Let Me Clarify on Appearance....

So, I'm realizing I may have hit a bit of a nerve in my last post about appearance and that being important to my husband in our relationship, and our marriage counselor agreeing that yes, that men do find that to be very important. 

Let me explain a little further, because I didn't mean to offend, but also, I want to be very clear about something I did not understand myself until recently, and it was a hard lesson to learn. 

Like many bipolars, I had taken weight gaining medications, and had gained a lot of weight.  Over the years, I gained, lost, gained, lost, maybe 35-50 pounds lost or gained at a time.  My husband was always very supportive, never commented on my weight, understood it was a side effect of the medications.

Let's be perfectly honest, okay?  Living with someone with bipolar disorder has got to be INCREDIBLY difficult.  I've now realized he went through years of being afraid to say ANYTHING to me about ANYTHING, or telling me about any need he might have for fear of triggering any kind of emotion I might have.  He had basically been walking on eggshells for years and years, and I didn't even know it.  I had been living in la-la land, thinking everything was wonderful, I had the most perfect, understanding, kind husband in the world who put up with everything I did.  Guess what?  He actually didn't.  For years, he kept it all inside and didn't say a word. 

So for all of these years, he kept all of these things inside until he just couldn't take it anymore, it exploded, and he didn't know if the marriage could continue.  There were too many things that had built up over the years.  How can someone who has bipolar disorder not understand that a spouse might feel that way?  I can honestly say that it would be extremely difficult for me to live with someone with my own disorder, I don't know if I could deal with it. 

So he dragged me to marriage counseling, and the counselor, who is very good actually, and is a trainer of other counselors as well as specializes in marriage and bipolar, gave us a  "needs" assessment that we both did on our own.  It included many things, such as communication, intimacy, affection, sexual satisfaction, appearance of your spouse,  quality time, etc. etc.  Communication was his most important need, attractiveness of your spouse was his #3.

He was afraid he was being shallow, that we were married and it should be beyond that, but that is just how he felt, and the counselor said that is the way many men feel they are loved - when their spouse takes the time to make themselves attractive for them.  Ladies - we cannot just "let ourselves go" and expect our men to love us unconditionally!  True, there is so much more to love and marriage than appearance, and there is so much more to our marriage than appearance, and we're working on those as well, and our relationship has NEVER been better.

Someone commented "what if you were disabled".  Well guess what?  I'm NOT.  So there's no reason to "let myself go", but even if I were disabled, why would that be a reason to "let myself go"?  Why would I stop trying to be attractive for my husband?  I think NOT taking care of yourself shows your husband that you are taking him for granted, which, in hindsight, I think I was, and that was wrong of me. 

If that is a way in which he feels loved, like I feel loved when he shows me affection, then that's what I'll do.  His #1 need is communication, so that is what I am more focused on than appearance. 

But more from our counselor than my husband, I learned how men really think and how they feel when women don't take care of themselves, how hurt it makes them, how unloved they feel.  If I had met my husband when I didn't weigh 125 (and I still don't, but I'm working on it), then that would be different.  But I don't want my husband to be one of the MANY men she sees because they are unattracted to their wives because they gained weight or let themselves go, they stopped taking care of themselves, and the women are at home thinking their marriage is perfect and their husband is so in love with them.

As far as weight gaining medication for bipolars, sure, I get it.  It happened to me, for years.  But I made that a Number 1 priority for medications - no weight gainers.  I got off any meds that I was taking that were weight gainers (Seroquel and Geoden), and my doctor put me on Latuda, and that's when I started losing weight.  Well, and I changed my diet and I exercise a lot - I run 5 miles 4 times a week.  And the difference in the way my husband treats me now is astounding.  Part of that can be attributed to counseling - he got the chance to air out all of his baggage he'd been holding on for years and we negotiated ways for each of us to change to make the other person feel more loved.  An example of that is we're now a lot more "intimate".  But also, part of that is because he finds me more attractive.  Men are just VISUAL, and that's the truth.

He's still a bit afraid to tell me when he has a "need" or a concern, so we still go to marriage counseling because I think he feels safer talking about it there, where I won't get emotionally unstable.  Like I said, living with a bipolar must be rough.  I've obviously scarred him somehow, but it's getting better.

