It is a sad fact that very few relationships survive the effects of chronic illness. If you are one of those who have managed to maintain and keep a relationship together when your health is unpredictable and you may not be able to contribute financially, then you are part of a very small statistic. Sadly.
Most relationships can not, and do not, survive the effects, and although it is tempting to feel disappointment towards the partner that chooses to leave, I feel an immense sadness for them too as they are the victims also. Even for them it’s a tough gig.
I know a lot of relationships that have lasted and I know many that haven’t. I would be lying if I said my own relationship hadn’t undergone pressure and doubts sometimes. I am not going to pretend that I am perfect or that I have all the answers.
Many times I have even offered my husband an escape. A ‘get out of jail’ card. A chance to have a normal life with someone who can be more.
Yes. I have said that to him.
I have immense guilt at the thought of my husband being a carer, housekeeper, nurse, husband and friend. And I would be lying if I said he enjoyed all these roles. He doesn’t always like doing them, but nowhere near as much as I hate asking them of him.
It can be especially difficult when I have seen him talking to able bodied and healthier women and I can’t help but think how much happier his life might be with someone else. Is this the reality? I can’t know. Life would definitely be different but would he be as loved? Is love more valuable than health? I guess it depends on who you are and what your values are as to how you might answer this.
When things worsen and I found myself unable to do more and more, I imagined myself alone and it is terrifying. But I also have to be brave in these moments too. It’s Incredibly hard!
Over the past 10 years I have seen his health decline too. He has bad knees from lifting me and helping me. He has blood pressure issues from worrying and hearing me panic and cry. He has aged in front of my eyes and I don’t want him to miss out on all the good things in life too.
But he still has choices that I don’t get to make anymore. He could start over. He can do whatever he would like… that’s an incredibly tantalizing option.
But we have bumped along and managed the terrain, even when we had no idea what we are doing or where it would lead us.
So what is the secret? What is the winning formula? Truthfully I don’t know. We both believe our life would be much sadder and lacking if we were not together. It’s as simple as that. He is my best friend and I hope I am his. We tell each other everything, even the hard stuff. Even the stuff you find hard to admit to.
I have asked myself and my husband many times “will you have any regrets about being together?” And the answer is always none.
I am grateful for who we are and what we have done together, no matter what lies ahead.
Wedding vows aside, there are a lot of things that can happen in a marriage that we can’t even imagine or prepare for, so it is not really all that surprising when the pressures of chronic illness tears a couple apart. I find myself looking at both sides with compassion in my heart. I really don’t think I could ever hate my husband as we have been true friends for so long.
The fact is, we both have failings and human weaknesses, but despite all of these, our love and respect for each other overrides them all. It has been the glue that has kept us together. Not neediness. Not insecurities. Not fear. Not disability or obligation. But good old fashioned friendship.
When, in the past, my former relationships all broke down under much smaller pressures and seemingly trivial problems, it always haunted me that my marriage would not make it through these devastating circumstances… but it seems that it was more a reflection of those relationships and not a testimony of this one.
This relationship really has reset my understanding of love and respect. This one has taught me more than any other relationship I have ever known. And it has also made me redefine my relationship with myself.
After all, how can I expect others to love me and accept me if I don’t think I am worth it?
There is nothing easy about the things I have mentioned, and I have skipped over a lot of tears, pain, frustration, isolation, depression, fears and anxieties. But many years ago I said that I truly believed love is everything. And I still do.