Brown, Queer and Wedded: On partnership and mental illness

By Spouse A and Spouse B

Spouse A:

Partnership is real work. It demands the complete understanding of the person that you are with – a sober awareness of them, even in the intoxication of new love. Partnership requires that you see yourself too.

I am learning to see myself. It’s hard, and sometimes really annoying.

Like, who are you even? 

Seeing myself means being aware of all my parts – even the problematic ones. This is especially hard because a lot of my shit parts are lineage problems – issues in ancestry. All the women with my blood come to surface in love. For a long time, I didn’t know how to separate inherited experience from real-time experience. I couldn’t tell my insecurities from my mother’s. I didn’t know if I stayed in abusive relationships because I couldn’t access a power that enabled me to save myself, or if it was because my grandmother stayed for 60 years.

And then mental illness: knowing when I have gone too far, or have said something too ugly, crossed the line. But not knowing how much blame I can claim for actions rooted in – and fueled by disease. I don’t know that it is not unkind (maybe even internalised denial of mental illness) to take on blame for the messes. I also know that to love another requires being conscious of and taking responsibility for your harmful behaviour.

It is easier to give and take abuse when you are alone. But I am not alone. I am partner to another, who, like me, has an entire world to navigate. We have mental illness to manage. We have to remember, constantly, that love is not war. And to win is not to destroy the other.

We’re young, so this is really difficult. I still need to learn how to accept apologies, how to apologise, how to let things go. I need to learn forgiveness, compassion, gentleness and empathy. I need to learn a slowness to anger.

I want to be a good partner. And that means giving up the war and all of its weaponry. I have finally found someone with whom I do not need to battle. I need to figure out how to lay off the old defense and just be happy. Present. Unafraid.

Right now, I am learning to talk it out until we both understand what we need. I know that talking is not simple – it hurts, and sometimes we talk through filters of fear and insecurity. My fears, that she will not come back, that she will find another, that she will realise what is damaged – what is really remnants of being born of parents who never hung out with me. Sometimes I say, “do whatever you want” when I mean, “I miss you, and I am afraid that the distance will carry you away”. I say, “I am tired”, when I mean, “being apart is hard, and the anxiety makes it even harder”. I think, “I don’t want you to leave” and when I should be thinking, “I want you to stay”.

It’s a lot. But it is work that needs to be done. I’ve heard that the first year together – legally married – is the hardest. The degree of this commitment makes everything a thing. Now add distance, polyamory, mental illness, a big move and visa applications… It’s all great, we’re okay.

We’re amazing! Hehehehehehehehehehehehehe *weeps*

Spouse B:

Unofficial diagnosis: chronic saboteur. Officially, no real diagnosis either but I experience those dark waves that swim dregs of anxiety and depression up an already rocky shore.

I remember many of our initial moments of disruption were manifestations of my most dreadful fantasies. And I say fantasies because it feels like masochistic hands play puppet master to whatever I say and do. They’re times of unfiltered paralysis; and despite consciously unwanting to say what is about to be said, any controls I should have drop away. My mind and my mouth operate as automated bots of delusional dysfunction. It’s hilariously sad, really. Because if I couldn’t go back and laugh at those moments I would just cry.

Our mental illnesses don’t complement each other (if that’s even a thing), but they do seem to ebb and flow in opposite occasions. And I think this is better than worse – but sometimes it’s hard to tell. Because my spells come when hers subside, and vice versa. Like for many others, it’s easier to be there for the other when we’re not going through our own shit. It’s like how my partner has a great fear of us having our periods at the same time because she thinks we’ll rip each other to shreds (although that’s so dramatic and I don’t even get hormonal like that). But I wonder what would happen. Like, what would really happen if we both concurrently bled out our uterine linings (that sounds kinda cute actually J)… and what would really happen if we were experiencing the worse parts of our mental illnesses together? Not that we’ve never been through prickly patches together but those have been our darkest moments and never times I want to relive. So our joint sicknesses, at times, hang over my head as impending doom.

But then, I think it’s worse. I think maybe we’ll never have periods of happy, shit-free togetherness. That limitless freedom to love, no strings attached.

Of course, none of those doubts are substantial enough to stick. They live in the mind just as our illnesses do, and we’re learning to contain them when they breach their cages. To kick them in the balls back to where they belong. To not let them run us out of our lives and loves as slimy fuckboys do. Because loving her is easy: at times, just our relationship is not. But all the little laughs and quick kisses, the hideous inside jokes and dreamy dinners, the cosmic sex and sweet nothings is steady. And real. And not bullshit. It’s beautifully golden in the least polished way.

And yes, we got shit, but we’re golden together, too.

This is a series exploring the married life of two brown queer women living in different spaces but sharing one life and love. This series explores how they navigate the various issues of love and life as a married couple. Read the whole series here.

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