Relationships…and chronic illness

Dating isn’t easy. At any age, definitely not as we grow older. Relationships take work, trust, communication. You go through ups and downs. Breakups, marriage, divorce. There’s so many different things that go into a relationship, that make it work. Each one is unique, each partner is unique. Together, they’re a couple.

Being chronically ill isn’t easy. Dating while chronically ill is a completely different ball game. Relationships with one partner chronically ill can be challenging. I’ve seen far too many give up on their relationship, their marriage. They feel like a burden to their healthy partner, they feel unworthy. It’s easy to get stuck in that rabbit hole. To think we have nothing to offer. You do.

Having someone love you so unconditionally, they see past your diagnosis, they see past the worries, past the walls you’ve built. They see YOU. That is something amazing. Having a supportive partner can make a huge different in our own mental health while battling our chronic illness. Having their support helps lift you up, it helps you to not feel so alone.

Break ups suck. They’re hard, emotional, and at times absolutely devastating. I think it could hit those with chronic illness a bit harder. It could make us feel insecure, unworthy, not enough. When we end things without any real thought, or simply because we feel they’re better off, what are we really gaining? More importantly, what are we losing by doing that? Love, support, a partner? Why do we feel we can decide for them? Decide what they can handle, what they deserve? We make this monumental decision without discussing it with them. We break not only our hearts but theirs. If they want to be there, if they love you unconditionally… let them. Let them be there. Is it worth the heartbreak? Can you live with the regret of “what if”, if you end things? Can you look back years from then, and know you made the best choice? Will you ache for him?

I did that.. I left without a word. I gave up unconditional love. I gave up someone that loved me so damn much he put my health, my life before his. He was there from the beginning. Each appointment, 3 cardiac ablations, surgical follow ups, diagnosis, prognosis. He was there, and I walked away. I didn’t want to be a burden. I didn’t want him to resent me. This big, tough former military guy, and me.. Could barely walk, barely be upright. He deserved better. So I thought. So what did i do? I made the decision for him. I made the choice to walk away. With NO conversation of what HE wanted. Knowing he loved me. I broke my heart, and his by doing this. I damaged our bond, our trust beyond repair.

For 4 years I buried the pain. I buried the ache in my heart. The empty feeling I had. For 4 years I tried to convince myself I did the right thing. Then it all came crashing down. I checked an old email… and there were emails from him…So, I finally typed that reply to him… after 4 years. My heart pounded. Would he reply? Would he ignore me, as I ignored him. It took nearly 11 hours for a reply. After that reply, 3 hours after that we were on the phone. When I answered that call, it was emotional. It was instant tears.  There’s no way to describe what I felt. There’s no way to describe what I felt for him. “Hey you”..was all it took to unravel the carefully constructed walls around my heart… “Hey you” was all it took, for every memory to flood me, for every emotion to pour into me, for every “I love you” to fly back into my mind. My world unraveled that night. But really..it unraveled 9 years ago when we met.. 9 years ago when I said “I love you” after he brought me donuts to my office, and I said it for the first time. 

That night.. We talked, I mean really talked. Losing me nearly destroyed him, just as my losing him nearly destroyed me. That phone call shook my entire foundation.  I cried, yelled, raged once we hung up. My mom held me on the ground as I cried, letting 5 years of anger, betrayal, longing, regret and love out.. The rage, the resentment, the regrets I’ve held. I still hold. He asked me why.. why did I leave? This answer isn’t an easy one, but here it is.

I let my health be a part of the reason I walked away. How do you walk away from someone that means so much to you?? Let me tell you, it isn’t easy. It’s painful. It’s emotional, it’s rage, it’s overwhelming fear. I knew my health issues, weren’t an issue to him. He cared about me, and wanted me, regardless of whatever health issues I had. He was caring, loving, supportive. I’d never experienced that. I didn’t think I was worthy. I didn’t want to be a burden to him, I didn’t want to hold him back. So, I simply walked away. Hurting both of us in the process.

Since reconnecting in 2018, we tried to rebuild the connection we had. It was powerful. All consuming. Fire and ice. How do you rebuild what you had? How do you talk through the heartbreak, the distrust? How do you forge ahead? It’s a lot of work. We tried. We tried so hard. We talked about the future. Our dreams, our hopes. Unfortunately we couldn’t get passed the broken trust. He couldn’t get passed the betrayal of when I left. He couldn’t let go of the pain, of the heartbreak and rebuild. Things went from talking marriage one day, to “I don’t know if i can do this”, the next. How do you process that? How do you cope with that heartbreak? Honestly? Sheer devastation. Realizing I ultimately caused this. Realizing my making that decision for him years ago resulted in this heartbreak. In twice the heartbreak for both of us.

Does silence mean break up? Does it mean he needs time? At what point do I decide whether to move on or stay just a little longer with a sliver of hope? Is it even wrong to have that sliver of hope? I have anger, a feeling of abandonment, hurt, betrayal. I want to cry, I want to scream. I want a conversation on why. Why make all the promises that he’d never leave, that he’d always be there, just to leave? Why let me have the hope, just to leave? Why wasn’t I enough? It’s been 5 months, and it still hurts. I’m lost, confused, unsure of what happened, why we couldn’t fix it. Some days I want to give in to the hope. Others I want to move on, find someone that will love me, encourage me, support me.., My mind always goes back to him though. How do you walk away from someone that you loved for over 9 years?

I know my worth.. Ironically, he helped me to see that. I know what I bring to the table. I know heartbreak. I know love. Trying to heal the heartbreak, the heartbreak I’ve not really coped with or healed from. Healing the anger, healing the hurt. Healing the hole that was left behind. The sliver of hope wont let go, that sliver holds on. Your heart says wait, while also saying you deserve more. What do you listen to? How do you decide? It’s a heartbreaking decision. It’s utterly devastating knowing that “always & forever” came to an end. All the letters I recently found, our pictures together, the bottle of his cologne. Do you hold on to it all, or let it go? This is a battle, yet this time I know my worth. I know that i’m a Queen. I made a mistake in the past, I worked hard to make amends. I can’t force someone to love me, to be with me. I love myself too much to beg anyone, I deserve better than that..

Really though, a simple conversation about what happened. Just talking, like adults. That could ease the pain for us both. To ease the hope, or fuel it. Though there comes a point, a time where you have to do what is best for yourself. It doesn’t mean you don’t love that person, It means you love yourself too. That you’re putting yourself first, that you know your worth. It isn’t always an easy decision. Most times we agonize over it. Over whether to stay or leave. Sometimes we feel like we were forced into the decision. Walking away isn’t easy, not when you love someone, though sometimes the decision is made for us. Perhaps this is one of those times.

Dating, relationships with chronic illness isn’t easy. Just don’t give up. Don’t give up love. Don’t make that decision for him. That’s not right or fair. Our health doesn’t make it easy, but please know you are not a burden. You are not unworthy. You are so worthy. Tip your chin up, straighten your crown, you are more than worthy..

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