Marriage is wonderful. It’s also hard work. It’s not something to ever be taken for granted. When one or both partners is ill, it’s just that much harder. Here are a few things I’ve learned. I hope something here helps someone out there.
Be honest. Obvious, yes, but so difficult. It took a long time to admit I self harmed and had suicidal thoughts. I was terrified he’d be horrified and run. He didn’t.
Ask for help. Also difficult. There are so many things I find difficult. I tried for years to manage on my own. Didn’t want to be a burden. Sickness and health people.
Try to have fun together. Allow a shaft of light in once in a while. This is a hard one for me, but it’s vital in a relationship. ML spends a lot of time trying to make me laugh – or at least smile. Try.
Be patient when your partner comes up with things he thinks will help. When I’m down for the count the last thing I want to hear is that I should go for a walk, or eat something, or whatever other fixes people think will help. I’ve learned to take a deep breath and realise that whatever advice is given comes from love.
Keep touching. Hugs are amazing healers. Hold hands. Stay physically close. Barriers are often part of the illness, but make sure you lower them for your partner. You both need to feel physical closeness. It’s important.
Involve your partner in all decisions. Health related or otherwise. ML always knows when I’ve changed meds, or when I have a new symptom. I don’t expect him to notice on his own – he has enough to think about. It’s really crappy when you find out something new about your partner’s pain from a visit to a Doctor. ML hates feeling left out of the loop, or looking stupid when something comes up he wasn’t aware of.
Ask your partner how he’s coping. Illness is isolating and selfish. ML has problems and issues of his own. He needs someone to talk to and often won’t open up to me because he thinks I can’t handle it. I’d rather know, and I’m ill, not unfeeling. I need to know what’s happening in his life. Sometimes I need to push to get him to open up. Push.
Try to make an effort personal hygeine wise. It’s a lot of work for me most days, and I often don’t have the energy or can’t be bothered to shower, do my hair, wear something pretty. I keep myself as clean as I can, but I do try to go the extra mile just for him. I always make sure to look presentable when he has to be in public with me. Dragging around a grey, unhappy wife is horrible. And probably embarrassing.
I used to tell ML he was free to leave me and find someone he could have a normal life with. I know how much work I am, and we couldn’t have known that this is where we’d be when we married. This made him angry. Don’t underestimate your partner. It’s hurtful.
I don’t know if any of this is helpful, but these are all little things we’ve learned, and knowing this now has made our lives a little easier. Above all else – talk to each other. Neither of you can read minds. “Normal” marriage can be tough enough, but throw illness into the mix and it’s a daily uphill slog. Stay connected, hold each other tight, and ride it out together.
I married a very brave man. I’m grateful.