I have a good friend who is going to be staying with me for a few weeks. He came to America from Mexico to give his wife and daughter a good life. Not only did he find prosperity here, but he also found good healthcare, as his wife is ill. Had they remained in Mexico, they would not have understood her illness (Bipolar Disorder) and failed to seek treatment. He is 49 years old and has been married 21 years.
My heart breaks for him, because I know he loves her and has been by her side through thick and thin. He would do anything for his wife, even now–while she is screaming for divorce. He cannot budget to pay the bills on their home while paying for another apartment, so he is staying with me rent-free while we work together at starting a side business to supplement his income. This is something we all can learn from my friend (although he is not computer literate, I will not use his name): complete commitment to his wife, even while on the verge of divorce.
He and I talked about what his experience was like living with a woman with Bipolar Disorder. I may have mentioned this before, but I am Bipolar. I was diagnosed 15 years ago after a violent explosion and was ordered to seek mental therapy. I am no longer in treatment, but using a combination of obedience to my religion and abstaining from alcohol and drugs, I have been able to prevent any episodes. The only thing I struggle with today is depression and I have been fortunate enough to have that under control most days.
The Lessons I Learned
My friend told me of being cussed out in public, coming home to seeing his home destroyed, pictures and other memorabilia torn, being accused of affairs and other conspiracies… He’s endured a lot. Yet I was terribly surprised, because in 6 years of knowing him, he has not said one word about his experience with his wife. I did know she was ill, even that she was bipolar. However, he protected his wife’s reputation among his friends.
Rule #1: Protect your spouse’s image in the minds of others AT ALL COSTS
You must protect how others see your spouse. Had I known about what he went through behind closed doors, I may have treated the couple differently. I might have even been the type to suggest he left his wife. Only a man knows the depth of his love for his woman, and he should never tarnish her reputation among others. He must honor her at all times and work out his problems with her with HER, not his friends. Those of us on the outside don’t know everything, and cannot therefore advise him properly. This also goes for arguments you have with your spouse. When you are ready to forgive and forget, your friends and family may not, and that can alienate you or your spouse from them when you two have already worked it out.
Rule #2: Get it off your chest
I am not saying in rule #1 not to confide in anyone. But you should always have someone to talk to. Don’t do it alone! My friend has no family here in Sacramento, and she has plenty. So he is isolated and often feels like they are ganging up on him. Having at least one close person to you–hopefully, someone who knows you both–will help you get thing off your chest. Your confidant need not necessarily be an advisor; you can have one or both. But you must have an outlet–someone who will listen to your side when your spouse will not. Keeping things bottled up is not healthy, and can seriously depress you and oppress you. Open the top, and let some steam out. If you want to yell and cuss, yell and cuss at your confidant, not your spouse.
Rule #3: Always respect your spouse and marriage, even when they are not respecting you or the marriage
Marriage is like a ship at sea. Once you begin damaging the marriage by mistreating the other, losing faith in the marriage, breaking any of the rules, you will sink. If at least one of you is adhering and commited to the survival of the ship, you have a chance and helping keep the other afloat. But if you both are sinking, that ship doesn’t have a chance. You must not allow yourself to be drawn into violating the marriage. If you at least remain strong, you will still have a marriage. If you both are doing the same thing, the marriage will fail. For this reason, I advise commiting yourself to never violating the marriage even when you want to. Be strong for the other spouse when they are weak.
Rule #4: Divorce is not an option
If you are going to keep this marriage going, divorce is not an option. My friend does not want a divorce. But he is prepared to stay in America, work and keep a separate residence, until his wife allows him home. He is not considering the possibility of divorce. It’s not even in his Plan B or C. He is planning to maintain the marriage until it has been repaired enough to go home. That is how you manage a relationship.
Rule #5: Talk
If there was a mistake I made in my failed marriages, it was from not talking. I am not a yeller. When my women yell, I get quiet. And when they yell a lot, I will no longer communicate. Trust me, I am a master of the game when it comes to giving someone the cold shoulder. I do not refuse my wives affection and sex. But I will not communicate with you when you can’t control the volume, and I can tell you it is a flaw of mine. No relationship has a chance when the other partner won’t listen to your feelings, thoughts and views. Even if you have to return to the conversation at a later time, you must discuss and attempt to resolve everything that comes up. Fail to talk (hopefully in a calm, respectful tone) and I can guarantee you a divorce.
Rule #6: Get a mediator
Lastly, (there is more to this subject, but it’s all I’M going to write about today) you should get a neutral person to be the third party to resolving problems that you cannot resolve on your own. Mediators are essentially filters, and when you are speaking, sometimes, your spouse cannot hear what you are saying because it has to get past emotions, past hurts and conversations. A third person will reiterate what you’ve said and say it in a calm, audible way. Another reason you want to have a mediator is that we often forget what is said. Especially if this is a conversation you both have had before. The mediator will remember what was said (because he/she is not emotional like you both) and remind the other of what was said, even return the conversation back to the topic–which may stray from time to time. Finally, the mediator will make sure both parties get to state their side and keep things calm.
Marriage is a lot of work. Often we will only work until it gets difficult, and then we want to throw our hands up and give up. Relationships are not things that don’t need constant watering and maintaining; failing to do so leads to grass looking greener. Study this skill, and you will find relationships-building to be more pleasant and simple.
And I didn’t say it was easy; I just said it would be simple. Thanks for visiting my blog.