“I’m not going to kiss you…”
Who would ever think that hearing these words from your spouse would be considered a sign of his deep love? As my husband and I celebrated our 14th anniversary recently at a nice hotel on the Oregon Coast, we walked on the beach hand in hand, and finally, after 3 days I said, “Just kiss me!” so he did.
He’d been in the state of “getting sick” for the last week on and off. The 1000-mile drive (and all the caffeine I kept handing him on the way to stay awake) had not exactly helped him fight it off.
Yep, that kiss was really stepping out of a safety zone. I’m glad to say I didn’t get sick.
Some of you may laugh. If you don’t have a chronic illness, you may think this all sounds a bit odd. I mean, who is going to get sick from one quick little kiss, right?
Well. . . me. And maybe you too, if you have a less than effective immune system.
Some of us may remember when we were young and in love and if the one we cared about was sick we just said “Ah, kiss me anyway.”
If we didn’t yet have a chronic illness our immune system could fight off the few germs from a kiss. And if we actually got sick? Well, that was just romantic, right?
About 6 weeks after I was officially diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1993, my husband (who was just a boyfriend at the time) got the chicken pox. Despite our best of efforts for me to avoid it, I remember being at work and getting a horribly sore throat in a matter of an hour. I went home, and soon the sores started to appear on the rest of my body.
Although we’d been in our twenties, neither one of us had ever had the chicken pox. I remember him coming over to my home (where I rented a room) and we sat on the couch for hours watching movies. It wan’t fun, but I had been able to get on medications quickly to avoid the worst of the pox. He wasn’t so lucky. He had an allergic reaction and was quite miserable.
But there was a certain amount of “we’re in this together” feeling. As the saying goes, “shared hardship creates intimacy.” And yes, sharing chicken pox did create relationship memories. We thought we’d have stories to tell our child someday when he got them. Instead, he just got a vaccinne.
Now we aren’t so “romantic.” There are better ways to creat memories in a relationship and we have enough “shared hardships” that happen naturally without allowing new ones to happen, like shared colds.
Is a rushed kiss worth me being sick for weeks or maybe months? Nope! Is it worth me having to go off of my immuno-suppressant medications? The risk of possible upper respiratory infection? Uh, no.It turns not only my health upside down, but our entire household.
Can all of this hurt a relationship? Yes, it can if you let it. When it comes to intimacy within a marriage where chronic illness exists it takes a great deal of communication, a sense of humor, and . . . love.
Because when my husband stood there in front of friends and family and pledged to love me in sickness and in health in 1996, he knew the odds were that there would be a lot more sickness than health. He knew the difference between having an illness and “being sick.” He didn’t know all that would happen, but he promised to be there beside me. . . and he has been.
You know you have a chronic illness within your marriage, when your spouse puts on surgical gloves before caring for your wound and you aren’t even slightly humiliated. Or when you MUST get along (even when you are both stressed and driving each other nuts) because he is the only one in the house who can run the computer that is attached to your IV that gives you your doses of medication.
I realize how blessed I am to have a loving husband who stands beside me (some days to prop me up). He’s not perfect, and neither am I, but together, we are learning to walk the path of both marriage and illness together. And most days I do get a kiss!
To hear more from Rest Ministries founder, Lisa Copen and her husband Joel, listen to the podcast they did together on marriage and illness for National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week 2009.