Sunday, July 4, 2010

Post-Illness Readjustment

Do you know any couples who have had this experience?

She develops cancer. Or he has a heart attack. One is seriously ill and the other moves into serious caretaking mode. Whether it's love or resilience or luck, they not only manage the illness effectively, they manage to relate to each other in empathic ways. The love they started with seems to expand under the pressure of illness. In fact, they may even say that illness showed them strengths in each other that were invisible before.

Then normalcy sets in. Maybe it is ushered in by recovery or by adaptation to a new way of living and relating, with illness.

One would imagine that the couple would welcome some stability and would take their illness-induced lessons and apply them with more love and vigor in this next phase.

But the lessons don't hold, and the relationship falls apart.

They start picking at each other. Bickering over the insignificant -- refilling ice cube trays, shutting the computer off when not in use, leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor.

Things escalate. The arguments get louder. Old grudges surface. Dues for favors done years ago are expected to be repaid now.

Or maybe things get quieter. So quiet that soon there is nothing left to talk about. And no interest in creating new experiences.

The couple who did so well during illness can't cope with the new normalcy. They become like soldiers who discovered their aliveness in battle and can't return to the averageness of civilian life.

Do you know couples like this?

1 comment:

Rochelle said...

This made me gasp. and cry.

Yes, I know couples like this. I'm one of them.

Thank you. Bless your heart for pointing this out. It touched me. And I keep hoping we can keep it alive. Neither of us wants to give up, we just aren't always sure what happened to the real us.

And I think that's why this hit me so hard. I didn't realize.