A few weeks ago, Khyati and I celebrated our fifteenth wedding anniversary.
It seems inconceivable now that we could have separated in the first year itself! Here is how it began…
I was all of 41 when we married and my fiancee, Khyati, was 39.
We discovered each other with the help of a matrimonial in a Sunday newspaper. It is fair to say that we chose each other and our families readily supported our decision. We dated a few times before marriage and fell madly in love. Then came the tricky part~ how to tell her that I was mentally ill? Incidentally, I had been diagnosed with Manic depressive illness (as Bipolar Disorder was then called) just six months prior to this crucial juncture in my life.
I felt speaking to my Psychiatrist would help me get clarity. ‘Tell her that you had business related stress and there’s no need to tell her about your hospitalisation.’ I was aghast at the thought of misleading my to be life partner, no matter what the outcome. By the way, this new Psychiatrist of mine had painted a wrong picture about my illness. ‘There is nothing such as mood swings. You will be alright in a few months time.’ Yes, he actually said this to the gullible me!!
We had gone on a long drive one evening while dating, when I broached the subject. I told her that I had manic depression and had been hospitalised for the same. I also revealed that I was a severe Asthmatic and had twice been in intensive care. Khyati, much to my relief, was okay with this. All the same, I took her along with me to meet my Doc so that she could seek clarifications.
The rosy days of wooing and those after marriage were dramatic in their contrast. Differences cropped up on the very next day of marriage and our days of romance seemed so far behind us now. Marriage can be a big stressor for those with Bipolar Disorder and greatly so when relationships are strained. Things worsened to the extent that Khati wanted to break the marriage. The resultant turmoil was far too much for me to handle at a time when I was just beginning to get a grip on my illness. I plunged into depression. It hurt the most when she insisted that I had hidden my illness from her.
We were bestowed with a baby girl during this turmoil.
That should have been the glue to unite us but nothing of that sort happened. At that time, I attended a Seminar by Life Coach Arfeen Khan. ‘Only you are responsible for turning around your relationship’ he claimed, to my disbelief and to that of most among the audience. Afterwards, I thought about it. Why not give this a shot? I began with small gestures to rekindle the spark in our relationship. Our prejudices cloud our perceptions and we tend to get obsessed with our woes while overlooking the challenges our partners are dealing with. Misunderstanding and differences make us overlook the positives in our partners. I literally made a list of all the positives I could see in Khyati.
It takes a subtle shift of stance, even by one partner, to turn things around.
What helped me immensely was my unfailing commitment to make my marriage a success. Within a year our relationship stabilised, although it took several years more to really flourish. Now we understand each other very well and make room for the differences in our personalities. Yes, we are poles apart in many aspects~ I am a die hard romantic, she is down to Earth. Our hobbies don’t overlap, except possibly that we both love travel.
The fundamental reason marriages fail is because we romanticise them far too much.
Love hardly fits into our preconceived notion of how it should be. Our fanciful expectations from a relationship create an unrealistic imagery which does not match the real scenario. With maturity, I learnt to respect her for what she was as an individual. From love to distrust, to constant squabbles, to understanding and back to mutual love and respect~ we have come a long way. To her credit, she too has made many adjustments. Her support in what has become my life’s purpose, the outreach to my community of bipolar affected is invaluable.
Are we too self absorbed in our struggles with our serious health challenges?
The initial years of struggle, both in terms of strained relationship and troubled state of mind, did make me self absorbed, I feel. Now that things have stabilised, I make it a point to give back to family. We have our fun times together with our teenage daughter. Long drives, going to the movies, dining out and our annual vacations help us bond together. One observation here is that as I began to become more aware, understood myself better, my relationships smoothed out. Not only marital but those with extended family.
Falling in love with love.
Love encompasses all aspects of my life. I love Khyati and all the people in my life. My love extends to an intense love for nature. I love all the simple joys in life.
‘Only when we are filled with compassion to the brim, can we spread the love outwards’
Many of us Bipolar affected struggle in our marriages.
Quite a few from my tribe are estranged whereas some others live in edgy relationships. Just can’t imagine a life without Khyati by my side! If you are facing a struggle, I hope our love story inspires you to turnaround yours.
One huge lesson from my journey is that I gained a lot from putting myself in Khyati’s shoes when the going was rough.
What if she were writing this story. How would it go?
Thank you, Khyati, for all the years of togetherness!