HC – My friend Amy shares weekly for ‘Transparency Tuesday’ about her chronic illness and how it affects her life. Recently I was completely inspired by her thoughts on marriage and I think you will be also. So here, in her own words, is Amy:
After hearing from several of you, I’ve discovered that not many of you know what my illness actually is. I’m sorry to have been cryptic. That was not my intent. My physicians (plural – goodness there are many) are still trying to nail down exactly what it is that is going on in my body. For some people illness and the diagnosis of that illness is straightforward. Not for me.
For now, they are calling it Connective Tissue Disease. Most likely either Lupus or Dermatomyositis. Or both. I also have been diagnosed with things like: inflammatory arthritis, Fibromyalgia, a bleeding disorder of the kidney called Loin Pain Hematuria, Celiac disease, anemia, and have had acute bouts of everything from Pancreatitis to Bronchitis.
My kidney is fussy and my lungs are weak because my brain does not tell my body to take deep breaths. My joints hurt and swell and my muscles are weak. I have medically-induced compromised immunity. I take all kinds of pills that include chemotherapy medications, immune suppressants, and sometimes steroids. I have a hard time swallowing and sometimes I have severe abdominal pain. I am so very, very, very tired. And, for some silly reason, I can’t be in the sun. Sometimes, if I spend just 5 minutes too long out in that beautiful world, my eyes swell completely shut and blisters erupt on my face.
But, even with all that we know, it is still somewhat of a mystery what is causing all of this. If it sounds scattered and shifty, that is because it is – disease, like so many dark things, likes to hide in the shadowy places.
I tell you this because most of you won’t ask out loud, but a brave few have let me know that you all really want to know.
You are precious and don’t want to impose or be nosy. I get that. But it might help you to know what I am actually dealing with day to day. So, there you have it!!
Now, breathe… The second part of today’s post is about marriage.
Specifically, marriage through the crisis of illness. Lots of you have asked how Aaron and I have maintained our relationship through this trial. Our journey begins with fierce loyalty and a deep belief in God and each other.
But further, day to day things to do for a healthy, thriving marriage when one partner is facing an illness, are as follows:
1. Remember that it is the two of you – together – against the world. Fight as a team. Remember that the illness is NOT your (or your spouse’s) fault. Do not allow yourselves to be fooled into thinking that it is somehow the other person’s issue alone. The only way to fight an intruder like this is to team-up. Strength comes through partnership.
2. Talk. Talk again. And when you think you’re done, talk some more. I’m not even kidding. Share your pain and fear and anger and frustration. Share also the good, the funny, the mundane. Talk about the medicine, the tests, and also the weather, the news, the garden or the kids. Don’t occupy your entire life with discussing your illness, but know that it is a very real, very encompassing presence. You will be scared. You will be mad. You must talk about it! Graciously share your heart with vulnerability. Intimacy comes through talking.
3. Listen. Always listen with the intent to learn how to better love each other. Even when your spouse goes on and on and on about the same tired thing. Consider that each time they share a piece of their story, they are sharing a piece of themselves. Gently receive that gift and honor it. Even when it is hard to hear. Growth comes through listening.
4. Resolve conflict. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. I really mean that. We have practiced this in our marriage and it has served us very well. (Give each other room when necessary to process, of course, but ALWAYS come back together). Be relentless in your pursuit of resolution. If you don’t talk things through to resolution (each admitting your own fault and resolving together to do better next time) – every.single.time.- then you will NEVER experience the beauty of forgiveness and the power of change. Unresolved issues become landmines. Health comes through resolution.
5. Speak well of each other and keep confidences. To the best of your ability, always lift up your spouse to others, including your children. In addition, make certain that you do not share information that is not yours to share. This is tricky with illness because you will get lots of questions. Find your own balance here. Loyalty is a purchased commodity and the only way to buy your spouse’s is with trust. Trust that you will not betray them through actions or words. Trust that you will be kind to them and kind when speaking about them. Loyalty comes through trust.
6. Cliff-dive together. You will reach times when you, as a chronic illness sufferer, will take a trip off of the emotional cliff. You will lose it. It is ok. It happens. This stuff is hard. But remember, it is much easier to climb back up the hill to sanity and peace when you are not climbing alone. Take the journey together and hand-in-hand return to a place of strength. Strength comes through togetherness.
7. Play. Have fun and enjoy something (or several somethings) that will remind you that you are a whole person, despite your disease. We like to cook together, taste wine, watch funny movies, cuddle and read good books. Whatever it is, remember that YOU are whole and worthy to live life! You are valuable and you have much to offer, even though you live in a broken body. Joy comes through (really) living.
8. And finally, or rather, most importantly, keep the faith. Remain in hope. Pray consistently. Be part of a community of faith. Be patient with each other and trust in the Lord. Wholeness comes through faith.
When you decide to come together in marriage and you utter the words, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” you hope and pray that it won’t come to that. But often it does. It takes hard work and dedication to remain true to your promise. But the payoff is amazing. Someone who walks with you through your darkest hour. A strong shoulder and kind, warm arms that give you just enough to keep fighting.
Pour lavishly into your relationship. Only then will you be able to drink deep when you’re dry and thirsty. – Amy