I was completely and utterly devastated when my wife told me to leave and our marriage was over. I knew we had been dealing with my mental illness, but I never saw any indication that it was affecting our relationship so strongly. She had been supportive and understanding. She was involved in my treatment and seemed relieved when I was finally able to identify the reasons for all the issues I had suffered and had inflicted on her for all those years. I had no clue our marriage was in that much trouble.
Within one week I had gone from believing I was happily married to living alone. We had many friends as a couple, but only one of them continued after we split. I was still unemployed and spent day after day completely alone, isolated from everything and everybody. It was the most miserable time I had ever known. I couldn’t stop crying, not understanding why it had ended so abruptly and without warning. I wasn’t talking with her, but we did exchange emails and texts as I struggled to find out what happened. She told me that she thought that I lied to her from the very beginning, and not only just about my illness. She felt like some of the things that I had done to her in my mania were just unforgivable, and she was right. She said that she hadn’t been as close as I’d believed we were, and that the similarities I had seen were just her following my lead. She said that she never really agreed with everything as she had claimed but was just trying to make me happy. She claimed she had lost herself.
She went overnight from being a good wife and partner to being hateful and bitter. She lashed out at me in ways I just didn’t seem possible. We had agreed that I would move my things out of her house as fast as I could, and I had borrowed a friends’ pickup truck, and figured I could do it in just a few days. The first day I was planning on being there, she texted me and insisted I had to rent a big truck and get everything in a single load. The separation was all her idea; I didn’t want it and felt no obligation to go to that extreme just because she demanded it. She continued to insist, and even went as far as to rent a truck for me to use. So I took the truck and moved it all in a day. She was very angry and kept sending me texts and emails telling me how horrible I was. It was excruciating.
From the start she began pushing me for a separation agreement. I resisted for a while, but finally started to work through the terms we could both agree to. Then she asked me to lie about the date of our separation so she could get her divorce right away. I was incredulous; she claimed that I was lying, yet she asked me to lie to the courts. I refused. We continued to negotiate an agreement, and three more times she asked me to give her an immediate divorce. I just wasn’t going to do that, and we finally had a document we both could accept. I wouldn’t trust myself under normal circumstances, but I knew I wasn’t thinking clearly and I took the agreement to an attorney to make sure it was fair to both of us, and we hadn’t missed anything big. She was furious. The threatened to completely disregard what we had worked out, and just told me how it was going to be; completely in her favor. But the lawyer felt like it was a good agreement, and when I presented it back to her she backed down and we both signed.
And still I cried. The pain I was feeling was unbearable. It was incredible how horrible I felt and how deeply I felt betrayed. I’ve never gone through anything even close to the devastation I was feeling. She would alternate between sending me hateful emails and following up with an apology. That was actually a common theme. She must have told me she was sorry hundreds of times.
Being alone all the time I had plenty of time to think and try to figure out what had gone wrong. Of course my bipolar behaviors played a huge role. But it just didn’t seem fair that she wouldn’t even try to do anything to make our marriage work. I was just getting things under control. But I started to realize other things too. I started catching her in lies. She told me for example she had spent Thanksgiving with some of our old friends, but I talked with them that same week and they said not only had they not seen her, but she wasn’t invited. Why she felt like she needed to tell such an obvious lie was beyond me. There were other lies as well, equally easy to disprove. I started thinking back through the relationship, and I began to question things that had seemed unusual at the time but I had accepted at face value. Were these lies too? I seemed more and more plausible. I started to realize that there had been an incredible amount of drama that I hadn’t noticed. There were always issues to deal with. Either she was fighting with her ex-husband, being treated unfairly at work, had some terrible thing happening with her children or any number of crises. She was always complaining about how she felt, but she would almost always refuse to see a doctor, and when she would say that either they couldn’t find anything wrong or it was some dire illness that couldn’t be treated. She constantly complained about her knee, but an MRI showed nothing wrong. She went to a cardiologist and she said he told her that she had the heart of an eighty year old woman. It was always something.
There had been clues that there were impending problems, I just hadn’t seen them coming. Shortly after I got out of the hospital she told me that if she ever found me passed out from an overdose, she wouldn’t even call for help, but let me die. Not exactly something one would expect from a loving wife. Our sex life was practically nonexistent. She had become completely unapproachable emotionally. I could go on and on about issues I’ve come to understand that contributed to the failed relationship, but I’ve now learned that, in spite of how horribly my illness impacted it, I wasn’t the only one with issues. It takes two to make a marriage work, and it takes two to make it fail. I accept full responsibility for my role in the breakup and I acknowledge that it played a large part. But she has responsibilities too. She could have been honest with me from the beginning about how she really felt. She didn’t have to conform to my likes and dislikes; I would have accepted her for who she was. Or I wouldn’t have, and we would have never gotten married. She could have talked with me as soon as she started feeling that the marriage was in trouble instead of letting it go on unaddressed until it was too late. She could have given us a chance. And so forth and so on.
The bottom line here is, to me a marriage is something that takes effort and work by both. There are going to be issues and problems, but if you’re really in love you’ll at least try to work through them. There is give and take. There is forgiveness and understanding. There is patience and kindness. I never intentionally lied to her. And I told the truth as I knew it about my illness as I knew it. I truly didn’t think I had those problems, but once I did I took responsible steps to control it. I always treated her as my princess. I truly loved her unconditionally. But it turns out that she wasn’t honest with me. She pretended to be someone she wasn’t just to please me. She lied to create drama, or to explain it. She accused me of lying, yet she repeatedly asked me to lie about our separation. She lied about the dumbest things that didn’t even make sense. Living with someone who’s bipolar is difficult at best. It may even be impossible. But if I’m honest with myself, she wasn’t that easy either. Our marriage was in more trouble than I knew. Our marriage was a sham, not by me, but because of her. I would have done anything to make it work, she wouldn’t.
Coming to terms with this has gone a long way to helping me heal. I’ll always miss the relationship I thought I had, and I’ll always love the woman I thought she was. But I’ve pulled my life together and I have moved on. I’m sure she has a different perspective, but there are truths that cannot be changed. Ultimately, as painful and difficult as it has been, we’re both better off that we didn’t make it. For a multitude of reasons from both of us, there was just too much to overcome. Through this process I’ve learned a great deal about myself, and about relationships. I don’t know if I’ll ever trust anyone again to have the kind of relationship I had with her. But I know I’ll be okay.