Wednesday, December 7, 2011

If Your Partner Had Become Sick While You Were Dating, Would You Have Committed to the Relationship?

For many of us, first came the relationship and then came the illness or serious accident.

We met, fell in love, committed or got married, and then illness became the uninvited third member of the relationship. By the time illness entered, we had joined bank accounts, mixed laundry, combined dish sets, and co-mingled friends and dreams. There was a relatively solid platform for the relationship, and illness landed on that platform. When you're still dating, you might be in love, but the platform isn't that solid yet.

If your sweetie had become ill with a serious condition (perhaps the same one he or she has now) while you were still dating, would you have committed to the relationship?


Helena said...

I want to believe that I would have still committed to the relationship. My husband did it for me. He felt he could handle my muscular dystrophy and so far, so good. We now know we were naiive starting out and we've certainly had our share of challenges but we've overcome them and for that I'm very grateful!

Rachel said...

I've been with my boyfriend for three years. I was already sick (and limited) when we first got together. He knew about my issues within the first few dates. He's in it for the long haul. He refers to my Dysautonomia as "our disease." He takes me to appointments and does everything he can for me. I try my best not to make my limitations be his limitations, but sometimes it can't be helped. I still can't really believe that he chooses to be with me, every single day, despite all my problems. He's one of the good ones. :)

Anonymous said...

The man I married 10 plus years ago is an alcoholic. Yes, I knew this when I married him. I always had hope. This disease is also in my family and I’ve seen recovery happen. Over the years I watched him struggle with this ‘disease’, in & out of treatment center after treatment center, in-patient and out-patient. I’ve thrown him out and taken him back. Still hopeful. I supported him through them all and watched as his efforts dwindled, every time. Over the past few years, he has developed back issues; herniated disc, lower back pain etc. He has seen therapists, doctors, specialists, referred to physical therapy and briefly saw a chiropractor but nothing for any duration. I personally heard one specialist state, “… nothing that diet and exercise wouldn’t help.” I’m sure others have voiced similar diagnosis or remedies but he ignores them all. Today, 3 years later, his pain is chronic and he suffers from depression and anxiety too.
He has been unemployed for over 2 years and has made little or no effort to improve his situation except to seek public assistance and disability. He is more medicated than ever, for anxiety and depression (in addition to pain meds), but hasn’t seen his therapist since 2010. He suffers from back pain, at this point it’s debilitating, but doesn’t go to physical therapy. I have even offered to pay for it!
While I know alcoholism is a disease as well as depression and anxiety, they are also treatable. I am frustrated with his lack of effort and try to get him to go to counseling or look for a job or exercise etc. to no avail. I have threatened divorce but that hasn’t motivated him either. He says he doesn’t want a divorce, period! We have been separated for more than 2 years now. Since I am the bread winner and own my own home, I have a lot to lose if this marriage continues much longer as I live in a no fault state.
I struggle with my vows; in sickness and health, for richer or poorer; but what we have is not a marriage though better than some. We still see each other and I keep praying and hoping something will give but for how long? The longer I wait and hope, the more I risk losing.

Barbara Kivowitz said...

Rachel - sounds like he thinks you're one of the good ones too. I'm glad you have such a supportive partner

Anonymous - your situation is indeed complicated. And it sounds like you have shouldered a lot - maintaining economic stability and maintaining a spouse who expects to be supported and rejects your efforts to enlist him in improving his own health. He seems invested in keeping things the same.

Do you have support for yourself and your own stability? Have you used Al-Anon? I wonder is some of their approaches to being with an alcoholic partner might apply to your current situation (whether he is still drinking or not).

I hope this new year brings yo peace.

Beth said...

I was already on disability when my husband and I met (again) 16 years ago. We had dated on and off as teenagers, and met again by chance when we were in our early 30's. Since then, we married almost 15 years ago, raised our combined 6 kids from their teens, and have been raising a granddaughter for 15 years. I've lost a lot more function since then, developed fairly significant lumbar disease, and spend a lot of time living on my heating pad. He may not always get that I have good days when I can do a fair amount of movement, and bad days when I can barely get out of bed, but he tries, he loves me, and he is very committed.

Anonymous said...

We had four good years together before I became ill and disabled from working. We married after 12 years of illness. In our 17th year my partner cheated on me. Yes, the person who cared for me, stayed with me every minute through surgeries and recoveries, through bad news and worse news, my rock, my love ...

It happens. All too often, I am learning from my support groups. And we now are faced with the monumental task of repairing and rebuilding. We both agree we should have worked harder to maintain our friendships, as now we are isolated and struggling to move through this new pain.

Barbara Kivowitz said...

Yes Anonymous - this does certainly happen. But it sounds like you and your partner have begun the hard work of talking to each other about what happened, why it happened, and what you can both do to find each other again. That's very hard work - and very important. I hope you are both finding ways to listen to each other with empathy and compassion. Couples living with illness can become insulated and isolated. That's a heavy load for both people. I do think it's wise that you recognize the importance of constructing a broader support network for each of you. I hope you find your way to an even deeper connection.