My Partner Is Not a 'Saint' for Dating Someone With Chronic Illness
My boyfriend is an incredible man. I love him deeply and truly for countless reasons. I won’t go into all of them here because, well, let’s face it – it’s dull if you don’t know him, or me, and its often borderline vomit-inducing hearing flowery protestations of love, whether you know the couple involved or not.
So, yes, he’s wonderful and I love him, but like every other entity on this planet we inhabit, he’s no saint. He has flaws as we all do, whether we care to admit it or not.
But being my partner, he also experiences all the ups and downs of my illness by my side. Not always literally by my side of course; although I did ask them to build an extension big enough for two on those MRI machines, but they said the NHS deemed it “unnecessary.” So, you can’t have everything.
The issue I often find frustrating when I read articles about men and women who “care” for those of us with chronic illnesses and disabilities (and I’ve written many myself), is that we are somehow expected to feel this unyielding gratitude for them simply sticking around. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for every ounce of patience my partner has and everything he does for me without even giving it a second thought, but I am not a “lesser being” simply because of the hand I’ve been dealt. I also can’t spend my entire life feeling unworthy of their love and time.
We are still individuals, still valid, still worthy of love.
There is a consensus that the partners of disabled and/or chronically ill people are somewhat saintly. They are patient, put their partner’s needs before their own and sacrifice so much to care for their incapable partner. They do so much, they are so considerate! They are the kings and queens of the thankless task!
OK, so my tongue is in my cheek here and I’m by no means mocking my own partner or the partners of my sick friends, but let’s take a minute to break this thought process down. When you put my partner on a pedestal for all he does despite having a sick girlfriend, how do you think that might make me feel?
Here’s a clue – terrible.
When you praise my partner for his bravery in the face of my illness, for his selflessness in being partner to a “sick girl,” it serves to rationalize the worst of my fears. Those feelings of lacking in self-worth that I must push to the back of my mind every day just to feel halfway decent about myself. It confirms that I am indeed viewed as a burden upon my sweet love, that he would soar higher were I not in the picture dragging him down with my wasting body. I know these are unfounded, at least for us; I know he sees beyond my condition and loves me with it or without. We don’t need anyone to tell us his, or my, or our lives would be easier without it in the picture; we already know.
What we do need, what many people with chronic illness need, is for their partner to be their partner and not always automatically considered a “carer.” We need to feel as equals in everything. We need to maintain a balance – what I am unable to do he covers, and vice versa.
I have a chronic illness; I am still the woman he fell for and he the man I did. Don’t assume our roles because of your own imagined norms. And don’t assume he is a saint amongst men; you have no idea how often I almost fall down the toilet thanks to his laidback attitude about putting the seat down.
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Thinkstock photo via Ivanko_Brnjakovic.