Saturday, October 26, 2013
How Do You Deal With Health Issues In Your Relationship?
Have you ever dated someone with health issues? How about someone with heavy depression, anxiety, or something similar? My first long term relationship was challenged by the fact that my girlfriend had reoccurring tumors on the back of one of her legs. By the time we stopped dating, she had had 6-7 surgeries to deal with the issue, including 3 while we were together. In addition, towards the end of our relationship, her father developed some form of stomach cancer. I wasn't really equipped back then to face all of that. Perhaps it would have been different if we had a really strong connection, but we weren't the best match to begin with, and so when all the health issues cropped up, I struggled to be compassionate and supportive.
When I read this post today, I thought back to that relationship. And considered what I've learned since then.
Here's a short list of skills/qualities that I think are beneficial to sustaining healthy relationships, even when one partner is struggling.
1. Patience. It seems to me that no matter what else you do with your life, learning to cultivate true patience (as opposed to the grin and bear it kind) is essential to sustaining good relationships. One way to do this is through practices like meditation and slower forms of yoga. Another way specifically within a relationship is to pay attention to how you react to your partner's difficulties. If your partner gets sick, do you feel like your time is being wasted somehow? If your partner isn't able to go out on a fun date with you, do you feel slighted in any way? In other words, do you take things personally?
2. Impermanence. Recognizing and learning to embrace (or be ok with) the fact that nothing stays the same. Even the healthiest of folks will have days or weeks where they're run down, feeling depressed or confused, or are sick. That's all part of the deal in long term relationships.
3. Seeing health challenges as opportunities to learn. This one isn't easy. And in offering this, I'm not staying that, for example, you should stay with the person who is depressed for years for example. Or that you're obligated to become a lifelong caretaker for a partner who's increasing becoming disabled before your eyes. Many factors come into play. How long you've been together. The depth of your connection. Whether you've made a commitment (marriage or some other form) to each other or not. Regardless though, I have found that viewing health challenges as opportunities to learn has changed the way I handle illness in general. When I get sick now, I tend to accept it much faster. I slow down, and make the effort to take care of myself, and/or ask for help from others. Something I rarely did when I was younger. And this attitude spills over to when my partner gets sick or isn't feeling well. Offering support is an opportunity to grow your connection together. And being ok with not having much excitement for awhile is an opportunity to develop some more patience.
How about you? How do you deal with health challenges in a relationship?