There is a lot of talk about marriage. Books outline how to have good ones. Articles sum up everything that is wrong and right about the entire “institution”. Workshops are filled with people trying to find better ways to be married. Counselor offices are filled with people trying to stay married.

I hear a lot about give and take, balancing the scales, and toeing the line of dependence and independence.

A sentiment struck me particularly hard this week. It was that people, through the guise of relationships, use one another.

When this particular bit of naively-developed ethos is pointed at the life of someone with a chronic illness, it can reflect what looks like the truth, but is in fact, the opposite.

My marriage, from the outside, looks to be the least fair of any I know.

Doug works. I stay home. We don’t have children. I still need help with chores. I require quite a bit of attention and assistance. He seemingly, gets very little in return.

He supports every aspect of my life. I’m not independent. I can’t be on my own. If he left me, I would have to go and live with my family and then, in the harsh light of “reality” I would just be someone else’s problem.

But our lives aren’t like that. There are no scales to balance in our marriage. There are no check sheets of give and take. Though it may not mean much to others he relies on me in a way that can’t be seen. He expects me to be every bit his wife as he is my husband. That is the only requirement in our relationship; that we both show up.

When I asked Doug if he felt as if I used him, he was confused. He was also angry. Not at me, but at the idea. What could I possibly be using him for? Great wealth? Influence? He has reminded me that he has neither and that if we were going off of looks, it would be him marrying up and not me.

Use implies a selfish center. I want something that you can give me. Certainly we all want love and support and everything that goes along with a relationship. But selfishness does not lead to the sacrifices required by genuine love.

Doug has put pills into my lifeless mouth and helped me swallow. He has taken showers with me just to be certain I didn’t fall down. He has rerouted conversations to avoid topics he knows will trigger me. He has worked jobs he hated to make sure I was taken care of. He has dressed me. He has sat through lecture after lecture from my doctor on how to best care for me.

From the outside, it looks like I am a leech.

The truth is that if Doug wanted to leave, he could. It happens all the time. But to him, I’m neither a burden nor a disappointment. I’m not a sick person, I’m his wife, however “unfair” that looks.

When you are chronically ill it is easy to see yourself as a burden on your caretakers. But you aren’t. The simple truth, is that if they didn’t want to care for you, they would simply leave.

It does help if you caretakers would remind us sick people every once in a while of that fact.

advice, anxiety, Boundaries, C-PTSD, care giving, caregivers, chronic fatigue, chronic illness, comfort, complex trauma, courage, depression, healing, husband, invisible illness, love, marriage, mental illness, mental illness unfiltered, PTSD, relationships, rethink trauma, special needs, spoonie, suffering, therapy, Trauma