How My Wife's Chronic Pain Made Our Marriage Stronger

I’ve loved her most of my life.

We met not long after high school where an interest in science put us both at Columbia Presbyterian (as it was known then). We fell for each like young people do. Some of the most magical days of my life.

We moved in together during college and married a few years later. We were young. We traveled. We loved each other fearlessly. Then one day I noticed her walking around with her arms crossed. I thought she was angry with me.

When I asked she said, “I’m not mad, this is just more comfortable,” and indicated to a pain in her neck. That was about 30 years ago.

That pain never left her again. It’s been there since that day. No days off. None. Not one. It’s been about 11,000 days now, and it’s never been less than it had been that day.

When we fell in love and when we got married we had every expectation of a long, happy, healthy life. Dreams of a house, maybe in another state. Dreams of kids, a dog, of going on adventures. We expected we would always be free and healthy, willing and able to live our dreams out loud.

And we have! Our love has survived dark patches we could never have anticipated. But the expectations we had in our 20s had to be cashed in for trigger point injections, nerve ablations and out of pocket costs. Our dreams had to change to accommodate pain, an inability to physically exert, and a subsequent deficit of spirit and will.

We never expected this. We never gave permission. We couldn’t imagine the challenges life would hand us. It wasn’t part of the plan.

But something beautiful happened along the way.

We learned how to roll with the punches. We learned that, if we could be honest with each other about pain levels, or crushing disappointments, agree to carry the unexpected burden according to our strengths, and be flexible when needed – we learned how to live with the uninvited guest.

Neither of us likes to even think it, but, the chronic pain that became a part of her and a part of us, may have unexpectedly tested our bond and made it stronger. I know it doesn’t always work out that way for people, and we’d trade it away for a pain free life in a heartbeat but…as I lie here writing and she sleeps quietly beside me, all I can feel is gratitude. I’m thankful that we found each other, grew together, overcame, struggled, compromised, sometimes won and sometimes lost…but we did it together.

Getty Image by Tanom

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