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5 Ways My Partner Supports My Illness By the Things He Doesn’t Do

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In the five years since I learned I have an autoimmune disease, my husband has done many wonderful things to make me feel supported. As I was reflecting on this recently, I realized an important part of his support actually comes from things he doesn’t do. Here’s a list:

1. He doesn’t make negative comments about the state of our home, even when it’s a complete mess. This matters because on the days when I can’t manage to stay on top of the most basic housekeeping, I already feel like a failure, and I can’t imagine having to cope with my partner seeing me that way too. Equally important, he’s quick to show appreciation when I accomplish a task, no matter how small. He thanks me for taking care of the dishes and the laundry. To a healthy person, this might seem silly. They may even as, “So we are now we’re handing out awards for dishes and laundry?” But for me, it’s exactly the encouragement I need. When I got married, I didn’t imagine I would be in a position where my husband would leave for work in the morning and I would stay behind. The adjustment has been difficult. More often than not, my sense of purpose feels like a kite torn apart by the wind. It helps that my husband values my contribution to our life because I often feel what I’m able to do simply isn’t enough. His attitude toward my abilities has taught me to focus on the things I can accomplish, and guess what? I’m a lot happier when I do.

2. He doesn’t depend on me to socialize or get upset when I need to cancel plans. My husband and I rarely spend time with friends as a couple. It’s not that we wouldn’t like to, it just doesn’t work that well. Eating out is complicated for me. Alcohol isn’t worth it, and staying up late is next to impossible. Not surprisingly, I don’t go out much, but I’m happy to report that my husband dines out, goes for drinks, and stays up late to play hockey on a regular basis. When we do make plans and I find myself unable to keep them, he doesn’t make a fuss. He knows that bailing is disappointing for me too and that I’m not just flaking out. His respect for my limits promotes my own respect for those boundaries.

3. He doesn’t make me feel guilty about napping. It’s embarrassing how often and how easily I fall asleep. Napping makes me feel lazy, and I’ve been called that for doing it. My husband accepts it as a normal part of my life with an autoimmune disease. It feels good to know there’s at least one person who understands it’s one of the many things I do to take care of myself.

4. He doesn’t criticize me for not showering, but he usually tells me my hair smells nice or something like that when I do. Not showering everyday is another embarrassing part of living with chronic illness. Thankfully, my husband understands that showering is a spoon and that if I didn’t shower, it means that I used that spoon for something else like walking our dog, or writing an article, or shoveling the sidewalk. It means a lot to me that my husband doesn’t judge the way I use my spoons.

5. He doesn’t expect me to be able to do something today because I was able to do it yesterday. He gets that there are good days, weeks, and months – and there are bad ones. There are days when I’m exhausted, in pain, and not able to think clearly – and there are days when I can do everything I did before, albeit for a shorter period of time (I’m still mourning the loss of that lovely thing called stamina). Not being able to manage a consistent workload has been one of the most frustrating aspects of chronic illness for me. It’s the reason I no longer have a traditional job, and the reason planning things is so difficult. It’s hard to accept your limitations when they keep changing. My husband’s acceptance of the fundamental unpredictability of my body makes me feel validated in a way that is rare and precious. Unfortunately, I live in a world that is quick to assume anything I do or have done is proof I really can’t be “that sick.” My relationship with my husband is a welcome shelter from this judgment.

I’m grateful for everything my husband does to help me, and just I’m just as grateful for the things he doesn’t do. It feels like I’m always fighting with my body, so it means the world that I don’t have to fight about it with my partner.

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Getty image by teksomolika

Originally published: April 5, 2023
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