I sometimes wonder how my boyfriend and I manage to maintain a “normal” relationship. Between the angry days, bad days, pain days, the can’t be bothered to do anything days, it can leave little time for the good days. There are so many things that I wish we didn’t have to go through, so many things I wish he didn’t have to do for me, but in a twisted way, it has brought us closer together.
Some days I really struggle to accept that anyone would want to be in a relationship with someone who has as unpredictable health as I have. It requires a lot of time and effort to control from both myself and from those around me. More often than not, I can’t get my head around the fact that my boyfriend has stuck by me when I have been on death’s door and that he isn’t scared away by my chronic illness.
Although I’m lucky to have the most supportive boyfriend, our relationship doesn’t come without so many ungraceful truths and quite frankly, some truly disgusting things that most couples would never have to worry about in their lives. Everyone gets sick from time to time, but I can’t begin to imagine how frustrating it must be put up with your partner being constantly poorly or in need of attention. In spite of this, there is not a minute of the day where he isn’t there for me and I’m forever grateful of that.
There are so many examples in every day where our relationship is unconventional, but luckily for me, I am in a position where even the worst of things doesn’t seem to bother him. I’m not particularly comfortable with sharing how vulnerable my illness can make me, but I have decided that sharing my experiences can let others know that they are not the only one whose relationship is not all glitz and glamour.
Below I have listed some of the biggest struggles of being in a relationship with a chronic illness, as well as some of the most ungraceful truths. It feels difficult to admit that some of these are a reality, but I’m hoping by doing so people become more understanding and aware of how challenging it can really be.
- It can be difficult to keep chronic illness from being the boss of the relationship – a lot of days are a write off due to exhaustion/being symptomatic and plans are sometimes forced to be cancelled. Things you look forward to can be ruined because of feeling ill and it often feels like the illness is ruling life for you both.
- Intimacy can sometimes be impossible – when being intimate with another person, the last thing you want is to throw up or pass out. This has happened on many occasions and is one of the most unglamorous aspects of our relationship. Being unwell can also put you off of wanting to be intimate at all, which is of course hard for the other person and can make them feel unloved.
- Arguments about the illness happen very often- dealing with an illness feels like a complete loss of control. It leads to uncertainty from both people in the relationship and can cause arguments over what care is best. It can be hard to express how one is truly feeling and this can put a strain on a relationship.
- Your priorities as a couple are forced to change- knowing about the illness and its progression can mean that life objectives and goals have to be re-jigged. Knowing that having a baby sooner or travelling the world sooner would be healthier can change the path originally focussed on taking. It can be difficult to deal with the scary facts of what the future may hold for you both.
- Having to show a vulnerable side- this has probably been the hardest part of letting another person into my life. Never would I have thought that I would literally be throwing up into my partner’s hands on multiple occasions and not being embarrassed by it. There are so many things which a few years ago I would be horrified to have known I would be doing. I have to let my boyfriend shave my legs, wash me, wake up to me being sick, stay awake for hours when I’m ill in the night, take me to hospital appointments, help me with treatments. I’ve had to allow a side of me which I never thought I would open up to anyone.
To me, these are the most prominent ways in which my illness affects our relationship. Although there are so many struggles, we somehow manage to have an amazing bond with each other and at the end of the day, my chronic illness is not ever going to get in the way of that.