Chronic Illness Changes the Perspective, Deepens the Commitment of Marriage

Rebecca Lidenberg avatar

by Rebecca Lidenberg |

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I’ve been married almost four years now. It’s not a long time in the grand aspect of marriage. When I met my husband, Matt, it was a connection I knew would last. When we started dating, I KNEW. I had always heard people say that “when you know, you know,” and I knew. He’s the best man I’ve ever met: Kind, caring, hilarious, spontaneous, forgiving, a hard worker. … I could go on, and on, and on.

But column this isn’t about every adjective that describes my husband. This is about what happens when you’re chronically sick (with pulmonary hypertension,) and married.

I got sick almost two years ago. A case of bronchitis that never went away led to me crashing, and burning. Long, sleepless nights spent in the ER, where Matt sat patiently by my bedside. Dozens of doctors’ visits. Test after test after test. Stress built. Work days went by in a zombie-like state. And he never complained. Not once.

Even when I got diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, he dnever wavered. He never questioned his love for me, even when we knew how difficult the future might be. He worked harder, helped more an loved me more. Honestly, how do you begin to thank someone for that?

How do you not drown in guilt when you know you cannot give your spouse the future he envisioned when he married you? How do you not beat yourself up, because sometimes you cannot help with household chores, and you know it’ll be up to them to do it even though they worked all day? How do you thank them for standing by you?

Marriage is about teamwork. When one teammate falls, the other one is there to catch them and pick up a little more slack. But what happens when one teammate is out of the game completely? What happens when it ALL comes to rest on the other one’s shoulders? There’s only so much stress a person can take, right?

When I was first diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, I was sure that our lives were ruined. I told Matt to leave me, to find someone healthy, and happy, someone who could give him a future like he always dreamed of. I didn’t want him to wake up in 10 years and be resentful. I never expected Matt to take this out I was giving him. In fact, he balked at the very notion that I would even bring it up. But I had to do it for me. I had to say those words. That I am not healthy. That I cannot give him the future we thought we’d have. I can’t do it, as much as I try. As much as I love him, we both know my outcome one day. We both know what this disease has in store for me.

We know it, he knows it, and he loves me anyway. He stands by me anyway. He goes to doctors’ appointments with me, has helped untangle my cords from heart monitors, has brought me my oxygen when I can’t get to it. He has refilled my dozens of medications, and sat by my bedside for hours when the ER is our only option. He didn’t marry me thinking this would be his future. But here he is, embracing this life we have together.

It hasn’t always been easy. You have to go through your grieving process, and men and women grieve very differently. And that’s okay. You have to allow yourself to feel how you feel.

As for the person who is sick, or diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, you have to let go of those feelings of guilt. You cannot change the fact you’re sick. You didn’t cause it. You didn’t ask for it. All you can do it move forward, trying to be as healthy as possible, and loving the people in your life who help you. Love your spouse even more. Be appreciative that you have a teammate who’s willing to pick up so much slack.

As for me? I’m mainly grateful that I have a hand that’s always there for me to hold.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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