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The Toll Chronic Illness Takes on Relationships

Dealing with the heartbreak and loss of failed relationships due to chronic illness
Dealing with the heartbreak and loss of failed relationships due to chronic illness
http://www.salon.com/2011/02/15/friends_7/

Whether you want them to or not, relationships with loved ones change dramatically throughout the course of chronic illness -including relationships with friends, family members, and/or romantic partners. Sometimes, you lose all. Sometimes, you grow closer to all. Better yet, sometimes you keep the good and let go of the bad. Unfortunately, the reason you let go of someone is typically because you have no other choice, because they left you. Any tragedy reveals who a person truly is -both yourself and those around you. The stripping away of the world and people around you seems to follow closely behind the stripping away of who you once were. Not only is your true, inner self exposed, but so are theirs.

I have noticed a trend in which husbands or wives, or boyfriends or girlfriends, tend to leave the person they “loved” behind. Their primary reason is that their partner’s illness became too hard or stressful on them, and they just could not take it anymore. They say they are tired of fighting, due to insurmountable obstacles continuing to pile up throughout the course of their partner’s chronic illness. For those who have been left because of these reasons, there is one major unspoken truth that carries you on past this tragedy -Your partner, who was too stressed because of your illness, has no clue what you go through. He or she is busy fighting with others, while you strive to simultaneously fight with both them as well as for your life.

This is why I firmly believe the problem is not that you were not strong enough to hold on to your relationship, it is that the other person was too weak to endure even a miniscule amount of the pain you experience with every breath you take. This very fact allows you to mend your heart, making it blatantly obvious the real tragedy was not falling ill, rather, it was falling in love with a person whose love was conditional. This is not to say all relationships fail in the wake of chronic illness. There are the rare, lucky ones who manage to find unconditional love, the kind whose existence flourishes more and more with each passing day, in both sickness and health.

Others who may quickly leave your side are the ones you believed to be your friends, as well as some family members. Of course, just like romantic partners, they are there for the initial impact of the diagnosis, with their egos feeding off of your misfortune, creating a brief euphoria for their pain bodies. But once they realize the disease continues on and is long term, they bail. Some might say they do this because you have become a burden to them. Perhaps, this is true. What is also true, though, is that at this point they are burdens to you as well.

This is the beautiful paradox of chronic illness. You lose so many relationships, and while it is quite unfortunate, you eventually feel grateful for the loss because it enables you to see how those people never genuinely loved you to begin with. In this way, illness almost seems like a blessing. Can you imagine how much time and effort you would have wasted with fake relationships without it?

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