We all have certain expectations from our marriage, and generally they follow along a similar vein. We vow to love one another in sickness and in health, without really considering quite what that means. Sickness, after all, comes with old age. Before that we have years to plan a family, to travel the world, to learn about each other.
What happens when that simple plan changes? How do you think you could cope when your partner’s health becomes a key factor in your relationship, and your entire future.
When I was diagnosed with serious illnesses, just a short time into my married life, the vows my husband and I made had a much more immediate and life-changing reality.
Here, in a letter to my husband, I want to explain just how deeply one person’s care can matter.
There are so many moments, so many opportunities, for you to tell me that you’re angry, that you feel burdened by my chronic illnesses. You’d be justified in doing so. I know more than anyone the pressure these illnesses have on you. Yet with every change, you, my husband, have never once spoke about the unfairness, the unjustness that has been thrown upon you.
When we married at 21, we never thought we would be here just four and a half years later. What 26 year old has four chronic illnesses and widespread pain coursing through her body like a cancer? Who would have thought that we would ever be living this life. Yet here we are.
The burdens you have carried, those thoughts I am sure have harboured inside of you, are left unspoken. The emotions I know you must be feeling never spill over.
You have had to walk away from countless job opportunities for me – because the pay wasn’t enough for my medical expenses; because we would have to change to an insurance with worse coverage; because you would be gone too much and I needed you with me; because you would have had to take me away from my family, my support system.
You turned away without a word. And you did it all for me. Never once have you complained.
When you cannot buy what you desire, you don’t blame it on me. I can’t work in my current condition, yet you don’t lash out or treat me like I am a burden to you. You take care of me. You love me. You nurture me. Not once in our marriage have you ever made me feel less important, or less of an equal.
Unlike normal couples, we can only eat out sparingly at restaurants because of my gastroparesis (a rare disorder that causes stomach paralysis). We don’t get to have regular date nights or enjoy each other’s company outside of the confines of our house. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for you.
Your youth has been taken away from you. You cannot even take your wife on a date, yet you never say a word about how this affects you. You only care how it is affecting me.
When I’m hurting, you warm up my heating pad. When I’m feeling sick, you play copious amounts of Mario Party with me to cheer me up, my favourite game. You run to the store and buy me anything I want because you know I need to eat. You ask me how I’m feeling even if you already know the answer. You’re invested in my health, my well-being.
Even though I seem like a hopeless cause, you never treat me like one. While you love me and care for me, you never treat me like a patient, but always your wife. While you may be gentler with me, your feelings and actions towards me are the same as the day I married you.
We can’t travel extensively like others. Everywhere we go I must lug dozens of bottles of pills with me. But you never complain the inconvenience or limitation.
You don’t care that I can’t always cook for you, even when I am home all day long, because I am feeling too sick and weak. It doesn’t bother you that some days you are forced to eat cereal.
You help me stay on my diet, remind me of the foods that are best for me and ensure I feel the least amount of pain possible.
In short, you care so much about me you sacrifice taking care of yourself.
I feel that I cannot pull my weight in our relationship. It is always you who misses out on those things we should be pursuing while we are young. It is always you who has to make sacrifices and change your life for me. Yet you never say a word. You never complain.
You are the most selfless, loving person I know and I am so blessed beyond measure to be married to someone as devoted to me as you are. For all of the words you have left unspoken, I thank you.
You make me feel wanted. You make me feel desired. You make me feel capable. You don’t make me feel less of a person, less of a wife, useless. Even though I often think these things about myself, you remove all of my fears and doubts with your loving eyes and your compassionate concern.
I know our lives are not like that of other 26 year olds. But our love runs deeper because of it. Our time together is more precious. The days where I feel better and we are together mean more than they ordinarily would.
Most couples don’t have the pleasure of knowing whether their spouse will stay with them no matter what, but I do, beyond a doubt.
You have shown, time and again, that through sickness and health, for better or for worse, you will stand by my side. For that, you will never know how grateful I am.