It can be easy to get caught up in what others do for us and what we are "expected" to do for them.What happens when a relationship gets stripped of "do and does" and who one is--their values, beliefs, history, being--simply remains? Sometimes people who live with chronic physical illness get to experience what happens in romantic relationships when they at times cannot "do" for their partners what they are used to "doing" for them. Two people may have interacted with each other for many years in a routine way. For example, both wake up in the morning, one makes breakfast and the other makes the bed, both go to work, and one then prepares dinner, while the other does the laundry. Or take an example not based on chores but rather leisurely activities--every Saturday one partner goes to support the other at a sports event or a musical performance. Having a chronic physical illness can disturb whatever the individual pattern of interacting is for a given couple. Suddenly one partner may have to lay in bed all day, unable to participate in daily tasks or not being well enough to venture out to the weekly sports event. This disruption in the person's sense of agency and alteration of their role within the partnership can evoke many uncomfortable feelings. Some people may feel a sense of disappointment in themselves for not being able to engage in their daily tasks, leaving double the amount of work for their partners. Others may feel guilty for not being able to participate in fun activities with their partners. Some may feel frightened that their partner will stop loving them because their lives have been greatly altered. There is an infinite amount of feelings a person may experience with respects to their relationship with their partner after having to change their daily routines due to chronic illness--these just scratch the surface.
So what happens? Some people living with chronic physical illness find out that maybe the relationship that they are in is not the right one for them. These people may discover that their function as a "doer for" is what has been loved, rather than all of who they are. Sometimes these people may also initially blame themselves for not satisfying their partners enough to keep them around. Hopefully they eventually learn that it is NOT their fault. Nobody wants a chronic illness and nobody wants to feel unable to do things for themselves or their loves ones. In other instances, people experience being loved in a way that they never knew could exist. These people are told that it does not matter whether or not they can do the things they used to do or go to the places that they used to go. They are told that all that matters is that they are alive and that they are with their loved ones. These people see that even though at times it can be frustrating for their partners to take on more responsibility, overall their partners can take pleasure in caring for them. It is easy to forget that caring for a loved one can grant people a sense of satisfaction and happiness that far surpasses the happiness that comes from receiving.
It is important to never belittle the frustration and pain that comes from having to adjust to living with chronic physical illness. It is also important to remember that if you have a chronic illness it is not your fault. Let your loved ones care for you. If you are in a relationship where your partner makes you feel bad about what you are dealing with everyday, then maybe its time to rethink that relationship. You deserve to be loved and cared for, and you will realize that for someone who truly loves you, allowing him or her to care for you is the biggest thing that you can do for them.