Understanding the power of love without fear

How I processed the fear of loving a husband with PAH

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by Karen Schultz |

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Loving someone with a poor prognosis is something I found myself unprepared for. With years of marriage comes history to draw upon, an established love and hard times under your belt. Time spent together through different seasons of life gives you a level of comfort and attachment.

When newly married, there is evidence that a hormone called oxytocin allows couples to establish a romantic attachment to each other. After about five years, married couples typically notice a decrease in the euphoria experienced with marriage early on. This is the time, in 2001, when my husband, Tim, was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

During this time, I loved Tim but had not experienced true crisis with him. I began, unintentionally, to pull back in our relationship and replace intimacy with functioning. Looking back, I realize I had begun to withdraw my affection, intimacy, and full self in exchange for self-preservation because his prognosis was poor.

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From the outside, I appeared to be a positive, doting wife who cared for my husband’s needs. I took on chores like cutting the grass, bringing in groceries, loading our daughter in and out of the car, and other tasks that Tim had been responsible for. I thought that by doing more, I was showing him love in a tangible way.

I began to share and get advice from family and friends instead of burdening Tim with day-to-day problems. I tried to keep Tim shielded from daily tasks and focused on getting well. I told myself that loving him entailed minimizing his burdens.

Tim received lifesaving treatment and improved his functioning, which allowed him return to work, with physical limitations. I continued to love Tim with an expiration date. Our marriage was not unhealthy, but it lacked the intimacy that comes with loving the other person without fear.

The power of loving completely

Around our 10th year of marriage, when Tim’s health was stable, we began to have more conflict, spending less time together while working opposite shifts. There was no obvious reason for our conflict.

I began to hear a small voice telling me to love my husband without fear. But I ignored the need to address my fear of losing him and continued maintaining our relationship the way it was.

As we both became less content during this time, we began to work together to improve our bond. I came to recognize how I was hurting Tim by not loving him completely.

Positive changes weren’t made overnight, but with intention and honesty, I’ve learned to love Tim the way he deserves. Loving without fear of losing him changed every aspect of our marriage for the better.

For the last 15 years, we have truly become partners and best friends, and we are more in love today than even in the early days. For me, letting go allowed a deeper love to replace the fear.

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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Anonymous avatar


Love your story. I wish we could have more than 3 years. Living without your love of life is painful each and everyday.

Joanne Sperando avatar

Joanne Sperando

Your journey through illness and it's challenges was inspiring! I loved your take on how your relationship fares as time goes on.


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