3 Ways My Boyfriend Copes With My Chronic Illnesses


When people learn I am in a relationship, whether they verbally express it or not, there’s usually a sense of curiosity in how my boyfriend and I maintain a “normal” relationship amongst all the chaos of weekly infusions, bad days, pain, good days, low energy, and limited mobility because of my chronic illness experience. Not to mention owning and operating “Spoonie Essentials Box,” the company I started to send monthly pick me up card packages to my fellow chronic illness fighters.

I talked with my boyfriend and asked him to think about things he does different within our relationship in comparison to his previous relationships. He then told me what he does to cope with my chronic illnesses and what he does to support me as I manage living with them myself.

He gave me three things he focuses on to be a better, practical supporter, while loving me with chronic illness. But he also sheds light on how he copes with the things I go through. To give you a more complete picture, I’ve included my responses and how the things he does help me to cope with my illness on an individual level as well as within our relationship.

Me: So lover, what things do you feel you do to better support me as a chronic illness patient warrior? Is it hard dating someone with chronic illness? I’m definitely posting this, just so you know.

1. Patience

Him: For the most part I try and be very patient with you. At first I didn’t know how too because I didn’t really understand. But after I Googled the different illnesses you have, I realized you needed your own time to process stuff. Especially after doctor’s appointments or not so good news.

It’s hard for me as a man because I want to protect you and keep you from harm, but when you’re body is the one hurting you, I feel helpless. Instead I just try to do what I can, like not taking you out to dinner to unhealthy places or stay up and talk until 3 a.m. I don’t feel I can do much, but do what I can and what you allow me to do.

britt renee and boyfriend

Me: I think it’s been a challenge for me ever since my diagnosis to really be “OK” with certain things, especially the limitations I now currently have, so I really appreciate when you are patient with me. I hate having to ask you for help, like packing my Spoonie Essentials Boxes, but I’m learning that’s what partnership is. You take the time to try and understand where I’m coming from or level with me by finding something in your own life to relate too. I think this help me feel like though you don’t feel it, see it, or even get it you’re making an effort to empathize with me. I love that!

2. Being There

Him: I try and spend as much time with you as I can. I know you’re lonely and going to all those appointments alone is hard. I feel like shit knowing that you’re getting chemo by yourself. But focusing on what I can’t change only makes things worse for both of us. It’s important for me to be physically there for you when I can, which is not as much as I like, but I will always be there for you no matter what happens between us.

I think as a man it’s different because typically you want to take your girl places and do things with her, but you’ve taught me it’s not about what you do – it’s about who you are with.

Me: I really do appreciate the time we spend together, but I really love how “our version” of quality time is accommodating to my physical needs. Sometimes I worry I bore you or my tremors freak you out, but you being physically present and just supporting me means a whole lot. I feel bad when you want to talk and really want to know how I’m feeling, but sometimes it’s just nice that you’re there – whether we speak at all. I feel like you are in solidarity with me and just being there let’s me know I’m not alone in my fight. Not just metaphorically, but literally having some by my side.

3. Support Versus Scolding

Him: The hardest part for me is supporting you, but not scolding you for some of your unhealthy habits, like eating Rite Aid’s Mint ‘N Chip ice cream, or your obsession with root beer. I learned when to pick my battles though. At the end of the day I just care about if you eat, if you take your meds, if you sleep, and if you stay healthy. You know that! I don’t want to be a dick, but sometimes I feel I want to remind you that it’s bad for you. Then I realize that maybe the ice cream and root beer are comforts or something, so I’ve let it go.

Me: Ha ha. Awwww, I love you. I know you do and I know it’s annoying that I complain about hurting but sometimes do stuff that makes me hurt. I’ll get better with time. This one is probably the biggest for me. Adjusting my life. Changing my habits. Learning about my illnesses. These are all things I’m constantly working on. Having your partnership, rather than feeling like a small aged child, is priceless. I always know in my heart you mean well, but I rebel – often just craving independence of my former life.

So there you have it – three tips from the amazing man in my life, which may help you better support your chronic illness partner in your relationship.

All in all, him and I agree that operating from a space of love, understanding, and care will help everything else fall into place. If you always remember that both you and your partner are coming from a place of love, you’ll be able to tackle anything that comes with the chronic illness experience, life, or relationships in general.

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