Red Responds: Excruciating and Wonderful

Trish in Albuquerque writes:

I am very much in love with a man who suffers from bipolar disorder. He is on medication, but he has ups and downs which are always affecting our relationship, in many different ways. In the past, he abruptly called off our wedding and our relationship (invitations had been mailed out, the string quartet was hired, Italy was booked for the honeymoon, etc.).

It was very upsetting for me, but we got back together and he is apologetic to this day for the whole thing. He still has suicidal thoughts, isolates himself from others (including me at times) but he won’t seek regular therapy, just the few medications he takes for the condition. We used to live together, and our relationship (before the big meltdown) was everything I had ever imagined. He was so loving and attentive towards me, and still is at times, but he keeps me at a distance. He has not told any of his family (who I was very close to) that we are back together, and I never spend the night at his house – occasionally he stays at mine.

It is both excruciating and wonderful at the same time to be with him. I was miserable while we were apart for three months, but I fear that things will never be as good as they were with us. By the way, I am 49 years old (he is 47) so I feel that it’s now or never for us.

Dear Trish,

Even though your relationship with this man is complicated, I really don’t see it coming to an end. Things have a way of working out in their own time frames, which usually isn’t as quickly as we’d like. Sure, you can try and make things the way you want them in the time frame you want it, but all that is going to do is cause you more pain and frustration.

Your man isn’t ready to be “out of the closet” with you just yet, which is why you haven’t been around his family or staying at his place. He is still coming to terms with having you back in his life, and feels a great deal of shame over what happened before. In his eyes, when the two of you are once again public about your love, then things will immediately go back to how things were before. That’s a lot of pressure on him, pressure he didn’t handle very well the first time around.

It’s a shame your boyfriend is so reluctant to consider regular therapy, because it is something he would greatly benefit from. However, he may be a bit more open to couples counseling, but not for several more months. If he thinks it’s for you, he will be more willing to participate, but will bow out of the sessions once things start getting real. Fortunately for him, you have a great deal of patience and understanding, particularly when it comes to his issues.

While things will never be exactly the same as they were before, it doesn’t mean that things won’t be equally as good. But, it is going to take time, and many adjustments for each of you. Keep the faith in your man and in your love, but try not to push things. Sometimes, you can have what you want, but not always exactly the way you want it. While that may seem less than ideal, think about the time the two of you were apart. Not being married to him doesn’t make you love him any less, and marrying you won’t make him love you any more.

Talk to him about how you are feeling, and what your hopes and dreams are – but not in a demanding kind of way. Set your boundaries, and uphold them – don’t just expect things to miraculously change. With hard work and healing, the two of you will decide to marry, but it will be a fairly private ordeal. It may not be quite the fairy tale wedding you had previously planned, but is a union of stability and love that is quite real.

Good luck!
Ext. 9226

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