It’s not always easy to take a mirror to your own reflection.
Recently, I’ve been faced with some difficult feelings and realizations. I have an incredibly supportive partner, who understands the ins and outs of endometriosis. He shoulders the burden without any fuss or complaint, and gives me ample space to do what I need to do to feel better. He takes on the bulk of the household responsibilities, and gives me the permission I need to hear whenever he sees me struggling and reluctant to admit it.
He understands that my health takes a priority in our relationship. Without it, I wouldn’t even have the energy to be in one. He also understands that it takes all my power to stay healthy and be a self-employed small-business owner.
Perhaps he understands it too well, because it’s all too easy for me to let my relationship take a back seat. Every day, I work on my health, my dreams, and my goals, and my relationship gets squeezed into the time in between — or, you know, at the end of the week.
It takes a huge amount of effort for me to feel energized and focused every day as a person living with a chronic illness. It requires a strict morning routine of meditation, exercise, affirmations, and gratitude, and my day continues in a similar fashion. In fact, I’m occupied from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed.
It’s the only way I am able to keep on top of my health and live the life I want to lead, but it means that I don’t have time to reply to text messages, answer phone calls, or — I’m ashamed to admit — have a conversation with my partner that doesn’t revolve around what we should have for dinner.
It needs to change. I know that. My social life is somewhere in the gutter of my life, and I fear my relationship isn’t far behind. This is the complex balancing act someone with a chronic illness faces: how to be healthy, have a career, and have functioning, happy relationships, all at the same time. I have a hard enough job keeping two of them going, let alone three, but I can no longer ignore the missed calls, the list of unread messages, and the absence of connection in my home.
Relationships have never been my strong point; perhaps that’s exactly why my career and my health are the two focuses of my day. No one teaches you how to have a healthy relationship. We’re expected to learn it from our parents, but the only thing I learned from mine is the type of relationship I don’t want to have.
So many of us grow up thinking that it’ll all fall into place when we meet “the one.” We expect there to be hard times, but we have no idea how to navigate them, and we have no idea how to actually maintain a healthy relationship (well, I don’t). It’s easy to forget that relationships take effort, just like our health and our careers.
When you live with endometriosis, it’s incredibly important to be supported in a relationship, but I have to face the ugly truth that it’s become easier for me to not support — at least, not fully — in return. I’m not berating myself. Every day is a struggle living with this disease, even though I’m on top of it most of the time, and I’ve been doing the best I can. But now that I am aware that I can do better, I need to work out a way to do that without dropping the ball of my health.
So, how am I working toward that? Well, first, I’m doing it alone. I’m not dragging my boyfriend to therapy just yet; I’m trying to work through my own stuff and feelings about relationships. I’ve taken to listening to the brilliant podcast Rise Together, by Rachel and Dave Hollis, which I honestly think has taught me more about healthy relationships in three episodes than I’ve learned in my life to date.
Second, I’m getting into “The ZimZum of Love,” by Rob and Kristen Bell — not just for married couples, despite what the cover says!
Finally, I’m asking the questions I hope others want answers to on my podcast, This EndoLife. I recently interviewed couples therapist Mel Cox, talking specifically about endometriosis and the way it affects romantic relationships.
Like everything worth having, relationships take dedication, commitment, and presence. And just like my health, I’m in a relationship for the long run, so I’d better start showing up.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.