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I Didn't 'Settle' for a Husband With a Disability

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When I tell people my husband is disabled, I usually get a quick, emotional response. I get sympathy. I get pity. I get judgment. I get people who think, poor woman, she has such a burden, to care for her husband.  I get people who think, wow, she must be a saint for selflessly choosing a disabled person as her spouse.  I get my mother, who didn’t want me marrying someone who “couldn’t be strong for me,” who may not be able to be a reliable provider. I get people who wonder, why would she choose to be weighed down by someone who is sick?

There are a lot of problems with these responses. One is that when people hear “disability,” they seem to assume someone who is unable to care for himself and can give little to a relationship. That is a very narrow definition of disability, and in this case it is wrong. Along with this comes the idea that I am the caregiver for my husband, which is also incorrect.

My biggest issue, though, is the idea that I “settled” for someone with a disability. They assume that my husband is less than other people due to his disability. This is an offensive view. And it is completely wrong.

I never “settled” for my husband. My husband is brilliant, funny, honest, loyal, thoughtful, creative, and passionate. He has an endless supply of knowledge and he is becoming a very good cook. He is a great listener. He recently got his teaching license and is naturally gifted as a teacher. He also has numerous chronic physical conditions. This is just part of him. I see him for the person he is. I love him. And loving him doesn’t mean I love part of him and ignore or forgive the rest. No, I simply love him.

I do worry about my husband. I worry about how many years we will have together. I know that realistically I will likely live longer than he does. But I try to stay in the moment and enjoy the time we have.

I do see his weaknesses, but beyond his weaknesses I see such strength.  I see the child who survived a series of life-threatening surgeries growing up, to remove lymphangioma infections related to his KTS (Klippel Trenaunay syndrome). I see the young man whose spine, bent due to severe scoliosis, was nearly crushing his organs, and had still more surgeries while in high school. I see the adult who has survived two episodes of respiratory failure, along with managing a severe respiratory problem that came mysteriously and has no name. I see a man who battles chronic pain and fatigue.

So many everyday things are hard for him. Yet he fights through the pain, the fatigue, and the respiratory condition. He teaches full-time, experiments with new recipes in the kitchen, plays in a pinball league, goes out with friends, and spends time in nature. He does so many things. I see someone who is extremely strong and resilient.

My husband is one of those amazing people who seems to be content in nearly any circumstance. He is good at riding the waves of life and seeing humor in difficult situations. He battles so many obstacles every day. Still he finds joy.

No, I didn’t settle for a husband with a disability. I was blessed with an amazing man who is more than I could have ever expected. He is so good to me. I have chronic mental illnesses. I know I’m not always easy to love. But my husband shows his love to me every day. And I know that a man who has survived all the surgeries, infections, respiratory failures, hospital stays, and the bullying and abuse of a world that mocks people with disabilities… I know this man is more than able to handle whatever the world might throw at us.

I didn’t settle. I found a man stronger than anyone I have ever met. Every night I lie in bed and trace the scars on his back, amazed that he has survived so much, and grateful that he’s mine.

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Originally published: April 4, 2017
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