Be surprised all day that our marriage counselor didn't tell him "you should accept her no matter how she looks, it's what's inside that counts", but in the end, how would that have helped?  That wouldn't have changed how he felt.  Just like if she had told me "he's just not an affectionate person", that would not have taken away my need for more affection.  But see, the funny thing is, when I met his need, he naturally met my need.  When I was more attractive for him, he instinctively wanted to be more affectionate towards me.   

Yes, I thought it was VERY shallow in the beginning, and he even said I would think he was shallow.  But ladies, seriously, I think it's very rude and disrespectful to let yourself go and expect your man to be okay with it.  If you loved him, why wouldn't you want to make yourself attractive for him, and for him to be proud to be seen with you? 

I get the weight gaining thing from medication, I totally do, I was there for years.  But I didn't exercise, my self esteem went down the drain because of my weight, and I thought, why bother with my appearance?  I'm already fat, it doesn't matter.  But it does!  We can still wear nice, flattering clothes, buy sexy shoes, get manis/pedis, and EXERCISE!  Exercise is SO important!  Maybe you are on a weight gainer, but you can combat it with a ton of exercise. 


Tanya said...

Off topic kinda =) How long did it take you to work up to five miles a day?

As far as the situation with letting yourself go I agree to a point. My husband and I haven't been married long at all but we're over 30 and are noticing our respective metabolisms slowing down. We talk about wanting to stay fit to look good for each other. Make sure he keeps himself up for you too ;)

Meg said...

I think the comments stem from people being concerned for you. I know that is my feeling anyway. I am happily married and raising a bipolar teen (neither my husband nor I are bipolar - my son's bio- dad/my ex-husband is). If my husband was less affectionate with me because I gained 30 pounds I would be heartbroken and know the level of our relationship was not what I thought it was. If I was less affectionate with him for him losing hair over time, he would feel the same way. Life happens and we get less attractive. Disabilities happen and they can be difficult and often ugly. If you and your husband have children, you have a high chance of having a child with bipolar disorder. Raising a bipolar child is not an easy road and it's not always pretty. It takes an incredible amount of selflessness and ability to look beyond your own needs. I don't think anyone takes issue with you running and wanting to look great. In fact, we all should take care of ourselves. The issue becomes when a good portion of the quality of the relationship hinges on something that will fade over time.

Kristy said...

I totally agree with you! I'm bipolar and I'm married to someone that is bipolar and can totally relate to your post. Good for you that you are taking care of yourself and the needs of your marriage! I don't think it is shallow that your husband wants someone that respects herself and wants to be healthy.

KansasSunflower said...

Tanya - it didn't take long at all! I started with the Couch to 5K app on my iphone in July, then graduated to a 10k app in September. There are 5k apps on every smartphone, and getting to 5-6 miles only took about 4 months of running 3 times a week, and I was being lazy about it! My husband definitely takes care of himself, you would think he was gay because he primps so much if you didn't know him! : )

KansasSunflower said...

Meg, I really appreciate your concern. : ) The loss of affection was not just about appearance, but because he couldn't talk to me about everything that he had bottled up over the years, but yes, appearance was one thing, and I didn't gain 30 pounds, I gained 60. I've lost 30. It was so much more than appearance, it was communication, it was intimacy, it was being tidiness, to be honest, he couldn't approach me with anything without my breaking down and sobbing for days. I just picked out the appearance thing to talk about because he comments on that the most, it seems like that is what has made him the happiest. : )

KansasSunflower said...

Kristy - thank you! It must be challenging being bipolar AND being married to someone who is bipolar, but at the same time, you two probably "get" each other, right? I'm glad you both have each other to lean on. : )

Kristy said...

One thing about being able to relate is also being able to identify bad behaviour. It is very hard to be honest because we aren't in the same space. I can relate to the post about walking on eggshells and not being able to say anything for the fear of upsetting and the crying starting. Also, some things arent worth fighting about. I always hear excuses also. I'm learning slowly lately to detach and to mind my own business. It is sometimes lonely to be married to someone that is more on the unstable side that won't take care of themselves. I have to remember it is the mental illness and not the person. It is hard to seperate at times.

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