It has been brought to my attention that some people hold my husband and I up as a good or "perfect" couple. Honestly, that surprised me. We are far from a perfect couple, if such a thing even exists. We have been married for 11 years, but together for 16 years, since high school. My illness has gotten worse over the years, with a particularly bad stint from 2000-2007, which started right after we got married.
Every person, mentally ill or not, has undesirable character traits. Every person goes through profound changes in their life, multiple times. These are a few of the reasons why it is so hard for couples to stay together. It takes a ton of work and it is not always pleasant. I know not every couple can stay together, but in order to be sure of that, we can do a lot of work first to see if we can maintain a relationship.
Even after all these years, there are still times when we talk about separating. I can tell when Jeff looks at me and in his eyes I see his wish that I would just leave.
I could attempt to pinpoint what has helped us stay together, but I am not really sure. We love the book "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman which was recommended to us on a Couples Retreat when we were attending John Carroll University, a Jesuit college. We also believe in getting professional counseling.
The thing Jeff and I keep coming back to though when we talk about separating is that we still love each other. We have to remember to stop and look at things not as they are right now, but part of a larger picture. And, when we stop and envision our lives without each other, neither of us likes what we see. I always ask myself how I would feel if Jeff died tomorrow. I never like that feeling. That is not to say we will stay together if either one of us begins to hurt the other, but we will give each other a chance first. For instance, six months after we were married, Jeff told me he would divorce me if I did not work harder to manage my illness, which was making me treat him poorly.
See, we are not perfect by any means. If you truly want to know what we are like, watch this video from Next to Normal. I believe we just had this fight, again, a few days ago.