Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why Health Matters in Relationships

My marriage has a serious birth defect.

It is that I needed and wanted a wife who was functionally healthy, I made that clear, I thought that's what I was getting, and instead I got a wife whose physical health is deteriorating and who has a history of serious mental illness, and who didn't reveal those things to me.

Like most people, I've had close friends with physical and mental illnesses and disabilities. I could see how it impacted their lives. You may be dealing with such issues yourself, or you may not have sought to avoid these things in a partner. That's fine. It's not want I wanted, and I should have been free to choose.

I know accidents and assaults and illnesses happen, and I could have married someone in perfect health who was subsequently disabled or made ill. That's not what happened, though. In our case, there wasn't even the chance of avoiding it. Her hiding some of it also meant that I didn't react to certain events as well as I could have and as quickly as I could have if I had known.

I also know that maybe I'll be the one who gets sick or disabled someday, even before being elderly, and I'm not perfect the way I am already.  But that's all the more reason to have a spouse who isn't already dealing with physical and mental illness.

I married a woman who was independent, keeping her own home, and working full time with kids. We discussed that she could homeschool our children and keep house as I earned the income, and if/when the kids needed to go into a classroom, she could work, perhaps part-time, and so we could afford private schooling.

It wasn't until after our children were here that the whole truth (and maybe there is yet more I haven't discovered) about my wife's conditions came out. She flat-out denied some of the truth in response to my questioning. I had to discern things and she admitted some in therapy after much resistance, still denying it mattered.

There are many reasons I wanted to avoid this situation. If you’ve dealt with these issues yourself you're well aware that these are realities. Physical and mental illness changes EVERYTHING. In no particular order:

Shorter life expectancy. Life is already short. These things can shorten lifespans. I brace myself for my wife dying suddenly. I'm expecting significant cognitive impairment to set in before too long due to many concussions she's experienced.

Less discretionary time. Time is already short. There's already not enough time to do everything we want to do, but with things like this there's even less time, because we have to spend so much of our lives scheduling appointments and treatments, going to such appointments and treatments, filling out related paperwork including reimbursement forms and appeals for coverage, ordering and picking up medications.

Less discretionary spending. Money is already tight. There's already not enough money to do everything we want to do, but things like this mean there's even less money. Even with more expensive insurance, there are still significant costs with appointments, treatments, medications, equipment, etc. I earn more than the average household income for my area, even though my area is higher earning than the national average, and we are generally careful with spending, and yet we constantly struggle to have enough money for our obligations, including our obligations to save for the future.

Private schooling is expensive. We had to give up on homeschooling, so one of many reasons money is tight is paying for private schooling. Public schooling is out of the question.

Employment limitations. She didn't stop working through disability, but she's not willing or able to be employed. She can work from home to some extent, but we're largely unable to have a significant second income. I'm limited in my employment choices because of my wife's specialized needs when it comes to health insurance.

Activity limitations. There are many things she can't or won't do because of her conditions. Thankfully, I'm not the type who likes to go hiking or more physically demanding recreational activities. I enjoy swimming and body surfing and that's about it, but if YOU like doing sports or outdoor activities, you'd have even more reason to be concerned about this area. Uncertainty over her need for sleep interferes with scheduling things. She can't or won't do certain chores or errands. She shies away from socializing and maintaining  in-person friendships.

Medicine side effects. These alone are reasons I didn't want this life. She takes seemingly countless medications and medications have undesirable side effects.

Uncertainty over personal interaction. I can't always be sure if her hostility, harsh words, or other negative elements of interacting with her are her true feelings, a reflection of mental illness, or medication or a lack thereof.


Stress. I feel largely like a single parent to a special needs teenager along with our kids, and I am extremely hesitant to even ask her to consider taking on more responsibilities, because she keeps saying she can't do things.

Driving risks. Her driving record is a lot worse than mine (mine is great), as anyone can tell by looking at our vehicles. The way she drives, no doubt due to her conditions, puts more wear and tear on the vehicles. Yet driving our kids places is her biggest contribution to the family right now.

The kids. What genetic problems have our kids inherited, including mental illness? What did her conditions and the medications do during her pregnancies? Our kids are not lacking in their appearances and they are highly intelligent, but I'm bracing for mental illness to be diagnosed and when their behavior is problematic I wonder if they've been impacted by medication. My wife could no longer physically control the kids from an early age so discipline became a problem. Also, the kids literally watched their mother lose touch with reality and behave in ways that they'll probably be talking about in therapy for the rest of their lives.

