My Partner Is Not a Martyr for Getting Married to Someone With a Disability
Tomorrow is Ed’s and my second anniversary of dating. We met on Tinder. Our first date was mini-golfing, and in 15 months from now we will be married. I’ve had a lot of time to think and reflect about our relationship as it has grown and changed with all of life’s ups and downs.
Often in society we see the story of the able-bodied person taking a disabled person to prom. We’re told that the disabled person is lucky because they are undesirable, unwanted and without worth. I have seen how this societal belief has translated into disabled individuals being in toxic relationships because someone, anyone is willing to pay attention to them. Ed has never once made me feel like an inconvenience. He hates seeing me sick, will feel helpless when he can’t fix anything and I never once question his love for me. Our niece loves to point out how kind he is. I love him more than I’ve ever loved anyone before, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that on top of that amazing personality and caring heart, I won the complete jackpot because he is handsome!
Ed and I are a fantastic team. We both have our faults and our flaws, and our strengths balance this out. We also are communicative enough to know where our struggle points are so the other can step in to help. Needing help is never seen as failing. We don’t hold each other to impossible standards. He made a choice to be with me. I made a choice to be with him.
Partners of disabled individuals are not martyrs. He is not sacrificing his happiness to be with me during a hospitalization. The last time I was hospitalized, he stayed in my room for three days straight to experience firsthand what it’s like to be a chronically ill patient who doesn’t get the option to just leave after visiting hours are over. He experienced the claustrophobia of an empty room and the isolation, something that has been just a part of my life since childhood. We work together during these times.
The challenge of me being sick is really no different than the challenge of him dealing with recent unemployment. We’re dealing with life. Someone suggested I need a break because he lost his job, but never asked me how he was doing. Having no concern if he’s even OK is a continuation of this flawed logic that one partner is a martyr for being there for the other. When he hurts, I hurt. The same could be said for offering prayers and support to him without even asking if I’m OK. We both need some kind of restorative time (and soon) because we all reach moments in life where a lot of adversity becomes overwhelming, and self-care is imperative to keep on going. We’re already looking at how to get some restorative time in once I’m doing better.
It hurts us both to see the other struggle or in pain. To have others only show support for one partner doesn’t feel like much support at all. It just makes us sad that concern is being placed for whomever is seen as “better off” at the current moment without regard to the whole picture. Love isn’t suffering. We’re glad we found each other. Life is bumpy and the kind words and encouragement sent for both of us have been helpful beyond measure.
It’s gotten to the point where we’ve asked people who know us to please refrain from reaching out to express support if they can only be supportive of the partner who isn’t facing direct challenges. We’re preemptively trying to stop things that only end up hurtful to us both. One of us is not being a more sacrificial or better person in our relationship. We’re just living our lives the best we know how.
One of the most important points of focus while getting through these challenges (my health issues, his recent job loss, trying to teach our 1-year-old pug/beagle mix named Eleanor to roll over) is assuring that each of us is being supported and respected the same.
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