Being in a relationship is difficult. Being in a relationship with someone who is ill can be extremely difficult. I know there must be many ways people have dealt with their relationships during a serious illness, this is how I chose to handle mine.
Many people thought since Ethan and I weren’t married that for some reason that gave me the ability to run from this if I choose. People who didn’t know me well would say things like “well your not married” and “you don’t have to take on this burden.”
I would think to myself, when did not being married give you the right to abandon people when they need you most. Since I am not married to my friends do I have the right to tell them to take a hike when they have a problem? Not a chance!
Anyone who knows me knows that I am fiercely loyal, almost to a fault. My high school girlfriend Stacey can attest to this, as it was HER boyfriend that I decided to attack and punch in the face when he called her names after school one day. Fearless I am, but also very protective.
When Ethan was diagnosed, I never once thought to leave or run away. I guess I could have bought an Amtrak ticket out of here and never looked back. But really, who doesn’t look back? I wanted to be that person that I always promised him I would be, you know in sickness AND in health.
When we are in relationships we write cards, poems, love notes, and texts about how much we love the other person. We wax on about how much we are in love and how we would do anything for each other. Think about how many times in your romantic relationships you have said the words “I will always be there for you.” It’s easy to stick to that promise when things are good.
You never think that one day you might have to actually uphold that statement (and you married folks have to stand by those vows you made to each other). The time that tests truth and character and love is not when your significant other is happy and healthy; it’s when they are ill and you have to be there for them just as before, as well as in a brand new role, that of caretaker.
So this is my moment, this is every caretaker’s moment. To stand by your word and your love and be that rock your significant other needs.
Granted there is fear – there always is fear lurking around every corner trying to distract you.
One fear of mine was the fear of never getting the relationship back to the place it was. I do not want cancer to wound Ethan’s spirit for good – I won’t let it happen. The only way to make sure that your relationship continues to grow as the illness (hopefully) lessens is to maintain an extreme amount of honesty and communication. Usually as a caretaker the person we are tending to will be home a lot, so that means much more time together. Sometimes too much time – ha!
Hey, I’m just being honest. Being together all the time in a stressful environment can be overwhelming. How do I deal? I keep an open dialogue with Ethan; express how I feel even if I know he doesn’t want to hear it. It makes me feel good to vent, and I know secretly he is listening. I also make sure we do some of the same things we did before the illness crept up, things that made us happy.
For example, we went to the dog park a lot to relax and read the paper; I make sure we still do this now. Keeping some sort of normalcy is good, and healthy.
What it all boils down too is how much you are willing to give to get what you want. Sometimes the biggest reward comes after the most work.
Remember what a diamond looks like before it hits the stores, black and dusty. No one would ever think to pick it up, then after some cleaning a beautiful diamond emerges, a precious gift. Think of your relationship when your loved one is ill as that just discovered diamond, a bit tarnished but with some work the diamond will shine again.