I see so many people in the invisible illness community struggling in their relationships because of their illness. Many people with chronic conditions have trouble dating or think it’s impossible for them, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people lose friendships to illness.
“I have a face I cannot show…”
People struggle with the concept of illness, especially chronic illness. And it is a particular challenge when outwardly the person looks “normal” but can’t do “easy” things. Healthy people often find illness as a sort of memento mori. It’s one of many reminders that we are all mortal and more fragile than we like to admit. While it is difficult and sobering to come together and support someone in a health crisis, or even someone who is actually dying, it is more challenging for a relationship to survive an ongoing, long-term illness. Chronic illness offers no closure, no obstacle that can be overcome. It is a “new normal,” and change is one of the most oft-cited cause of relationships’ deaths.
“I make the rules up as I go.”
Forging new relationships offers its own set of problems. Health is often very personal, and chronic illness can be uncomfortable to talk about. Many affect or even originate in systems that are generally not discussed in mixed company– from reproductive systems to the depths of our bowels, these are systems in our body that we find embarrassing even when they’re functioning perfectly.
“So try to love me if you can…”
But chronic illness can be a blessing to relationships too, in that it will expertly weed out anyone who is insincere. From a shallow friend to a romantic relationship with no future, weaknesses in bonds are exposed immediately. While the quantity of relationships you have in your life may decrease, the quality almost has to improve.
“Are you strong enough to be my man?”
So if you’re walking with chronic illness, and you feel lonely, or you’re dealing with rejection, remember that your time and feelings are valuable, and the people who are worth your time will come and stay.
“Strong Enough” Lyrics by Sheryl Crow