Limits to Love

I was stringently warned not to marry Will in light of his disorder. Disaster was all that would come of moving the wedding up nine months. They worried that Will would be in the hospital the following day; or he’d turn into an abusive monster; or I’d be forever stuck picking up his pieces.

All of them insisted that they loved Will dearly, but they wouldn’t wish his disorder on anyone—particularly me. That is how this whole situation has been—“We love Will, but….” I thought love was supposed to be unconditional? Maybe unconditional love is reserved for that certain brand of perceived perfection—you know the ones: talented, charismatic, flawlessly groomed, dynamic, inspirational….

Newsflash: that was—and still is—Will.

I’ve always feared inescapable abusive relationships. When Will was manic this summer, saying and doing things that were so contrary to his character, I was afraid. Would the man I loved become abusive? Was that the horror that awaited me if I stayed with him? I hoped not.

Despite the uncertainty, I was reminded that God went out of his way to bring us together, despite our bullheadedness, and that I loved him. He was—and is—my choice.

I have entrusted my life, safety, and well-being into Will’s hands in many ways in our two-year friendship. Saying “yes” and marrying him was the most forceful, tangible way to show Will and everyone else that I trust God and, by extension, Will.

I didn’t want to be like everyone who said, “I love Will, but….” The people who have forgotten that Will has been the most compassionate, influential person in his communities. That he has defended the weak and small, challenged the strong, encouraged the frustrated, and inspired the young.

That is the man I married. Not the bipolar guy. Did I marry him because he needs me? No. Because I’m a saint? Hardly.

I am one of the weak, hurt, frustrated people he has loved. Yes, I am strong, determined, stubborn, and intelligent. But I am chronically injured and have CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy).

Since we wed, Will has taken care of me. He has half-carried me up and down mountains, held my hand during doctors’ appointments, comforted me as I cried, made me breakfast, and done the dishes. Yes, he still has bi-polar. Yes, one day our roles will reverse and I will take him to the doctor. But that’s what marriage—what love—is: being present, selfless, and unconditional.

Sometimes, when I read books like Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, Twilight, Wizard’s First Rule and I am nauseated by the over-used idea that love conquers all. Gag me. I haven’t suddenly become a hopeless romantic. In fact, I just quit reading two of those books yesterday because I couldn’t handle the lovey-doveyness. But I have seen the power of true love:

  • Will and I met a guy for coffee yesterday. We told him our story and his response was, “Wow. That must have been really hard for you. I’m sorry.” A man we barely know loves us enough to accept us unconditionally. He didn’t shy away. Will and I couldn’t wipe our ridiculous grins off our faces. We were euphoric! We were known and loved and accepted!
  • My chronic pain ruined three climbing dates in a row—Will is an avid and occasionally obsessive climber—while I was disgusted with myself and feeling worthless, Will smiled at me, kissed my tears away, and helped make me more comfortable.
  • I refused to reject Will, even when he—and everyone else—was hoping and adamant that I go. His wonder and confidence grew, gradually replacing the shame and regret that had clouded his mien.
  • Jesus, Son of God, became a weak human to live a sucky, hot, sweaty, uncomfortable life that ended in an undeserved, torturous death and defeated death—humanity’s implacable foe—by coming back to life. Why? Because he loved us, even when he knew our every flaw and disgrace.

I don’t always enjoy the conclusion that love conquers all. And I am sure that marriage will be tough. Will and I are only human. But I have seen the confidence, worth, purpose, and life-changing outlook love inspires in my life. I love Will, and I believe he is just as deserving of that love today as he was yesterday, this summer, the five years prior, every day before then, and is every day after this one. And I know he would say the same about me.

Let’s not love someone, but…. Let’s love someone, and….

Our world could change.




“Crazy” in Love

It all started two years ago. We met climbing and were complacently okay with the other person’s existence. I moved to his town for a job and we embarked on a friendship marked with anti-small-talk agreements, music-only zones, suck-it-up injunctions, and just-let-me-vent compromises.

After two years, we fell for each other. Hard. Friendship turned into dating. Dating turned into engagement. Then all Hell broke loose.

Hi, my name is Alice and I’m in love with Will: he has bipolar disorder.

Will told me about his disorder a year ago when I had a beer and he didn’t. Kinda struck me as odd, since Will is easy-going and alcohol-savvy. When I asked why he doesn’t drink, he told me he avoids caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol because he has Type I Bipolar Disorder.

Honestly, it made sense. There were times when Will was outgoing and gregarious and other times when he was introverted and quiet. I felt better knowing he wasn’t avoiding me every few weeks because I’d become annoying or something.

Will told me he had a record of five years without a manic episode. The secret? Managing medication, fitness, diet, and stress.

As I listened, I heard his struggle to reconcile being “crazy” enough to be relegated to a psych ward several times and the “normal” Will I knew. I heard the desire not to be defined by his disorder but by his passion, creativity, intelligence, and personality.

Will is a good man. I haven’t met one person who doesn’t respect, love, and admire Will. He is involved in his community, makes a huge difference in his work place, mentors kids and young adults, and is a prominent member in his church.

My mother has a background of chronic depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I’ve spent a decent percent of my childhood in psychiatrists’ and psychologists’ offices, just in case. So when Will told me about the Bipolar, I shrugged and blithely continued our friendship.

It did occur to me, however, that it would be really hard for some woman to date or marry him. Bipolar scares a lot of people. So I began to pray for strength, insight, grace, and peace for whoever this mystery woman would be.

Little did I know I was praying for myself and that I would need every prayer I could get.

I wish I could say “And then God showed up and POOF! His Bipolar disappeared and we lived happily ever after.” But I can’t. I’m not at the end of our story. Not even close. I’m not even sure what that ending will be, how close it is, or how far. I don’t know if we’ll live happily ever after. I don’t even know if I’ll ever see him again.

What I do know is I’m not alone. And neither are you.