Friday, June 11, 2010
Romantic Relationships and Chronic Illness: My Tips
Being in any kind of a relationship and creating a healthy bond is difficult when you are living with a chronic illness, but nurturing a long-term romantic relationship comes with its own set of unique challenges, especially when only half of the dynamic duo is diagnosed with a chronic condition.
The life of a chronic cutie is filled with ups and downs, and it is typical to experience more downs than ups for long periods of time. While we can be incredibly courageous, beautiful, compassionate, and wise beyond our years, we have the tendency to feel like "damaged goods" once one piece or many parts of our gorgeous bods seemingly turn against us. Enter a "normal" love interest into the equation, and the situation can become quite precarious, bubbling up feelings of inadequacy we never knew existed.
In marriages involving a chronic illness, the divorce rate is more than half, so how do we allow our relationships to survive and thrive when our main focuses are surviving and thriving as chronically ill individuals?
Become allies rather than enemies: Vows say "in sickness and in health" for a reason, and that is because when you enter into a MATURE marriage, you have created a partnership that is as much about emotions, passion, and love as it is about the intellectual commitment to stand by your partner's side through better and worse.
Become great communicators: Anger and resentment can eventually develop in your significant others, especially if they do not understand the ins and outs of your particular illnesses. He (using "he" because I am a straight woman) may never fully be able to comprehend the emotional and physical pain your illness presents with, but if he wants to learn, teach! Explain that there are periods of time when you may seem "fine," but that they do not last forever. Tell him EXACTLY what you need from him, and if he treats you with kid gloves, explain that you are still an adult that just needs a little help. If he loves you, he will understand. If he doesn't understand, he isn't the one for you. Your lover should get joy out of protecting you and providing for your family together, just as you will get joy out of nurturing and doing the same. If all those elements aren't present, move on. Whenever I feel nervous about marriage in my condition, my dad always says, "You are so much more than your illness. Your husband will love you because you are intelligent, beautiful, compassionate, etc." Thanks, dad!
Address depression and other mental health challenges: *As someone who suffered with and healed from reactive mental health challenges due to my RSD/CRPS, I am speaking from compassionate experience.* No matter how much someone loves you, there will come a time when your prolonged negative mental, emotional, and spiritual states will negatively affect them. They are only human. Think about it - how much do you love to be around someone 24/7 who is down all the time, even if you completely empathize and understand why they are presented with these challenges? We are all energy in motion, and our energies affect others. We can either bring their vibrations up, or suck them dry. If you are suffering from reactive mental health disorders due to a chronic physical illness, PLEASE ask for help. It could save your life, help heal your physical condition (or improve it at the very least), and save your relationship. We don't get prizes for suffering in silence.
Work to improve and maintain the highest quality of life possible for your condition: Basically, put in the effort, which will be different for everyone. Exercise, meditate, change your diet, pray, do affirmations, maintain a positive attitude, seek out professional help, etc. You'll want to do this for YOU, but it will help to improve and maintain any romantic relationship you enter into. If you aren't trying, why should he? Relationships are a joint effort, so you cannot expect him to do all of the work (and he cannot expect you to do all of the work).
How did I do? Any areas I didn't address? In future posts, I will write about dating and having a chronic illness, being intimate with your partner, etc. Let's cover all the topics. Let me know if you have any ideas!