I don’t know about you, but I always have expectations. They rarely match up to reality exactly. Some things come close and some things are vastly different. I suppose that is what makes life interesting. It can also make life vexing.
Today I want to talk about my expectations of what my marriage would be and what the reality of it has turned out to be.
Expectation: Mr. Man would work and support the family financially.
Reality: His bipolar has progressed to a level of severity that prevents him from working. Fortunately he qualifies for Social Security. But it isn’t enough. So I must work. I like working, but juggling it with a toddler is a challenge.
Additionally, this means that I have him at home all the time with all of the ADD symptoms that often accompany Bipolar Disorder. So, his clothes, dirty dishes, books, trash, and anything else he has recently touched, are dropped wherever he happens to be when he turns to the next item of interest.
Why is this a problem? I am already struggling as a housekeeper. His ability to destroy a clean space in under thirty seconds is beyond frustrating. I can not keep up. Add in all of the toys our society seems to think a small child needs, and our apartment looks like the pictures of tornado victims’ homes. Really.
Expectation: We would sleep in the same bed and have sex regularly.
Reality: We started out in the same bed, but due to his resuming smoking and snoring, I sent him to the couch. When he resolved those issues, he decided to stay on the couch. I do not like sleeping alone. So, I have not forced my son to go to his own bed when he decides to sleep with me. Apparently, he doesn’t like sleeping alone either. As you can imagine, this has had an impact on our sex life.
The other major impacts on sex? When Mr. Man is off meds, he is, to be technical, “hypersexual,” which means that he really can’t get enough. His demands had become so strong, that it pushed me away. (Not to mention that the smell of smoke to a non-smoker is very very very nasty and a major turn-off.) When Mr. Man is on meds, his sex drive is all but turned off. In some ways this is a major relief for both of us. But somewhere I would like to find a happy medium.
I have learned that even though I don’t get as much physical affection as I would like, this does not mean he doesn’t love me. It just means that he is not at a point in his life where he can express himself physically. Part of living with his illness is that he changes drastically from time to time. That means I must change with him or end things. At the moment, I am changing and adjusting. No need to end it.
Expectation: I will have to do most of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc…
Reality: He wanted to learn to cook! I taught him and he loves to cook!!!!! I can not say how much of a relief and delight this is most days. I can cook, but it is a chore. Because I taught him how I like things, many dinners are made to my tastes. All I have to do is mention it! Hooray!
Laundry is split between us. I have a bum knee and have difficulty going up and down stairs. We live on the second floor and the washer and dryer are in the basement. Mr. Man takes care of lugging it up and down for me without complaint. I fold and put away most of the time. All right, we often live out of the baskets, but hey, at least we have clean clothes to wear on a regular basis without further wear and tear on my aching joints.
Cleaning is mostly up to me. But he does the dishes and cat litter boxes most days. I take care of the bathroom and vacuuming and changing of sheets and whatever else needs doing. Not a bad split.
Expectation: We would be able to have open and honest communication at any time.
Reality: While I am always honest with him, and he with me, communication is sometimes difficult. Bipolar takes Mr. Man deep inside himself and he has difficulty coming to the surface to see and hear what other people are saying or doing. Literally, he can’t always see and hear other people. Crazy Boy and I often repeat ourselves, shout, and repeatedly tap him to get his attention. So sometimes things go unsaid. It’s just not always worth the effort to get his attention. I know it isn’t because he doesn’t care, but this is one of the ways his illness affects our lives. If I need love and understanding in a tangible way, I seek out a friend more often than my own husband. The times that he is able to see and hear me are made more sweet for knowing what an effort he is putting in to be there for me.
Conclusion: Just because the expectations and realities are not always a match, sometimes reality is livable or even better than the expectation. Mr. Man and I don’t have a traditional marriage. We don’t have a marriage like either of our parents have. But we do have a relationship that seems to work for us. Isn’t that what it’s about? Making it work?
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