Speaking from a disabled woman’s point of view, living the “lib lie” in relationship simply doesn’t work.
The “lib lie” I’m talking about is putting career before relationship, being damned if I’ll make cacciatore, or being complimented for how I look.
Where was my head all these years. I’ll tell you where: in the conference room, the kitchen, and in front of the mirror.
Truth be told, I like making cacciatore — and being appreciated for it. The same as anybody would, including guys. Liberation doesn’t stop at individual freedom; its true worth is in how liberated our partnership is. Oh, stop — I’m not talking about three ways. See, if one partner realizes cultural or family baggage enough to detach a bit from it and the other partner is clueless, the relationship’s pretty lopsided. But hey, some partners like their partners a tad underdone.
Clueless for real or clueless pretended, either path leads right back to a problem that’s repeated itself for generations.
Sherod Miller, co-founder of Interpersonal Communication Programs, defines a healthy relationship as the collaboration of two strong people “bridging” to each other across a committed lifetime. Paula Derrow, writing in The New York TImes, calls it “leaning in together”. Writing recently about her marriage in The New York Times, Paula describes a marriage right out of Home Depot.
A do-it-yourselfer, her marriage to another do-it-yourselfer spanned two states. Their finances were separate, and so was ownership of their separate homes. Except for weekends, each lived a separate life.
Talk about distancing.
When Paula was laid off from her job as a writer, she had reason to need her husband in very real ways, one assumes for the first time. Lying awake, the writer struggled with questions about her independence, whether she could afford to continue living separately, and whether her husband was encouraging and supportive only as a way to get her to come live with him and cook up a cacciatore.
I won’t say where Paula Derrow’s head was, but to come to the realization that her marriage was about the two of them together, not separately, is, to put it charitably, wrong-thinking.
More than most, those of us with disabilities, invisible or not, have had to come to terms with the lie that we can make it on our own.
The poor state of the world economy has left millions out of work, stressing personal worth and identity. With so many jobless, you’d think social perception about being unemployed would’ve changed; it hasn’t. Role expectations die hard.
Changes in the social order are happening all around us; role-turbulence is no longer reserved for the disabled or marginalized others.
These days, anyone can become marginalized.
Relationship’s great test is how to be together without losing oneself; how to get from one place to another while travelling together.
Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Coach specializing in work with couples whose relationship is affected by invisible disability. Like most of her generation, she has been powerfully affected by the Women’s Movement of the 1960s and 1970s and has had trouble integrating that independence with the sometimes-limitations of multiple sclerosis. She and her husband David live in Colorado where they teach couples to collobate their way to happier relationships. Read more about she and David’s Communication Workshops at http://www.BeingHeardNow.com.