Sex & Relationships

‘Communication is Key’ Being in a Relationship When One of You Has a Chronic Illness

Navigating a relationship can be tricky at the best of times. There are lots of learning curves and compromises along the way. But when one of you has a chronic illness, it can come with a whole range of other challenges. We look at how people manage this and hear from some happy and loved up couples!

Interabled couples are dispelling the myth ‘100 out of 100 relationships that involve caregiving, fail’

Dr Phil made the bold statement on TV in March this year. An able-bodied women and disabled man appeared on his show and he declared: “you can be his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can’t be both… It won’t work, 100 out of 100 times this won’t work.”

This resulted in an outrage from ‘interabled’ couples all around the world and they began to post on social media using #100outof100.

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I haven’t been sure how to put into words how I feel about Dr. Phil’s words when he told a couple last week that “100 out of 100 relationships that require caregiving fail” – I have sat back and thought about the complete and utter ignorance it takes to say such words, not to mention the complete lack of awareness and disrespect. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I met my husband in 2011 and a year later, completely unexpectedly fell head over heels in love with him. He has only known me as a woman with a spinal cord injury – it is our normal. I didn’t fall in love with him because he could see past my wheelchair and he didn’t fall in love with me despite my wheelchair. We fell in love with one another and all that we are. In so many ways the fact that I live with a disability not only strengthened our love, but deepened it in ways that most may not appreciate – it taught us from day one the importance of trust, communication, vulnerability and respect. It has taught us that how the world sees us doesn’t matter, what matters is the love that is shared between us. It has taught us that love is worth fighting for and no matter what, you show up everyday for those you love. It has taught us that teamwork is the only way to build a strong foundation for a relationship. Above all, it has taught us that love is resilient, love is all encompassing and love knows no boundaries. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Those words, the words that so freely flowed out of Dr. Phil’s mouth, without hesitation – they aren’t only damaging to the couple that had to hear them, but to the millions of viewers who listened in. It continues to perpetuate a perception that individuals with disabilities aren’t capable of being equal, loving partners. I may live with a disability, but it doesn’t confine or limit me. Disabilities don’t prevent us from loving or being loved, they don’t prevent us from contributing to our society or from having successful careers – the reality is disabilities only enable us to see the world in a way that few are lucky enough to see it. #100OutOf100 #Love @drphil

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When you develop a chronic illness after you started dating

Young couple Beth and Ash Tew have been together for 6 years and married for the last 2. I was fortunate enough to meet them and it is clear how much they love each other.

Beth: “I love his sense of humour, his eyes and how we balance each other out (I’m manic as hell and he’s pretty chill)”

Ash: “I love her beautiful face, the fact that she is so driven to achieve what she sets out too.”

Beth has hEDS and PoTS which leave her managing a range of symptoms such as joint pain and sickness. But none of this happened when she first met Ash.

“I wasn’t chronically ill when we met: it was about 3 years into our relationship. It was very taxing on us as it was difficult to navigate. It took over a year and a half to get a diagnosis so it was a journey into the unknown but we stuck together!

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. We had our fights and issues, but the main thing is we worked through them together.”

“My advice to anyone in a similar situation is communication is key! Listen to each other. This will help reduce resentment and issues that may arise. For example I will tell Ash I need a day in bed or Ash will tell me he needs to go out and do an activity I can’t.”

“Also be patient. It’s not easy but it’s worth it. People deserve love regardless of race, religion, ability or sexual preference. Every situation is what you make it to be so be aware.”

Knowing what the other one needs

When you know each other inside out, you can tell when someone is feeling down or needs some extra support. For interabled couples, this understanding makes it easy to manage flare ups. It doesn’t mean that either of you have to give up doing activities or miss out, it’s all about planning.

“I think it’s important to compromise on things and find a balance of doing things together and separately. Mainly linked to physical activity such as hiking or riding a bike, but Ash is able to still do them. I express myself by making cards and other art. It’s all about planning now as it’s harder to do spur of the moment things due to pain or fatigue.”

And it’s not just Beth and Ash that show interabled relationships can be just as loving and happy as able bodied ones!

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RELATIONSHIPS, INDEPENDENCE & CHRONIC ILLNESS⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ I was recently binge-reading posts from @jessieandclaud and they made an amazing point about independence in relationships when one partner is dependent on the other for a lot of things.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ They said that Claudia never assumes that Jessica can't do something – she'll wait for her to ask. And I realised that's very much how things go in my relationship too. Because there are definitely people who get off on being able to do everything for their partner in a way that is controlling and unhealthy.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Because we know each other so well, we kind of have a shorthand at this point. There are certain things that are just a given that I'm not going to do, for either pain or fatigue reasons. Then there are times where I literally will just point at something or thrust something at him, and we know that he needs to help, like opening my water bottle or bringing me my blanket (of course there's always a thank you – I think it's important to recognise and not take this for granted). ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ When I come into the living room in the morning I stand at the door squinting and pulling a stupid face until he closes the blinds because the light is too bright 😂 He has an instinct of when I need help physically, but vitally important is that I have no guilt around asking.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ This came with time. I think it was really great that we were friends first, because I was able to be my full disabled self without trying to hide it in order to be 'more appealing to boys' *rolls eyes at younger self*⁣⠀⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ In order to live my life as well as possible, I've had to accept the fact that I need to be open and honest about what I can and can't do in all aspects of my life. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ At the same time, it's important to remember that I'm the one that has to maintain control. MWAHAHAA. Srsly though, except when I'm acting like a loopy child, I get treated like an adult and only get help when it's already an already established part of our relationship or when I've asked for it. So much is out of my control already – so this is something I hold onto for dear life. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ ♿gifted @careco_mobility

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∙ Ad ∙ The very first moment we knew something special had happened- we sat talking in a pub for five hours until they threw us out, Claud walked me home and stood on my doorstep as we talked into the early morning, delaying being parted. Talking might seem like a small thing but I’d never had a date so easily accept my deafness, so willing to repeat a sentence five times or spell out a word I couldn’t grasp. “I’m actually really quite deaf, even though I don’t sound it,” I told her, “I just nod and smile a lot”, but I wanted to absorb her every word. “No worries,” she said “I can’t talk properly and I’ve had speech therapy”, but somehow she became the easiest person for me to understand. Love has its own unconventional language. It doesn’t have to follow the old paths laid down and the love of your life might not be who you expect… but when you meet the person who understands everything you want to say with just the raise of an eyebrow, you’ll know they’re the one. Today I’m celebrating my one with the Vivelle Eternity Bracelet from @buchererfinejewellery . Founded 130 years ago, Bucherer Fine Jewellery have a rich history of craftsmanship and still use traditional skills, creating beautiful pieces through a modern lens. Tag the person who best understands you and let’s celebrate that they are in your life! #BuchererFineJewellery

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