It’s Valentine’s Day, which in all honesty, means very little in this house. But tonight we’ll give each other a card and a small gift. I got J a mug with his favourite living things on it, the bunnies and his precious hamster, Barry. He’ll love it. I know where I stand in the hierarchy of his affections.
Anyway, I’ve read a lot of articles lately about looking for love with a chronic illness. I was lucky in that I met my boyfriend six months before I started getting sick. I’d just managed to wangle my way into his heart before I became a s**t storm that has completely turned all of our visions of the future on their head. It does sometimes drive me crackers that he is so laid back that he is practically horizontal, but I think it’s his excess “woosah” that has kept our relationship on track when things have been tough and I have been difficult…
A lot of the articles I read focus on the difficulty of dating as someone with an illness/disability. I don’t have any experience of this and frankly, I hope I never do. I sort of want to keep J forever. I don’t feel qualified to write about dating, so I’m going to talk about the stuff we fight about as a couple living with chronic illness and disability. Bear with me here…
1 – The fact that he leaves his dirty washing on the floor and I’m supposed to use my psychic senses to know what is “dirty dirty” and what is “not clean but will wear again”. Heaven forbid I should wash his joggers when they have a day or two of wear left in them, despite the pot noodle stains…
2 – That I leave my underwear tangled up inside my skinny jeans and he has to do a wet, cold pants puzzle when he’s hanging up the washing. One day he may murder me for this nonsense.
3 – His onion chopping technique. Honestly, he is going to chop off his damn fingers. I can’t even watch him any more.
4 – The toilet seat. Pubes. Beard trimmings. His innate inability to hang up the bath mat or his wet towel.
5 – Whose turn it is to clean the George Foreman. It seems to work on a 3:1 ratio of me:him.
6 – Opening the blinds. J would happy live in a freakin’ cave. I, on the other hand, feel strongly that blinds and curtains should be opened during the day because we are civilised human beings.
Notice something? We don’t argue about the fact that he pays the bills, my wheelchair/mobility issues or my lack of contribution resulting in his additional duties when I’m sore. He doesn’t complain about having to come to appointments or when I rant and rant about how unfair the world is when you’re disabled. He doesn’t give me a hard time about having to change plans and short notice. He doesn’t hold it against me that when I’m exhausted, hormonal and in pain I am a FUCKING NIGHTMARE of a human being. He doesn’t complain that he has had to start doing most of the cooking, cleaning, bunny bothering or even washing and drying my hair. He wasn’t even phased when I asked him to help my shave my legs.
Similarly, I don’t hold it against him that ableist, hurtful phrases sometimes roll off his tongue before he’s engaged his brain – such as sniggering at the notion of “ableism” one evening. I take a deep breath every time he pushes my wheelchair right against the wall, out the way, so that it’s hard for me to get out of the house. I don’t go bananas at him for not cleaning Barry the hamster out at the weekend as promised – leaving me stuck in the house with a stinky rodent for company.
I am so, so, so lucky to have him. But he is my soul mate. I make him feel wanted and loved too, I’m not a charity case. We laugh every single day without fail. We are the same ridiculous people that we were before I got sick – we just have to do things a bit differently. He has to do more. It’s always good to know that “in sickness and in health” won’t be a stumbling point for us, but his onion chopping technique might.