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The Simple Way to Show Love to Someone With a Chronic Illness

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To be honest, there was a long time there when I didn’t think anyone would want to be with someone with as many health problems as I do. In my head, the justification just wasn’t working. I certainly didn’t want to deal with myself, so why would anyone choose to do so? It seems people still surprise you.

After having been in relationships while healthy and now while sick, there are some pretty glaring differences in what I need from my partner, a lot of which I didn’t even know until I realized he was already doing them.

I’ve read several great posts about this topic and rather than state the same things everyone else does, I’ve decided to just add a bit of my personal experience. So, here goes.

It’s the little things.

When I met my partner’s parents for the first time, I realized I had found someone special. One of the few “obvious” signs of my illness — lupus — is nerve damage and malfunction, most glaring being tremors and hand weakness. This sounds rather superficial until you can’t pour a glass of water for yourself or carry a steaming mug of something or try to eat soup. Then, it becomes challenging. In this particular instance, my nemesis was the salsa.

As Californians, my partner and I and both our families love breakfast burritos with plenty of salsa. Generally, this isn’t an issue because you usually get these little cups full of the stuff that you can pour. However, on this morning, we were at his parents’ house and we were using the dreaded bottled salsa. Fantastic, but requires either a spoon or a steady hand to pour from the heavy container. I was last to get the salsa bottle and sat there staring at it, trying to figure out how to pull this off, finally giving up and putting the bottle back in the middle of the table. At that point, my partner, mid-sentence, nonchalantly reached for the bottle and poured the green deliciousness on my burrito without missing a beat, continuing his story with nary a pause. Nobody noticed. He never even said anything about it later.

This cover-up behavior has continued throughout our entire relationship. If we are in a place where we serve ourselves, he always fills my plate before his own, making it seem chivalrous rather than the reality of the situation. Bottles are always handed to me opened, coffee poured and drinks carried to the table. He often grabs my hands and starts rubbing them to increase circulation. I have watched him notice I’m having a hard time coming up with words or some other joy of brain fog and completely take control of the conversation, steering everyone’s attention away from me while I recover.

Best of all, he does all this without making a big deal out of anything.

He’s never made me feel like any of it is him “being a good guy,” something I’ve experienced before. I’m sure everyone has dated that person who tries to come out as the saint who is with the sick one, this being one of the more degrading experience we often go through.

While this is in no way the only way he shows he cares, it was one of the first that really made me reconsider having a life with chronic illness.

So, the moral of the story? Do the small, thoughtful things for your partner that helps them function better in the world. We will appreciate them way more than any grand gesture.

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Originally published: April 6, 2019
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