Relationships & Illness: Exploring Our Partner’s Pain

In an effort to understand what it would be like to be the healthy partner in a relationship with a person with a chronic illness, I decided to step back one day and objectively look at the situation as best as I could. This is what I concluded, once viewing relationships where one person is sick and the other healthy through unbiased, as opposed to victim, goggles. At least, this is what I concluded to the best of my abilities based on my experiences, so I guess it is not completely unbiased as circumstances in romantic relationships can differ entirely from person to person…

I am in no way a guru when it comes to relationships and illness (or, well, anything for that matter). I have been divorced, engaged, and in another relationship in which I was broken up with over the course of the three years since I first became mostly bed bound.

I ended the first two relationships -my marriage and engagement- quite irrationally and was broken up with via a text message while in the hospital in regards to the third relationship. I have no problem admitting that I had written all of my exes off as assholes with little compassion for my situation, until recently (…as in yesterday).

I was lying in bed, attempting to sit consciously with my pain, when what seemed to be an inconvenient truth at the time popped into my head out of nowhere. Perhaps I have been the dispassionate asshole in my relationships. Maybe my exes were just as guilty, but I am certainly no exception. I only wish I would have seen this truth sooner.

When a person is with someone with late stage Lyme disease, or with many other debilitating illnesses I am sure, that person is forced to give up the lifestyle they once knew. We are not the only ones who had our old lives abruptly stripped away, our partners had theirs taken too. If it happened after we were already in a relationship with them, then I understand why they ran –

it was not what they signed up for. Cold and hard to swallow as it sounds,  it also sounds true and to the point –no bullshit (in many cases at least, I understand circumstances are different for everyone). If a person entered into a relationship with us after we were ill, then they did sign up for it, but more than likely they failed to realize to what extent their lives would change (i.e. they didn’t read the fine print on the contract they were signing).

Upon entering into a relationship with a severely ill individual, it is likely they did not deeply understand their weekends of partying would turn into repeated movie nights spent in bed with us, which can be great and surely was the first ten times. Eventually, though, after the fiftieth time their friends have called them to invite them to go out and do something on a Friday or Saturday night and they have to say no, they begin to feel nostalgic for their old lives.

You know, the same ones we are guilty of sometimes, if not many times, feeling nostalgic for ourselves? Their holidays also change. The countdown at 11:59 on New Years Eve turns into the the sound of the paramedics counting the chest compressions as they give us CPR, the midnight kiss into watching as another places their lips upon ours in an effort to help us breathe again. When the 4th of July rolls around, there is only the prison of having to stay in with us because the lights and noises of fireworks are too stimulating and put us at risk of flaring or having seizures.

Unless they can turn that prison into a haven of love, which is just as much our responsibility as it is theirs, then they are likely to flee. It is sad, and yes it is uncompassionate. However, it would be just as passionless for us to fail to have the compassion to understand this fact. Of course, it may take months, years or even decades for us to do so depending on the nature of the relationship we lost. The important thing is that we do in fact find it in ourselves to do so, though.

We are deserving of love, and so are the people who have hurt us, no matter how greatly. As long as we harbor negative feelings towards our exes for hurting us in the past, we are unable to fully love ourselves or others and we ultimately end up doing to ourselves the very thing we are so angry at them for doing to us -we end up hurting ourselves.

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