On my personal site, Not Standing Still’s Disease, I call my husband ‘T.’ If you see it here, that’s why.
I haven’t talked about my marriage as much on here as I have elsewhere.
In September, we’ll have been together for a whole decade… which is a little daunting to think about. It feels like longer and shorter at the same time. Sometimes I forget if it was him or someone else I went to events with.
When I met him, I was pretty sure we’d get married. After the last few relationships I had, I knew I wanted to disclose my chronic health issues early on. I’d been led on by a few guys who claimed they wanted a long-term relationship but only wanted sex.
I mean, I was 19 so sex was totally fine with me! Mostly I was tired of the deceiving part.
T and I got frozen custard and I mentioned that I had “this arthritis thing.” The way I phrased it really helped him to not catastrophize it. Then again, that’s when I didn’t have medical care and wasn’t diagnosed with most of my other health things.
It’s no secret that my health fun has been hard. It seems like it keeps getting worse, like now when I’m dealing with undiagnosed stuff. T’s still supportive and as helpful as ever. He still takes a lot in stride, holding back a lot of stuff he should probably tell me (like how my lack of vacuuming bugs him, etc.). Add to that how us both being on antidepressants has killed our mutual sex life and… well, you figure out quickly why I review sex toys.
Still, he’s my penguin.
I see a lot of disabled or chronically ill people who overly praise their partners. That’s something I felt pushed to do in the beginning when I knew no other 20-year-old would put up with massaging my knees. Now that we’re on either side of thirty and both well-versed in social justice, I don’t feel that way.
Don’t get me wrong – he’s awesome. Our relationship is good. Things – including my illnesses – are stable and at least semi-predictable. We’ve gotten into a rhythm that works for us, have both gotten better at communication (after a number of stumbles on my part), and I know how to read him pretty well.
The thing is… praising him for sticking with me when I’m so fucking ill just perpetuates the myth that those of us with health crap are horrible choices for partners. I won’t fall into the ableism trap that is more-abled-partner worship.
People fall into this trap a lot. It’s easy to do, given messages we receive about our worth as people who are chronically ill or disabled. It’s assumed that our lives aren’t worth living or that we should be somehow pitied because of our existence. When we worship our partners for ‘putting up’ with us, it just reinforces those ideas.
The world is full of assholes who don’t see disabled people as people. They don’t think living our struggles with us is a worthy journey. That doesn’t mean we should sanctify the non-assholes, though, for being decent people. The reality is that we all have different needs in relationships, whether that’s related to a disability, past experiences, abuse, or a variety of other factors.
Like any person, disabled or not, we all have positive and negative attributes. When you’re a partner, though, you work together and can help to balance each other out.
Sure, there will be more time spent at doctor appointments or sitting in waiting rooms while I get MRI after MRI than there would be while dating an abled partner. There will be more frustrations with health, the medical system, and other forms of systematic oppression. Politics will start mattering to you even more, especially attacks on health care rights… which means you’ll be groggily going to work after staying up until 2 in the morning watching C-SPAN.
That said, I can provide a lot more empathy than the average partner. I’m pretty good at working around things I can’t do, whether that’s sexy or not. You’ll get to help go through pictures of me that are sexy for the sake of being sexy. You’ll always have someone who goes with you to doctor appointments and can advocate for you, there or calling to order pizza.
Just because some parts of our lives are harder because I’m disabled doesn’t mean I’m not a badass partner – or that I should feel crummy for being sick. Without that power difference, there’s really no need to put T on a pedestal. I can still appreciate the neck rubs and late night conversations without deifying T for ‘putting up’ with my illnesses.