In Sickness and In Health – Dependency in Marriage

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I got sick. Real sick. I hadn’t been this ill before and if I had, I did a really good job of blocking it out of my memory.

Where did it come from? Well, I have a belief that we can trigger viruses within us when we’re stressed the f*ck out. I also believe that we can make our immune systems heavily vulnerable to external viruses that we would usually be able to fight off if we’re not stressed.

This time around I’d say it was the latter.

I exposed myself to a virus and then weakened my immune system’s ability to fight it off by stressing out about something going on in my life. The result? Bed, soup, and painkillers for days.

Usually when I get a cold or the (man) flu, I couch-crash for a couple of days and catch up on movies. This time was different. It was very different. I couldn’t call my mum to come over and comfort me (she was sick), my sisters were also sick and my wife was working long hours.

Where did that lead me? Well, I was already feeling super vulnerable. I’ll tell you why in later blog posts… I promise.

So here I am, this vulnerable, lonely little dude half-laying on the couch, feeling really sorry for myself, wanting someone to make me feel better. Fully knowing it’s usually those moments we desperately want something or someone is when they’re unavailable to give or do what we’re asking.

Is that irony or perfection? Or maybe ironic perfection?

It actually got to a point where all I wanted was a hug. A physical sense of reassurance that I wasn’t alone and that I didn’t have to try to deal with my pain alone. This all came to a head when I was laying on the couch messaging my wife to leave work and come home. I even offered to pay her to come home!

She ended up coming home and did little things that I could’ve done for myself but all I wanted was her presence. To remove that sense of loneliness and isolation at a time I was feeling super vulnerable.

Her presence alone is what helped me sleep. It’s what helped me relax long enough to give my body the shut-eye it needed to do some repairs.

Naturally she couldn’t spend every day with me because of her business responsibilities – and her sanity. So without hesitation I found myself experiencing loneliness all over again. So much so, that I woke up one morning laying next to my wife and I started to cry. (There’s more to this emotional moment that I’ll tell you about in another post – but the loneliness just added to it).

This vulnerability got the better of me and flawed me. My wife didn’t know how to help me and I couldn’t shake the feeling. How am I, as a grown man, attempting to make a difference in people’s lives, unable to work out why I’m feeling so needy?

Then it dawned on me…

It wasn’t about me being sick, it was about me being dependent on my wife. Getting sick just brought this issue to the surface where it couldn’t be ignored.

We had spent so much time working building our independence that we didn’t know how to deal with being dependent on each other.

It all got the better of me and I was having to confront what dependence meant in our relationship. What was healthy and what was dangerous? What was adoration and what was being clingy? What was fear of loneliness and what was genuine appreciation? Pretty epic stuff to be dealing with when you’re sick.

There was no escaping having to confront this. It was at the surface and I couldn’t pretend like it wasn’t happening.

Here’s 3 things I learnt (am learning)…

Love wears different clothes

Sometimes we really want someone to do something for us and they won’t or say they can’t. Does that mean they don’t love you? Nope. It means they may not see that as helping you (or themselves). It means they don’t think the same way you do and it means they can’t read your mind.
If you want something, tell them. If you’re feeling a certain way, tell them. If you’re scared of something, shine light on your fear with them. Expose yourself and what follows is typically an understanding.

The more you expose yourself, you’ll come to realise that they’re showing you love in their own way. Just because it’s not the way you want it doesn’t make it wrong. In fact the way they demonstrate their love is probably why you “fell in love” with them to begin with.

Understanding trumps winning

Whenever my wife and I argue or disagree on something, I never want her to apologise for what she said or did. I only ask that she understands me because I know once she truly understands where I’m coming from her perspective immediately changes. It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s just about understanding each other.

You know when you’re understanding each other? It’s that moment in the argument when the frustration gets completely disarmed and the whole tone changes between the two of you. It’s as if this calm washes over the space between you, making it difficult to be angry.

Seek to understand and it’s impossible to not appreciate them. Even in the shitty moments. It’s like walking unarmed into a gunfight.

It’s ok to be weak

The times my wife and I have grown together is when either one of us have dropped our guards long enough to share our truth. What does that mean?

Getting sick amplified my neediness and I was not ok with telling my wife initially. I wanted to be the tough, independent man. What a d*ck! That actually made me feel more ill.

Then a day or two in, I got to a point where I had to tell her how weak and needy I was feeling. Just by telling her my truth (feeling needy) I managed to lighten the load I was carrying and it gave her the opportunity to understand what I was going through.

It’s communication 101 but it’s so easily forgotten. Most of the time when I’ve consulted couples, it usually involves me showing them what their partner is really saying, altering their perception and then giving them the responsibility to share their thoughts with their partner. AKA telling them their truth.

Get it out in the open. It’s not easy, it if was more people would do it, but it’s the foundation to building a sustainable and fulfilling relationship. Doing the easy thing isn’t always the wisest. Concealing thoughts until the emotional volcano erupts just creates unnecessary turbulence.

If you need help starting that conversation with your special someone and you’re unsure how, share this article with them or read it to them and then talk about it. Start the hard conversations, they eventually get easier.

*This article was brought to you by years of challenge, arguments and growth with my wife.

Stay tuned for more articles on what lead to this point.

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