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What Does "For Worse" Look Like?

Their love survived...unemployment continued...

Things went from bad to worse when Michael came home to find his wife holding a letter informing them that their former boss had filed a lawsuit against them. "The first thought that entered my mind was, Is my wife going to leave me?" Michael recalls. "I already felt guilty for leading my family into this mess; maybe she'd be better off without me." Michael withdrew emotionally—and only days later, with his wife's coaxing, did he reveal what was haunting him. "It just broke my heart," Anne says. When she told him, "Of course I wouldn't leave you," Michael felt a weight lift. "It's one thing to know it's true, and still another to hear it," he says now.

After that, the couple made a pact to solve problems together. And slowly, they found that they could bond without spending tons of cash—by, say, taking a walk in the park rather than heading to a restaurant. "Once we realized how little we needed to get by, we stopped worrying—and fighting—about money," Anne explains. Armed with this newfound confidence, in 2003 the couple moved back to Washington and took an even bigger gamble, opening their own architecture business. But even today, the two are careful to not let their money concerns overrun their relationship. "For example, Wednesday is our date night," says Anne. "If a client wants to meet us then, we usually tell them we're not available." Protecting their intimacy, they've learned, is as important as building their business—if not more so. "That year we spent struggling clarified what really mattered," says Anne. "We know now that as long as we have each other, we can get through anything."

Their love survived... her mental illness

Lauri had been friends with Julio Ticas for five years. Then one day it hit her—she just had to kiss him. "It felt so right," Lauri says. Apparently, Julio felt the same way, because just one week later, he proposed. Four days after that, the San Antonio couple were married.

Nearly all couples suffer growing pains when they mesh lives, but for Lauri, 36, the transition triggered something more serious. Suddenly, she blew up at the smallest things (like seeing Julio use the "wrong" spoon for the sugar). "I felt like overnight, she'd transformed into a different person," says Julio, 43.

Months later, it became clear why when Lauri was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. For the next few years, she was in and out of psychiatric hospitals and tried countless treatments. But nothing worked—and as the medical bills mounted and her guilt over being a financial and emotional drain on her husband intensified, Lauri says, "I began thinking that dying would be the most loving thing I could do for Julio." What held her back? "I didn't want him thinking I didn't love him enough," she says.

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