I don't even know where to start on this topic. Do you know how many times I've been so devastated, ticked off, and just gutted when I find out that a person or a couple is not, underneath, the image that they presented? I can't even count. So many, many, many times I've thought that I've found a healthy and happily married couple to look up to, only to find through the course of time that they are broken underneath-- bitter fighting, ugly resentments or cold silence and miles and miles of distance, if not outright abuse. The Stottlemyers and my grandparents are pretty much the only examples I have had of functioning marriages, and I didn't even realize that my grandparents' relationship was all that healthy until very recent years.

So get this-- in our circle of friends, Corey and I are the example, the Westley and the Buttercup, the happy, healthy, functioning marriage. And it's true. It is. Or, at least, it was… because how do you admit to yourself that you're not happy with where things are at in your marriage, much less bring it up to your partner? But that's exactly what I did this weekend, and I feel good about it. We're talking, our communication is still wide open and blazing, and it's not like we're going to split up at all or anything. It's just… there's this distance. And there's these walls. There isn't sex anymore, or purposeless flirting… intimacy has fled, of a sort. I feel like we're just roommates at this point in so many ways, but I still love him on a very fundamental level and it still sweeps me away all the time. I know he still loves me and it shines through. (In more subtle ways than I'd like, but it's there. It's definitely there.) Plus he says it at least once a day, so there's that. Heh.

The times we've talked about it ("it" being the change in our relationship), it's basically presented as the set of diseases I have and the stress of all that is like a big ball of blah that has settled upon us and is glopping all over us like The Blob. What Corey hates the most is what these diseases have done to me. He hates seeing the change, the loss of independence, and he also kinda feels that maybe I'm a different person now than the person he married and he thinks he should feel bad about feeling that, like maybe he shouldn't feel that way, and the biggest thing is that he tries to keep all of this from me because he knows that I internalize things more than I ought to because of my upbringing and background. He thinks that I would take what he says and blame myself severely, and he doesn't want me to endure that kind of pain or to poison my mind and heart like that. He is so sure that I will blame myself and over-feel it and get depressed or so; it's sweet that he wants to protect me, but it is distancing us.

So I almost feel like I've become what I despise-- the so called healthy, happy marriage that is just a veneer for trouble underneath. I know that things aren't where either of us would like them to be, but they're not abysmal, either. It's very true, the incredible stress that chronic illness brings can break you down and tear you apart, but we are not going anywhere. Things are hard-- not only do we have the diseases and my disability and constant medical stuff to deal with, in addition to the day in, day out symptoms-- but we have major financial stress to battle with as well. I'm just super glad that we don't have debt to deal with beyond a credit card each and whatever outstanding medical bills I've got right now. It's just that my medical expenses totally ate up Corey's extra cushion money and now we're living paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth. It's like every time he's about to even out, something comes along that screws everything up and takes all of the potential extra money (which is never more than one or two hundred dollars).

True story: I emailed my stepdad last week and begged him for money (again) to cover medical bills and such, as usual, but I also had to ask him for grocery money because Corey had paid the mortgage and all of our other bills-- we don't have anything on the docket that is extraneous, nothing indulgent, just basic life necessities-- and he had $11 in his bank account to last us 1 1/2 weeks until his next paycheck. I believe that's the lowest we've hit so far, honestly, but it was truly unnerving. I'm not sure I know the meaning of "disposable income" anymore. From time to time I'm still able to sneak a treat in for myself here and there, but it's in the form of a $2 muffin or a new bottle of nail polish, something like that. Corey operates like that as well, but he indulges far less often. We just need an edge of some sort, just something to help us get ahead and we could do it; I know we could. That's why we are hoping so hard that I get approved for disability-- it could be that edge, that little thing that turns things around for us. I was excited when I established the Tiara Fund and donations came trickling in, but that has completely dried up no matter how much I share the link. I really did think for a minute there that the Tiara Fund was going to be the thing that turned it around for us.

I won't lie-- our life is really frickin' stressful, and I know that's why we have faded to a facade, our vibrancy dulled by the cruel, grinding rhythm of sickness and hardship. I'd like to get help for us, but where do you turn when you are the healthiest relationship you know, even if you're kinda broken? And chronic illness issues within a marriage are so, so different from other kinds of issues. I don't know what to do. I really don't. I guess all we can do is keep the communication open, keep talking, and just hang on for dear life. I'm beginning to think that I've perfected the death grip, really, but I know with a sickening lurch to my gut that just as soon as I think things have gotten as bad as they will… shit happens. I've got doctor's appointments coming up to hopefully diagnose the extra stuff beyond fibromyalgia that I'm dealing with, and I have a cold feeling of dread that I won't like the answers that I get. But then, I feel that way about everything related to my health these days anyway…

I don't want to be a facade. I really, really don't, and as a person I think I've accomplished a marvelous level of authenticity so far (considering where I've come from and the shit I've had to wade through to get here), but as a couple… yeah, I think that for now it's all about the death grip.

3 thoughts:

  • Catherine | November 24, 2014 at 6:14 AM

    I know what you mean about being the most healthy couple. Ron and I are the same way. And yet we have gone through some really rough points. Your description of the things you are dealing with sound so similar to the stuff Ron and I have/are going through. I totally believe in the death grip. Sometimes thats all you can do, so you do it. I know my chronic illness and depression have brought us closer in some moments and distanced us in others. I wish there was some advice I could give, but it seems like you and Corey are on the right track. Keep communication open and hold on.

    Sending love, C

  • Friko | December 3, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Or, at least, it was… because how do you admit to yourself that you're not happy with where things are at in your marriage, much less bring it up to your partner?

    Goodness girl, that’s how it is for everybody. None of us lives the way we would like to live, that’s just reality.

    True, your health issues are a considerable burden but there must be more to you than chronic illness? You love your man and he loves you. And he tells you daily? Do you know how lucky that makes you? How few women have that? He is concerned enough to keep unhappiness away from you? And you complain?

    You don’t have it easy, that’s obvious, but harping on about that is counter-productive and not helping matters. I don’t know if cheerfulness is part of your nature, but give it a try. Your picture is that of a cheerful person. Is that just a facade?

  • Anonymous | December 4, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    I get it…you aren't bemoaning the fact that he doesn't love you like you want as much as you are grieving the change in your relationship. Being chronically ill impacts EVERY part of your life, it's true there is more to you than your illness, but all of you has changed because of it. Having him say "I love you" every day (after you say it first) is not all that you need or want. Having him be proactive about your limitations and new needs would make you FEEL loved, which is different than knowing he loves you. It would probably help if you were more secure financially…then he might feel more free to demonstrate his affection with things, but ultimately what you're craving is comfort and closeness. I don't have an easy answer for you unfortunately. The very best thing to do is keep talking, talking, talking. And have a safe place to vent (like here) about the things you think that you know would hurt his feelings or push him farther away. You have every right to feel dissatisfied sometimes and talking about it can help work through it in your own mind…it doesn't mean your focusing on the bad or obsessing about the negative, it just means you're a human adjusting to a new normal. Big hugs kiddo.

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