Daniel's wife Melanie wrote a blog that goes with this one for our Couples Series, we recommend reading them together.
I have known my wife Melanie for over 9 years, and we got married in May of 2015. When we first met I was so happy because I had never been in a real relationship, and really had a good feeling about who I just met. Our relationship over the past 9 years has definitely had its ups and downs (I guess any relationship does) but the true test came in July 2010 when Melanie was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. At this point I don’t think it ever occurred to me to “leave” or just “break up” to avoid the entire relationship all together because we had built so much from the beginning. Although I can’t recall what I thought exactly at that time, I’m sure I just said to myself to keep going because she is the best thing to happen to me. It’s a good thing I listened to myself in this situation because in January of 2017 we will celebrate 10 years together, and we have been able to tackle many challenging life events along the way.
In the months following July 2010, I remember there were some challenges we faced because of her diagnosis.
I have always been the type of person to see the good instead of the bad, or to not give up on something or someone because of a setback. This being said, I know a diagnosis of bipolar or depression can change the way we see a person. The following 4 situations/realities for some partners might have had them wondering if they can handle being in this type of relationship or not:
- Having bipolar disorder will not go away and is part of Melanie’s life. This is also something I needed to accept as her boyfriend at the time.
- Some individuals may have told me this is something you (meaning me) will need to live with as well, and the question was sometimes asked: “are you sure this is what you want?”
- Reassuring Melanie and her family that I am not leaving and will be by her side not because I need to, but because I want to.
- Adjusting to the “new” type of relationship we were going to have together, and understanding that some days are going to be tougher than others.
How have I personally adapted/made changes to help my partner?
1. Fully respect boundaries: All relationships need space, but this is so important with someone who experiences bipolar disorder. I learned to adapt so there is breathing room between each other from time to time. I will personally seek out individual activities I am working on such as going to the gym, hanging out with friends, or doing something different for a change. I believe the boundaries aspect of the relationship assists with the understanding of the disorder.
2. Listening and having patience: I will be the first to admit sometimes in this busy life it is hard to have patience with anything, however I consider myself patient and a good listener when called upon. This is really holds value with my relationship with Melanie, as it’s important to know the signs of highs and lows. I will listen when needed and sometimes not even say a lot back, but support the situation at hand (family, friends, work, and life). I have learned that anyone who suffers from some sort of mental illness will need a partner who supports them by simply listening at times of need. The things being said might not seem important, or can seem exaggerated, or even confusing, but the act of listening might help them with the day to day of being a supportive partner.
3. Keeping things in perspective: Being the partner of someone with a mental illness does not mean I needed to change my entire life around. As I write this blog, I thought to myself what really changed in the relationship? We still love each other, go out together, and enjoy what life has given us. I still did/do the things I enjoyed personally and supported my wife whenever needed. The truth is she has done countless favors for me along the way, regardless of a mental illness being present or not. My attitude and focus stayed the same, and if anything she shaped me into whom I am today.
I am happy to support my Melanie during the days that seem hard, tiring, or great. I always will accept certain days will be tough, but will never question if I want to be here. I know if I can make her laugh with a bad joke that day, I have fulfilled my job as a husband.
Read how Melanie feels about Daniel in her accompanying blog here.