What has worked for us? I think it all starts with the acceptance that...
Marriage is hard work.
When Aaron asked me to marry him, I was not shy at all. I asked a few blunt and very hard questions that needed to be answered. I wanted a promise, that if we entered into marriage, he was certain that my disability would never be a factor for 'giving up'. I would have been content dating my entire life. He promised that we could 'handle anything'.
Recalling this discussion, I can honestly say, Aaron has been stronger than I have been at times when my disability had the best of me. The vulnerability a spinal cord injury creates is humbling (to say the least). As independent as I am, there have been many times in 21 years when Aaron has stepped into the role of full time caregiver. Two times, come to mind. When I was 6 months pregnant and as my baby bump grew, my independence lessened. Without the help from Aaron I would have never made it to full term. My pregnancies are proof that marriage is hard work; but well worth it!
Learning to love through the pain.
Perhaps, my marriage is not much different than that of two able bodied counterparts.
When you have true love, you do not have to make a choice between lover or caregiver. True love demands both! Even in relationships where both people are able-bodied. Caring for someone is the product of love.
How have we managed to navigate twenty one years with a chronic (changing) disability? We both have learned the value of loving even while hurting.
Marriage is a partnership. We manage your typical household tasks, finances, work/school requirements for our boys; the list is endless. But we both have found great satisfaction in working together to keep our marriage (and ultimately our family) moving in the right direction.
When the mundane days give away to a day of pain, heartache, or sorrow how do we survive? Twenty-one years of experience has taught us that life-changing and transcending love abounds when we choose to turn our eyes to each other. I am happy when he is happy (and vice versa).
We cannot escape the relentless difficulties in this life; we do however, have the opportunity to embrace each other, even while in pain, and discover love. It has been in these times, both Aaron and I felt our love grew even stronger.
Communication is essential.
Just recently, our marriage was tested. It was attacked by deceitful words from a family member. We both had a choice to make; we could believe what had been said or choose to believe in 'us'. We choose the latter.
This recent incident required us to talk through the situation. To give each other time and space to sort through emotions. Waiting on the other side of 'gossip' was a stronger, more assured, love for each other. What was intended on hurting us, in fact, made us stronger (perhaps, I should write the naysayers a 'thank you letter').
That is the paradox of love. Often times, if we are called to defend our love, it is there we are reminded how great our love is.
What is the formula to a long marriage?
I don't think one exist- well at least not one formula for every marriage. For us it has been placing importance on
- Physical touch. (we enjoy each other and always plan on having that as a part of our marriage).
- Our kids. Our boys are something we uniquely share. Its hard work and requires a sense of responsibility and a sense of humor. But just like love, kids are worth it!
- Our faith. It has been a cornerstone of our marriage from the start. Without our faith, it would have been easy to give up.
Marriage is designed to mirror our Creator’s unconditional love for us. It’s a love that will always be there and will never leave us or forsake us. When a man and woman love one another unconditionally, contentment and joy follow. This is what we made our vows upon.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
Love never fails.
Happy Anniversary to my best friend!
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. BD-11116