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What It Means to Fall in Love With Someone Who's Chronically Ill

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It’s 1:30 p.m., and I’m hungry, which is understandable, because it’s almost lunch time. As I lie here in bed, in the middle of one of the worst flares ever, debating whether or not I really need to eat, my thoughts turn to my boyfriend (as they often do), hard at work a few neighborhoods over. I consider that it’s such a nice day out, and perhaps it would be lovely to do something together later. Nothing too active; maybe just a nice short walk in the Gardens, or a nice meal right here at my place. I’ll probably choose option two, consider that it’s probably only ten feet from my bed, and I can most likely make it there without my pulse and breathing rates increasing too much. In fact, in our relationship, this is pretty much the norm.

Because this is what it’s like being with someone who lives with a chronic illness. It’s severely limited. I marvel at the fact that he loves me and chooses to be with me in spite of my illness, and is willing to make accommodations so that I’m happy.

Falling in love with someone often means that you have to be prepared to — many times — put their needs above your own. That might mean not eating foods that you want to, or doing things you want to, because they physically can’t handle it. It might mean that you have to forego cuddling sometimes when their tactile allodynia flares up. Sometimes, it even means a decrease in sex drive. It’s not that they’re selfish. It’s just that, well, they’re sick.

Falling in love with someone who’s chronically ill can mean that your relationship won’t be as “adventurous” as you may want it to be, if that’s your sort of thing. There will be lots of quiet indoor time spent on the couch, and maybe short walks on good days, if they can make it. Unfortunately, this also means dates such as rock climbing, hiking and biking, or going for long, long drives, are often a big no. Make the best of it by making the most of good days. Cook together, or see a movie. Come up with ideas that can be done in the most comfortable environment for your partner. You can still have a lot of fun.

Falling in love with someone who’s chronically ill can mean being prepared to deal with the anxiety that most likely affects their mental state. It’s not that they’re trying to appear clingy or needy. It’s just that they may need reassurance that you’re safe, that you want to see them, that you still love them. Yes, things can get busy at work or when you’re involved in something else; they’re not asking for much — just a quick text.

Falling in love with someone who’s chronically ill means being prepared to offer the support they need when the rest of world doesn’t get them. There will probably be times when there are lots of tears of frustration, or those borne out of depression, and your soothing and comforting presence and words can do a world of good.

Falling in love with someone who’s chronically ill can mean celebrating accomplishments with them. It could be something that seems small, like the fact that they got out of bed today, or made it outside, or made it to an activity and survived being around other people for a few hours. Maybe they were able to wash their hair, or do the laundry, or cook a nice meal for you to share. Don’t brush the little things aside. Be happy for them, and mean it.

Falling in love with someone who’s chronically ill is not the worst thing you can do for yourself, but it can take mental preparation. However, being with someone who has a chronic illness can be rewarding, too. We’re just like everybody else who wants to love and be loved, and we cherish the ones who support and love us despite our physical and mental challenges.

When I think of how great my boyfriend is, what an understanding and supportive person he is, I just want to go out and buy him flowers and chocolates. In fact, you know what? I just might!

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Thinkstock photo by oneinchpunch

Originally published: April 27, 2017
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