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Me, My Partner and My Illness: A Difficult Threesome

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I want to start this by saying I am ridiculously in love with my boyfriend of almost four years and he is the greatest rainbow by far I have in my life. However, lately overwhelming feelings of guilt have been impacting my relationship with him. Guilt that stems purely from my illness.

I have always been such a strong and independent girl who is now learning to rely on others for things I’ve done for myself for as long as I can remember. Life is not as simple as meeting my needs or wants with a simple solution. Take hunger for example – if I am hungry, it’s not as simple as cooking myself a meal or driving to the store to get food. For one, I can’t drive the majority of the time. I also can’t really prepare anything on my own and lastly I have no money to buy food if I can get transport. It is such a simple need I can no longer independently meet but makes a drastic impact on my life and especially my relationship.

It’s 7:00 p.m. and my partner has just returned home from a 12-hour day at work (as a chef, may I add). I’m hungry because chances are, I haven’t been able to organize food on my own. It’s late, he’s tired, isn’t hungry and definitely doesn’t feel like cooking after doing so all day. It’s not his fault I haven’t eaten today, but still I plead with him to organize dinner for me. We often break out into an argument because yes, I should have thought about today’s meals yesterday when he could have helped me, but I didn’t and that’s on me. We get so frustrated because of my inability to provide for myself and because my lack of initiative to organize food ahead of time leaves me hungry and very irritable – hangry, as we call it. I feel I have become less of his girlfriend and more of his responsibility and I hate it.

When I first fell ill and we (my doctors and I) suspected it to be multiple sclerosis, I told my boyfriend he had a “free pass” to break it off with me then and there because our lives were about to change drastically and I didn’t want him to have to sacrifice his well-being for me. His once healthy, fit, fun girlfriend was fading away and he deserved to have someone who is those things. We cried and cried and talked it over seriously for hours – what this would mean for our finances, our future children and our livelihood. We talked about it all. He (so beautifully) promised we could make it work and he loved me and no illness could change that.

But of course, my illness hasn’t changed everything. He still loves me unconditionally and makes that very clear to me every day, but I can’t help but feel guilty. I feel guilty for the income we have lost. The extra financial pressure he has had to carry because of my illness is so unfair. I feel guilty for the adventures we once planned that we may never get to do. I feel guilty for my exhaustion making me moody and unkind towards him. I feel guilty that we decline outings that once made us so happy. I feel guilty that he has to go out alone or come home early when I am unwell. I feel guilty that I do not have the energy to even “starfish” for the night.

I carry this guilt with me every day, even though I know it’s not my fault. He doesn’t deserve this, but I also know I do not deserve it either. Still, I can’t seem to shake this guilt. We did not ask for this, we were not prepared for this. My illness has taken a serious toll on my relationship and I hate it more than anything. We are 21 and 22 and should be in the prime of our lives but instead we are burdened by my illness and held back from living the life we dreamed of, and this just breaks my heart.

I often get frustrated with him because he doesn’t understand and sometimes says things that upset me, or he tries to push me too hard when I’ve reached my limits, but he is trying and for that I love him even more. I forget that while he doesn’t understand my struggles, I also can’t understand his. It is so hard to be as sick as I am but it must be just as hard to learn how to cope and respond to my sickness from such a personal perspective. I forget that while I am learning how to adjust to my “new normal,” so is he. It is a change we both must experience and learn as we go. There is no “how to date a sick girl – for dummies” (if there is, please mail me a copy) so we are both fumbling through this new life we have had thrust upon us. It can’t be easy on him, so I must learn to be more patient. This is a journey for both of us, not just me.

This is something I often struggle with and I get caught up in the way I feel and the way this is impacting my life. His life is also impacted majorly by this and he deserves way more credit than I give him. Honestly, he is the best kind of man. He is doing more than I could ever ask of anyone and doesn’t ever ask for recognition. He is carrying me, both literally and metaphorically, through this journey and I absolutely could not do it without him.

No relationship will ever be perfect and no couple survives without the occasional argument. At the end of the day we are just like any other couple – just with different issues. I am so fortunate to have such a beautiful man who loves me for me. I may carry this guilt forever but it will never triumph over our incredible relationship and love we have for another.

This post originally appeared on Finding Rainbows in the Dark.

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Originally published: May 23, 2017
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