There are many experiences that transcend illness or disability type. One of those is giving partners ‘the out.’ Having that conversation is, oddly enough, something I’ll never regret. What I do regret is why we’re having these conversations.
For many of us, this conversation comes from a combination of feelings. Those feels, though, are a problem. They come about from insecurity, shitty self-esteem, ableism, and more.
We don’t feel worthy of love because we’re sick or disabled.
I know that feeling well. It sucks. Even more importantly, though, it’s so wrong.
You are so worthy of love. We all are. How much we are loved should never be dependent on our health, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or other factors we can’t change.
Ableism is a jerk
The thing I hate most about internalized ableism is how we can’t always recognize that it’s ableism speaking. We think we’re doing abled people a favor by staying small or assuming they wouldn’t want us as partners.
We’ve taken that message that our health makes us lesser, unable to be partners that truly participate in relationships. Instead of being present in our relationships, we feel guilty that we can’t be the perfect partner. Sometimes we take to praising our abled partners for sticking with us as if they deserve a medal of honor. To save our partners, we don’t share how we really are doing, the pain we’re in. We think we’re being noble when what we’re doing is harming our relationships in the long run.
Of course, the flip side of that ableism is not being seen as desirable from outsiders. It’s not completely their fault – thanks, society! – but it surely doesn’t help when people see us as objects of pity. They don’t understand their privilege, how harmful it is to treat us that way, or really how to be in a relationship with us.
Giving ‘the out’ can still be helpful though
With my husband’s depression and how all-encompassing it can be, I have been able to see both sides of this. It’s hard to be someone’s partner when you know you can’t help heal their wounds. It takes a toll on even the strongest people. That’s part of why I think conversations where we give ‘the out’ – tell our partners it’s okay if they can’t handle our shit – is important.
It brings up conversations about what we feel like we can handle. As hard as it is to say, it can help us weed out people who won’t be there for us when things are hard. There are a lot of people who aren’t dependable when the shit hits the fan. I don’t know about you but knowing that early on is helpful – it tells me to not waste my limited and precious energy on them.
Sometimes it can solidify that we’ve got a great partner, too. In unofficial ways, I’ve given ‘the out’ to my husband a few times. Each time, I get hit with the knowledge that – for the first time in my life – I have unconditional support. My partner, my family, is here for me. That reinforcement is so important for me because I’ve never had that, not in a non-abusive way.
I won’t say it’s completely perfect. To be honest, it’s a little scary – I’m used to everyone leaving at some point or another. Still, to have that kind of support – to know I have a partner who will wash my hair for me when I can’t move my fingers – is comforting. In middle of everything that is so chaotic and unpredictable with my health, having someone serve as a rock is exactly what I need.
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