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Health & Sex

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What Does "For Worse" Look Like?

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.

Meanwhile, the Ticases often wondered—aloud, angrily, to each other—if they were the problem. "Maybe our marriage was a mistake," Julio would say, prompting Lauri to counter with, "Well, then why don't you just leave?" Finally, he did. And that scared Lauri. "I'd often fantasized about us separating, but now I realized I didn't want to lose him," she says. Julio was feeling the same way; he returned home later that night to discuss what they could do.

"We banned the word 'divorce' from our vocabulary," Lauri says. "Saying it had become a way to hurt each other." She looked into new treatment options, and a year ago was implanted with a vagus nerve stimulator, a device that helps control her moods. "In the past, small noises like Julio drumming his fingers on a table would send me over the edge," she recalls. "Now, when I hear it, I smile thinking about how much it used to bother me."

Today, it's hard for the couple to imagine there was ever a time when they regretted marrying each other. "If he asked all over again, I'd say yes in a heartbeat," says Lauri. And Julio feels the same. "Our relationship isn't perfect," he says. "But every problem has a solution, and if a couple remains strong, they will find it."

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