marriage ruts to get through. The third aspect of our relationship which seems to help a great deal is that we share a faith journey. This faith journey has shifted in the past year due to a situation at our church which caused a massive leadership change. James and I still stay vested in helping to develop a faith journey for our daughter even though we as a family are not in a church right now.
James’ and my shared goal right now is for me to be volunteering or working a stable but not particularly demanding job preferably part-time. We are in agreement about what this goal is and what the desired future looks like. We continue to fight about money from time to time but in general our goals are on the same page.
Today is my wedding anniversary and my husband and I are celebrating 18 years of marriage!
I have posted in a prior post on what I think are some of the essentials to a successful marriage. I am posting again on those criteria with a few additions. These are just my perceptions about my marriage and they do not necessarily translate for all parties. But I thought I’d share in case they are helpful.
- Argue well. Don’t go over the same territory over and over. Have an argument. Learn from it and go on – no dredging up issues from two hours ago, two days ago, two weeks ago, two months ago, two years ago.
- Share a common faith. This one is hard to do if you have already fallen for someone who does not share your faith. But still, where possible allow faith to help guide you and nurture you as something bigger than the demands of husband and wife (or husband and husband or wife and wife). It is helpful to have a unifier that is bigger than each person in the relationship.
- Keep a sense of humor going at all times. Be able to laugh at yourself and with your mate.
- Be willing to say I’m sorry readily when you may have made a mistake. There is no monopoly on admitting mistakes even when you did not think you were completely in the wrong.
- Be willing to forgive your partner’s weaknesses at the same time as potentially calling out his/her problematic behavior. This forgiveness assumes the behavior in question is not abusive or destructive to you.
What do you think are essential characteristics of a good marriage or a good relationship?
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. 🙂