When The Relationship Is Sinking

Do you feel like you are drowning in your relationship? Does it feel like you get pulled in just in time to be thrown out again?

I wrote this at a particularly low point in my life. I actually had totally forgot about it, as is often the case when things are going well. The memories and feelings I had buried so deep swept up to the surface so quickly and easily when I read it the other day.

I thought I would share it with others as broken hearts and broken dreams are universal. It is very difficult when a relationship is sinking fast and you are at odds on how to save it. Sometimes you find a reason to cling to each other and sometimes you have to let go and save yourself.

This is an excerpt from my diary, almost three years ago. At the time, my husband was extremely manic, a symptom of his bipolar. We had both agreed that it was in everyone’s best interest, especially for the sake of the children, that he leave our home and move into a hotel for a while.

Do you feel like you are drowning in your relationship? Does it feel like you get pulled in just in time to be thrown out again?

My cell phone rings. It’s 2:30 a.m., but it hasn’t woken me. Sleep has abandoned me for weeks, to be replaced by worry and thoughts of rearranging my future. I do not need to look; I know that it’s him.


“I need you.” Quietly and softly. A tone of voice I haven’t heard in months.

Instinctively I pick up my keys and go to the car. Thoughts begin to race through my mind as I drive. He left you. He says it’s over. After all his illness has put you through, why are you going to go to feed the mania? But something in his voice had the whisper of my husband. A faint hint of the reason why I fight so hard and forgive so easily.

As I pull up to the hotel and get out of the car, the cold snap of the wind slaps me in the face as if it’s trying to remind me why he’s here. He can’t live in our home anymore. The laughter and conversation have been replaced by anger, aggressiveness and arguments. The illness is winning. It wasn’t so much that he left me as that I let him go. I’m exhausted. So tired from the battle. A battle that seems to be so entrenched in him right now that no amount of medication can halt the forces.

I enter the room and he’s standing there, waiting for me. His eyes look at me with such longing. A longing that says come and find me, I’m still here. I see the man I married. He strips me of my clothes and takes away all of my insecurities as easily and naturally as a caterpillar sheds its cocoon. I step into the light, naked both emotionally and physically. I’m not the tall, tanned, slender girl I once was. The years and the illness have taken their toll.

He inhales as if catching his breath. “You’re beautiful.”

I’m not sure if he is reminding himself or reassuring me. I let him take over, and explore my body. His touch is slow and gentle, comforting in its familiarity. And yet at the same time, it is filled with a newness, a rediscovery. His hands and mouth cover me as if to memorize my body. My skin burns from his breath, his lips, his kiss. I press myself to him, urging him to move faster, but he’s lost in the pleasure of my excitement. Only after he feels my body shudder and go still does he climb on top of me. I feel the animal instinct that is driving him. He makes love to me with such passion and need that it spills forth in a crescendo that leaves us both gasping. We lay intertwined, in body and soul. Each of us holding tight to the other as if we were life rafts; as if we were saving one another from drowning .

Reality begins to sneak back in like smoke beneath the door of a burning building. My emotions take control. I can’t let him see me cry. I know that the illness will soon return and it will use any weakness I exhibit to wedge its way between us. I have to get out.

He asks me to stay, but I get dressed and leave. The door slams behind me, locking the moment behind it. The sun is rising. In a few hours we will be back at the hospital, seeing psychiatrists, therapists and doctors. I am overcome with the feeling that this is the beginning of the end. What end, I do not know.


Fortunately, this particular moment was a turning point for both his mania and our relationship. He has been stable and relatively symptom free for the last three years.

For me, reading this reminds me that I must always be vigilant and aware of where things can go when your partner suffers from a mental illness. It is always there, simmering below the surface.

Disclaimer: I am not a therapist or a doctor. This post is based solely on my personal experiences and should not be deemed as advice or counsel. Please seek appropriate medical attention from a licensed professional.

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  1. Oh, Elena…this is so moving…powerful…tender. A brave post, beautifully written…made me cry. I’m so glad that these (beautiful moments) were a turning point, for both of you. A heart-breaking-heart-warming piece. Thank you for sharing this x

  2. Such a moving post Elena. My husband was diagnosed with PTSD due to the Vietnam War. He would never talk about it until the last few years and I think it opened a Pandora’s box. It is so hard to see them suffering mentally however it sounds like you have a good outcome at the moment.

  3. That was beautiful Elena – after many years of living with a chronically depressed husband I truly understand the vigilance you talk about at the end – you are just never sure if things will change again – but in the meantime we hold on. ~ Leanne

    1. That was hard because I wanted to show the hard side but I don’t want people to think that there aren’t good times that far outweigh that. I might have to do a post showing that side too to balance it. So many women like us I think are in situations but keep it a secret. I’m glad you shared that. Thank you.

  4. I love the line where you say, Reality begins to sneak back in like smoke beneath the door of a burning building. What a powerful and beautiful way to explain what happened.

  5. Wow, I’m sure it took a lot of courage to write and post this piece but I’m sure there will be a lot of women and probably men who can identify with what you had to go through so bravo!

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