Twenty seven years ago, when David and I first married, among the things I heard him say was that he wanted “an independent woman” as a wife. To someone like me, who has m.s. and who learned in childhood that playing “the victim” was the way to being loved, that description of “independent” was scary. Not because of working, because I always have, but from the standpoint of not being loved.
Over the years, I’ve come to learn that David’s definition of “independent” was far from what I had thought. Assumptions are relationship killers; being a psychotherapist doesn’t always help what’s personal. But worrying about it and trying to deny my disease because of my assumptions about “independence” led me to a surprising conclusion. I am independent when I accept responsibility for my health – maintaining it or mistreating it.
I was really mistreating our marriage by not practicing self-care as I couldn’t possibly be a good partner if I was sick.
I gave David the burden of my progressive disease instead of doing what I could about it myself. That included all of those self-care things I’m lousy at, like not overdoing it, slowing down, and treating myself well, like eating more than 2 cookies and a cup of coffee for breakfast. And especially treating my psychotherapy clients better than I treat myself.
David gives me unwavering physical and emotional support, even though he’s stopped trying, bless his heart, to save me from myself. I never listened, anyway.
In the process of leaving me to my own devices David’s unwittingly given me the best, and most terrifying gift of all: the responsibility for being myself.This first appeared in Disability.gov’s “Connections”as The Best Gift David Ever Gave Me, which was also published as a blog in 2012. Kathe Skinner is a Relationship Coach with over 17 years experience as a Marriage & Family Therapist. She lives in Colorado with David and their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy. copyright, 2012 Kathe Skinner