Sleep. My wife and I don't (can't) cuddle or spoon.

Sex. My wife's ability to enjoy sex, do certain things, and tend to my sexual needs are all significantly limited. You might not care all that much, but this is a very, very big deal for me. One of the reasons I married was to have sex. If I wasn't convinced of the truth of the Bible I would not have thought sex was for marriage and I likely would not have married. In my wayward youth, sex was an important way for me to show my girlfriend that I cared for her. My focus was on giving her affection. This has largely be taken away from me.



As you can see, this "birth defect" in our marriage impacts EVERYTHING. It's a source of pain, hassle, tension, social strain, time strain, and financial strain. So many problems go back to this matter. Sure, there are other problems as well and they'd be more glaring if we didn't have this birth defect, but it is difficult to define those, let alone address them, because we have this foundational problem we'll never overcome.

Although I can't. in good conscience, recommend what we presently call marriage to most men, I urge anyone getting married to get full disclosure, including about health (including mental and dental). Go with your potential spouse to their appointments. Talk with their health care professionals. Make sure you understand what conditions they have and have had, what treatments they are getting, the short and long-term outlooks, and all of the potential risk and side effects.

2 comments:

  1. DarthW1:24 PM

    You're correct. When I was dating seriously, and believed marriage had value, one of my requirements was for general overall good health in my partner. I have had overall consistently good health as well, keep pretty fit, and continue to try to stay healthy.

    One woman I dated in my early 30s, and quit dating for incompatibility reasons not related to health. But when I dated her, she had asthma. She was typically irresponsible about allergy treatment, always (I mean ALWAYS) forgetting or losing her inhaler then not having it when needed the hampering whatever we were doing to deal with an asthma issue. Further, she was one of these type who works somewhere for months or a year; it's the "best job I've ever had" at the beginning and later "the boss is awful!!" when she quits - regardless of insurance benefits she had. Beyond other issues, I remember her asthma and inability to stay employed meaning I would be carrying the full responsibility of any type of insurance benefits, keeping up with her meds, etc. I really broke up with her more due to her inability to stay employed, and lack of any type of success in life, knowing I would have the brunt of responsibility, but the health issues were a factor. I remained friends with her for years after, and she eventually developed MS, so her last ten years have been stints in the hospital, a lot more limited abilities, yet when she does get a good job eventually she finds a reason to leave because of yet, another, "mean boss". Many times I've thought, "Boy, you made a good decision!" She's married to some poor schlub now, probably had four jobs in the last couple years, and gradually declining. So glad that's not my hassle.

    The last woman I dated, I clicked with in a lot of ways, and was really attracted to her. I thought I'd found "the one". As time went on - beyond the single mother issues - she had "bad knees" from years dancing is high school and college supposedly, and it was apparent that even though she was more than a decade younger I could physically outmatch her by far due to her physical ailments. Add to that, in time I found out she was taking Vicodin for her knee pain, and on top of that Xanax for some type of anxiety issue. Then, all I could see if me ponying up cash for knee surgeries every 10 years, her quitting work due to physical issues, and likely a lot of drama and more hassles due to emotional problems. Add to that the single mama issues where at least one of the two kids was ADHD (good kids but you could see more issues coming) and getting more serious with her looked bleak. Again, I'd be taking on all the added financial burdens, medical issues, etc., while they would get all of me: healthy, sorta well off, and wise. No thanks.

    Selfish? I most assuredly am. And so, too, is the woman selfish when she has health issues and she is seeking a provider to take on her issues, provide her benefits so she can quit working, etc.

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  2. Thanks always, Darth. You leave such great comments.

    Yeah, I had a male friend who was like that about jobs... "It's the best thing ever!" and then within months or a year or two it's "Oh, that place was awful" or "The boss is terrible" and I can't help but thinking that is what happens with their romantic relationships as well. They're in a fantasy at the start, not actually being serious about whether it is a match or not. With women, it is even worse, because if they don't like their job, it will often cast a shadow over everything else in their life. There's a book out there about men being like waffles (able to compartmentalize) and women being like spaghetti, where one strand touches every other strand.

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