We had a great week discussing the barriers in any sort of relationships, especially marital ones. As I was thinking about those barriers, I realised they are to be very common and known to all and we always can try to rectify our relationships by breaking them at some point in our life. But there are a couple of barriers that are unavoidable and unbreakable in life. I am gonna talk about one today.
Usually, a sickness enhances any sort of relationships. How? When someone is sick in the family, all others in the family display their love and care for that sick member and that exchange of loving emotions enhance the bonding between each member in the family. This happens when the sickness is temporary and short term. But in the case of prolonged sicknesses, the exchange of emotions take a different turn.
The whole world now knows I am born with a cardiac issue. Being so, I was the centre of attraction, love and care in the family. But for how long? There were frustrations, bitterness, impatience and irritation that I had felt in my family members along with their immense love and care. Their love and care for me were supreme but they did feel negative emotions creeping in, at times.
My Mom, for example, had to stay back from all the family functions or travels all because of me. I used to be sick and she used to be taking care of me all the time sacrificing all her fun and joy. She never showed it, never made me feel. But at times, it did show up through her anger and behaviour which were natural and unavoidable though I was just an infant to understand those feelings at that particular stage of my life. I heard the stories of her sacrifice later when I grew up.
In schools and colleges, generally, boys and girls rely mostly on their friends. My friends didn’t have that reliance on me when it came to any physical activity, helping someone or in sports. In that regard, my health condition became the biggest barrier to establish friendships with many. I never had the guts or condition or state of adrenaline rush which define teenagers or young boys and girls. This is the foundation of my bonding with peers at that stage of human life. I missed or rather failed to either build or even sustain a friendship basing on it.
The unavoidable barrier of sickness which I was carrying with me was still manageable or can be ignored in all the above relationships or friendships at those stages of my life but when I became a man and there was a need for the higher level of relationship, I faced a real challenge. I reckon I missed out on establishing many possible relationships in my life when I became an adult. And probably for my sickness, many have fallen out after falling in for me. That’s an assumption, I don’t know it correctly, so let’s cut it out.
When I actually got into a bond, a marital knot, I realised how my sickness became such a deadly barrier in my relationship with my better-half.
I remember, we went on a trip to the mountains. And at one point we had to climb up to watch the sunrise on Kanchenjunga peak (Part of the Himalayas). She had to stay back because I can’t climb up. She did it for the sake of love but there was a tiny trace of frustration and unfulfilling desire that remained in her heart. I encouraged her to go up with others later. She climbed up with others but there was a trace of not being together or being alone imprinted in her heart. In my case, I had that anger and frustration within me for not being a man for my woman when she needed me to be the one. And there were many such incidents that brought bitterness into our relationship.
Was there a shortage of love between us? No, not at all. But the charm or the glow of our love was missing. Blame it on the barrier, the unavoidable barrier called, sickness.
Almost all the time of our life till now, she has been doing the outside work, household work as well as taking care of me. Her love and sacrifice for me add so much value to our relationship but the bitterness, frustration, stress out of doing everything all alone and being deprived of a few of joys in a relationship suck off all the juices out of our bond. Blame it on the barrier, the unavoidable barrier called, sickness.
Individuals like me, who live with chronic sicknesses are always very aware of how much our partners do for us. I often feel very selfish and guilty for being such a burden to others, to my wife. One husband says, “My wife lives with the illness, and I live with her. So, in a way, I live with the illness, too”. And these reactions of our partners hit us all the more as we can’t do anything about our own illness. Although if we think from their point of views, we understand how hurting it is for them as well. Again, blame it on the unavoidable barrier called, sickness.
How to deal with this barrier in a relationship if we can’t avoid it or break it forever? I can share TWO major ways how I deal with it, though I struggle a lot at times even when I apply all my own tactics.
ACCEPTING the fact
It is applicable for both the sick partner and for the healthy partner. A sick partner should not feel bad or feel guilty of being a burden to his or her partner and the healthy partner should accept the fact s/he has to live with it. Instead of grumbling s/he should find ways to live with it happily otherwise it becomes more taxing for both of them. Accepting also means, keeping the communication channel open to talk about each other’s deepest and darker feelings considering the vulnerabilities of the relationship they both are in. Due to ill health all the time, a couple often feel sad, angry and overwhelmed and it is of utmost importance if they both open up and encourage each other to talk about their feelings without being judgemental. Accepting is also knowing and understanding the painful thoughts and emotions that pop into our heads due to the presence of chronic sickness of one partner in a relationship. I haven’t seen her treating me as a sick person but have always considered my ill-health by doing things before even I ask her to do. That is her way of accepting me and my share of responsibility on her shoulders.
ALLOWING unthinkable space (or grace)
These kind of relationships are rare and should be managed differently as well. A person like me who suffers almost all the days of the year needs space to regain my strengths, joys and happiness to live further. And this happens almost regularly as the sickness is a regular affair. Similarly, the other partner, who does everything for his or her sick partner needs an enormous amount of mental space and strength to stay encouraged. Instead of terming it as Allowing Space, I will call it Allowing Grace to each other to pacify the barrier of sickness in the relationship. I’ve learnt to just eat whatever she cooks. That helps her not to be so worried about what to cook and how to cook. I don’t even interrogate her about where she goes and what she does. That is my way of allowing space or grace for what she has been doing for me all these years. Allowing that grace to her is in my hand and I do it wholeheartedly. When I shout or don’t talk with people, she makes others understand the reason and they understand it. She doesn’t look into my mobile or inspect what I do all day. This is her way of allowing grace to me.
Have I overcome this barrier forever? No, I can’t. But I am still managing to break a hole in it to keep my relationship with her alive and kicking.
It will be amazing when we take responsibility of managing to break through any barriers and make each of our existing relationships a sanctuary where each person can be seen and loved for who they are.