I romanticize finding the ideal woman like I’m a 13-year-old girl. Despite my 43-year-old logic and the learned cynicism from experience, there’s still a rooted-in-my-soul part of me telling me that there IS a woman out there somewhere who will offer me “unconditional positive regard” – a phrase I learned from the book I’m reading on co-dependence.
I’m good at the fast and furious starts: We’re planning our future together on the third date, if we’ve waited that long. The text string starts at 6:32 a.m. and lasts till 12:52 p.m. The sex is the eye-contact kind. You get it.
A few weeks in, we are where many couples are after years. We know all the secrets and all the flaws. This is about the time the doubts start for me. The Cinderella I had hoped for turns out to have bad breath sometimes or really wants to cuddle in the morning when I don’t want to be touched by anything but the sheets and coffee. I know it’s shallow, and most people can let this shit go.
But I can’t.
It starts the “what ifs” going. And those never stop. Trust me. I was married for 14 years. And they NEVER stopped. It’s not that I’m nitpicky. It’s that my brain has a short in it that won’t allow the whatiffing to stop…I dream about my anxieties…I wake up at 3 a.m. asking the same questions I ask when I’m awake. Even if she can put up with me, I can’t.
Hell, 50% of marriages end in divorce anyway. Throw some raging, illogical anxieties on the fire, and it seems hopeless. I’m not going to blow sunshine up your ass here and tell you I have a magic solution. I don’t.
But I’d like to think there is hope. I’d like to think there is someone out there who can understand that my anxieties and doubts aren’t about her at all; they are about flawed wiring in my brain. I’d like to think that someone can see that I’m a great guy and manage to wade through the way-too-early conversations about whether this relationship has any hope – someone who will have enough patience to see the real me hidden behind the messy realities of my attempts to find love.
I for one am a believer that people with mental illnesses SHOULD date each other. Who else could possibly understand? Don’t get me wrong: Just like any other relationship, there will be times when your quirks don’t get along well with their quirks (or mental illnesses). But I’d love to date someone who has grace for my moments of overwhelming anxiety while I show her the same when her struggles come to the surface.
There are all kinds of logistical questions like how far into the relationship you should address your mental illness, what it might be like if you are both struggling at the same time (what relationship doesn’t have these times?), and whether your relationship can function like a “normal” one or whether it needs some different boundaries, like possibly not living together as early…or even ever. But these are all mountains that can be climbed. Who says you can’t find a way to have a relationship that works for you? And for them.
Let’s not get discouraged! Even the sanest person on earth has trouble finding a suitable partner. Even the best relationships have times when murder seems like a viable option. So just be honest with yourself, as best you can, about what you want and need. Go looking for it honestly and hopefully. It won’t be a fairytale, but it might well be something beautiful anyway. Let me know how it goes! I’ll do the same.
Some further reading: