In 2001, at the young age of 16, I walked into a bowling alley with a couple friends and walked out smitten with a man that I had just met. In 2007, at a Red Lobster in Colorado, this man asked me to marry him. In 2008, we were married in front of 400+ people in what is often called the BEST WEDDING EVER!
Fast forward to 2016. We are 8 years into this marriage with two young kids and while that is all wonderful, he simultaneously was also trying to cope with both his parents passings along with the majority of the people he grew up surrounded by dying. For the last 8 years of our marriage, death has been such a normality that I purchased clothes for our kids with the thought of them looking nice at funerals.
We grew apart. While I was blinded by the parenting demands and needs that our kids had, he was trying to process the huge losses that he had endured with little sympathy from this exhausted new mom. Instead of being a supportive and loving wife, I became bitter that this man was not as involved and helpful as I had expected him to be. I felt let down. I never even considered the fact that he was trying to cope with something that I don’t quite understand. My sister said it best, “you truly can’t understand how they are feeling or mourning because you did not have the same relationship with that person that they did.”
In 2015, his grandpa (his father figure), passed away. My husband had just left him, after spending days at his bedside to come home and take a shower and kiss his kids and wife. In that short 40 minutes that he was gone, grandpa left this Earth and took the final piece of my husbands childhood and security with him. I knew it was going to be hard on him. I knew how close they were, but I was dealing with graduate school, these precious little ones and everything else that comes with being a mom. I gave him space, I tried to encourage him to see a counselor, what I didn’t do, was give him my time.
He pulled farther away from our family. Everyone that he had been close to and loved was dying rapidly and he couldn’t bear to get close to us subconsciously. Still he tried to maintain these relationships, he put up a front, he genuinely tried…until he could not anymore. He started behaving and making decisions that are way out of character for him.
The man that I had met 15 years earlier was no longer the man that I knew. I kept telling my mom that I felt like I didn’t know him. It was so confusing and yet I was still thinking about me. I told him that he needed to get help or that we would no longer be a family. So he did. He went to a doctor and was put on medication. We both thought this would be an easy fix…but it wasn’t. The meds made his erratic and impulsive decisions even worse and he slunk further into depression.
He broke. I broke. We broke. Our family broke. Mental illness is no freaking joke. Death and the way that people process it is no joke and should never be judged. Marriage is ridiculously hard and trying. Last year everything I had thought our lives were, was challenged. I had to re-examine where we stood as a family, how I stood as an individual, all while considering the fact that we took vows; “in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” Those vows rang in my head consistently. So we pushed through, he pushed through, I made adjustments and we continued to try. The entire time knowing that we loved each other, but that things were just not right. We had neglected our marriage, our personal selves and everything that had made us so strong in the beginning.
I had to take a long hard look at myself last year. This perfect family that we appear to be, was not perfect. We were not healthy and everything was just wrong. Through setbacks and triumphs we are still together. We are communicating and we are still trying and that is the most important thing. I don’t know what the future holds, I hope that we are finally getting to a better point, but I also know how easily things could change. It took me almost a year to write this post. To put into words how my marriage was failing and how we were both responsible. I neglected my husbands needs and he neglected ours.
On New Years Eve, we sat down and went through an article about the 25 needs of a good marriage and we discussed each and every one of them and how we were doing with them. We identified areas that we definitely needed to focus on and as a team (finally a team!), we made goals. The following day we shared our marriage resolutions and although it has only been 17 days. I think both of us feel like we are on a good path.
We need positivity in our lives and we need all the love and support that can be sent our way. I learned far more about mental illness and depression this past year than I ever thought possible and when they say that it is invisible, they don’t just mean that outsiders can’t see that you are sick, they also mean that you may not be able to tell that you are sick. Looking back there were so many warning signs for both of us and we just ignored them. Please do not ignore these. Take care of your mental health and take care of your loved ones.
Each day is a step forward, even if we stumble…we stumble together and that is how we are going to fix this marriage.