Having endometriosis, or any chronic illness, presents a lot of interesting challenges to a relationship. The reason for the challenges is because a relationship requires patience, nurturing, understanding, and time from both individuals, typically achieved by experiencing new and exciting outings together. When you throw a chronic illness into the mix, planning any outing takes extra care, concern, and extreme planning. If both partners are not in-sync and willing to putting in extra time to plan around the needs of the partner with the chronic illness, there will be a lot of issues going forward. From last minute cancellations to deal with pain flare-ups to adjusting for food sensitivities, there are many things that need to be discussed and understood if you are going to be in a relationship with someone who has a chronic illness.
Since the first moment my husband and I started dating, he knew that our relationship would be a challenge. We had been friends before we decided to take the plunge so he was aware of my chronic illness issues. Nonetheless, I still do not believe he had a full grasp of what he had signed up for until we were a few months into our dating relationship when we went on one particular date.
There was one outing that I think will forever define how our relationship is different than others – the Kennywood trip.
We went to Kennywood, just the two of us, one summer day as most new couple’s in the Pittsburgh-area do. It is essentially a rite-of-passage in our area. Yet, when you have a chronic illness, you cannot simply enjoy a day out without having to consider many factors. What will you be eating that day? Where are all of the nearest restrooms in case you have stomach issues? Will you be able to ride any of the stomach-turning rides if your chronic nausea decides to act up that day? Will you have a few pain-free hours to enjoy the day, or will you need to carry medicine? Will you even been in a good mood?
Well, let’s just say, I was not in the best mood that day. I was trying my hardest to pretend to be in a good mood. I tried to hide my pain, tried to hide my nausea and growing migraine. I did not want to ride any of the rides, but being his only ride partner – options were limited. By mid-day, my guard fell after my fifth bathroom trip, and we were both miserable and decided to leave.
From that day forward, we both knew that endometriosis and my other chronic pain issues would affect our relationship no matter how much we tried to not let them. It’s hard to not let it happen when my chronic illness is so much a part of who I am.
Fast-forward six years later, that same boy and I have now survived college, me moving a thousand miles away to law school, a year-long break-up, him moving to D.C. for law school, and then us finally committing our lives to each other on September 24, 2016. We thought we had this whole endometriosis thing under control. It was not a huge deal anymore, really. I still had some stomach issues, occasional pains during my cycles, and migraines, but nothing too major in the last few years. Until November.
In November the pain started and did not stop. It was unrelenting and unforgiving. It did not care that we were newly married, trying to figure out our new married life together, and dealing with other issues like financial debt (I have A LOT of student loans), waiting for my husband to start his new job that had an ever-moving start date, and it just was not a good time.
“Endometriosis is selfish. It does not care about anyone but itself.”
We finally found an amazing doctor in December and I had an excision surgery on January 19 (day before my birthday); however, that included nearly four weeks of “pelvic rest” and continued pain due to the surgery being more extensive than originally planned (read about it here, if interested). So, not being able to be with my husband for nearly two months causes a lot of stress on a new marriage. Does endometriosis realize how much that screws with a marriage? Does endometriosis care that a 26-year old man want to have sex with his wife more than once every two months? Does endometriosis care about anyone but itself?!
No. Endometriosis is selfish. It does not care about anyone but itself. It is screwing with my marriage. It has been screwing with our relationship since the Kennywood trip in 2010 and has not let up since! My mental health has been effected. My physical health, of course. But, does anyone ever think about the spiritual effects? The emotional effects? Those are what endometriosis takes away the most. It can destroy so much. I am simply blessed to have a strong man by my side who has stuck by through this journey with me. And, now, thanks to the miracle of modern medicine – a doctor who researches new techniques and is not afraid to have a general surgeon present to look for other causes of pelvic pain, such as the two hernias located – I have a higher chance of providing my husband with children in our future. I have a higher chance of having a normal physical relationship with him in the future. I have a higher chance of having a relatively pain-free existence for the rest of my life.
Endometriosis has screwed with my relationship, with my marriage, but I have taken back control. You can, too! There are even ways that having a chronic illness has strengthened my relationship – we’ll discuss that next time, though, since I’m still worked up and too mad at endo right now. We’re not talking today, Endo, so don’t even think about it.
How has chronic illness affected your relationship?
Have you found any ways to make chronic illness strengthen your relationship?
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