In Sickness, and in Health
“In sickness and in health” is a pretty common wedding vow, I don’t know who wrote it, but their script is a best seller. Brides and grooms say this vow to indicate their intentions that they will be loyal to each other when health is good, but also when one’s health takes a turn for the worse.
If you are reading this, you probably already have a pretty good understanding of this concept, especially if you are married or in a committed relationship. You made a promise to be loyal, and then someone gets sick.
Suddenly, your relationship is shared by three. You, your partner, and ankylosing spondylitis.
When AS moves in
AS is not the best roommate, especially when there is a couple sharing the living space.
AS is the kind of roommate who leaves messes in the kitchen, laundry on the floor, and stays up all night watching TV.
You ask AS to wash their dishes, and get their laundry out of the dryer, but it’s always too worn out and tired to do anything. All AS wants to do is lay around watching TV, and it’s getting really annoying.
Eventually you start picking sides, and making excuses for AS and its messy ways. And then it seems like your relationship with your partner has started weakening because you find yourself always more worried about AS than the needs of your partner.
Who is more important? Your spouse or your AS?
Why can’t it be both?
Making room for AS
The unfortunate fact is, you will never be able to get AS to move out. Despite being a married couple, you will always have a roommate, no matter how awkward it is. So, your best, and really only plan, is to learn to make room for AS in your relationship.
Please understand, I am not saying totally ignore your AS or your spouse. If you have a good day and are able to do a little more, that is great. But, do not forget that you still have to give AS a little attention.
Non-Spondy Partners: Your other half does not want to totally ignore chores, projects, social gatherings, and anything else that might be forgotten due to an AS flare. They made the same commitment that you did. But, there will be days when they won’t be able to do everything they promised. Please forgive them, and don’t lay on any guilt. They don’t need that, and it won’t get you anywhere.
Spondy Partners: Understand your partner’s frustration is not solely directed at you. Yes, they may be upset that you are unable to help when they really need it, but they are also worried about you. Nobody wants to see someone they love in pain. Not everyone knows how to express that.
But, no matter who you are in the relationship, always try to communicate, and be open to hear things you might not want to hear. The worst thing in the world is letting things bottle up, and then have resentment and frustration bubble up.
This part of the story is one that I know at least a few Spoonies have experienced, but I have only heard discussed once. The day the healthy half of the relationship becomes a patient, and the patient becomes the caregiver.
It’s weird, to be honest.
One Spondy friend said “I have trouble showing compassion when someone else is sick.” They continue, “I have to deal with so much for myself...Considering their needs takes work.”
Our mindsets are laser focused on our health. We wake up and think about our pain, our meds, our sleep, our diet...Finding the space in our brains to think about their needs, like my friend said, takes work.
Comparisons start getting made. “You don’t have it as bad as I do...Do you?” Now, you start to wonder whose needs are more important at this moment. Should I get out my heating pad? Or should I get their meds together? It’s a pair’s juggling act that used to be a solo show.
This is also a time when communication is imperative. Talk to each other, share how you are feeling and what you need. Don’t take the whole burden on yourself and don’t let your partner do this either.
If you both are “equally sick” then also be equally caring.
You entered a mutual relationship and made vows to be there.
Even if spondylitis becomes the obnoxious roommate, try to focus on each other. Form a team and communicate.
Whether one of you is sick or both.
How much about your AS do you share with others?