We’ve all heard this concerning garbage and recycling but it also applies to relationships. I am divorced but still have strong ties to my former husband. We talk often and even though I have moved away I still worry about his well being. People are often puzzled by this and I am surprised. He was a great dad to our children, he just couldn’t be present as a husband.
I’m no saint, I spent two long sad, mad, tearful years when my marriage was ending! I say “my” marriage because I discovered we both had completely different expectations of marriage. We had years of counseling for family and marriage issues and in the end, the divorce still came as a shock to me. I knew there were still challenges but I thought we had both settled into the long stretch of acceptance. I was wrong. I didn’t know this at the time because my former partner had a secret life. He had a completely different agenda and goals that I had no clue about and that directly opposed that of “my” marriage plan. He never shared these with me or our long time therapist. He doesn’t think like me and isn’t able to cognitively comprehend what I need him to. He can’t be present for me because he has another full time partner. It’s labelled mental illness.
I have spent the first part of my learning curve with mental illness resentful. You can’t always see mental illness, it’s not all drama and Hollywood theatrics. It can be quiet and insidious, a door you can’t unlock, even with all the therapy in the world. It takes medication, cognitive therapy, behavior modification and loving support but most of all it takes the ability of the patient to want the key. What if the key holds the entrance to all sorts of horrors? If you’ve lived your life in secret, decades of silence and hiding, what would entice you to open that door? Not loved ones. Lots of people have successful relationships with mental illness but many do not. It’s nobody’s fault.
I can honestly say that now, because I know without a shadow of a doubt that I did everything possible to get that door unlocked. But it wasn’t my door to open. I’ve accepted that and I’ve also accepted that I will always have tremendous compassion and love for the father of my children, for the man that tried to be the husband I wanted and for providing for us so well. With mental illness that can be a huge hurdle. He’s tired now and worn out, I have been too. I’m tenacious and don’t give up easily. I get to start over but he lives with the realities of his illness. Limitations that employers, health insurance companies and life love to throw in his path. He’s not as good a jumper as I am. With mental illness there is “no away” and for the people that love them there isn’t either.
The movers are delivering my stuff today. I’m glad to have treasures to feather my nest. I need the familiar even if they are shabby and well loved. I miss Bianca today. She had to go to doggy day care because of the movers coming and I felt badly when I saw her sad eyes and her drooping tail as we walked into the building. I know she will be that much happier when when she comes home because you see there is really no away.