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The Third Person in the Relationship: Tips How to Not Let Your Disability Complicate Your Relationship

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Many see me as a role model that has it all figured out. The truth is that I don’t know what the heck I am doing most of the most time. I have no sense of direction in effective decision making. I get easily frustrated with the complexity of my life whenever things get difficult.  

My irritation with my disability affects all aspects of my life. Marriage is definitely one of them. I realized that my disability was kind of like a third person in my marriage. Sometimes it feels too suffocating to have my disability involved in every discussion. It’s not like I can separate myself from it when I am trying to be a normal wife. 

I am constantly stressing over things like:

“Will my disability always be an issue in our marriage?”

“What can I do to help my husband to not have caregiver burnout?”

“What will happen when we have kids?”  

Like many other disabled Americans, I struggle with having a stable income. The luck of a disabled freelance writer is very sparse. If I had a high-paying job, then I wouldn’t have most of my governmental benefits anymore. So Brandon has automatically become the breadwinner.   

On top of working a ten-hour shift in the summer heat, he has to come home and do household duties like taking care of the pets and handling dinner. It kills me that I can’t provide much help. I feel like I’ll never be able to be the wife I want to be and make enough money to live at the level that makes us both happy. It gets even more complicated when I think about adding the children to the mix.

It is not like we are planning on having kids anytime soon. We are definitely not ready for that level yet. I just have a horrible habit of stressing about the future and predicting many outcomes of a setback. Each time my husband gets a little irritated with assisting me, I immediately think he is getting burnt out. 

Then I’ll start worrying about if I am a burden or if adding kids would cause him to lose his mind. It is a nasty endless cycle that causes me to get upset and start a pointless fight. I naturally direct the frustration, doubt, disappointment, etc. at him or myself when I know it is only about my complicated relationship with my disability. 

Thankfully, Brandon and I have learned how to not let my disability complicate our marriage so much. We try our best to understand each other’s perceptions and have open communication.

Here are some tips:

In This Together

The Third Person in the Relationship: Tips How to Not Let Your Disability Complicate Your Relationship

Full abled partners must know what their actions communicate to their disabled partners. Many disabled individuals like myself take words and actions very seriously. We believe messages interpreted from interactions in our environment.

Sometimes the message is that we have capability and value. Other times, we interpreted them as that we are not worth it, and we have less value than a normal person. So when you decide for your partner what he or she can and can’t do, you are enabling him or her to believe that the message is that they’re less valuable and less capable.

Many disabled partners want to accomplish great things together. It may be easier to take over some things because you might not have enough patience. I get it. You don’t mean to do him or her wrong. You love your partner so much that you’d sacrifice your own life. What you are doing is only treating him or her as a secondary character in the love story. Instead, you must let your partner take the lead as well.

Take it from a stubborn disabled person; don’t make things simple just because you think your partner needs them to be. It will only frustrate him or her more. Let your partner figure out how he or she can contribute to daily life. Either you’re doing life together with your partner or doing your life for your partner. 

I love it when Brandon spoils me, but I have never expected him to handle everything. I cover my own groceries, medical supplies, grooming needs, and a couple of bills. I am the one who does most of the errands too. It makes me feel purposeful, and Brandon respects that. 

Encourage your disabled partner/spouse to become more involved in decisions or tasks. Confidence boosting increases trust and intimacy. You don’t have to be overly supportive, especially if it’s something specifically challenging. All you need to do is to give your partner a chance to try. He or she might start believing he or she can achieve more than he or she ever imagined.

Disabled partners have to be respectable in the situation too. Fussing about your partner being too accommodating only makes you seem ungrateful and spoiled. Explain your frustration about a certain task properly. When the journey gets rough, remember that you two are in it together. 

The Covid-19 Impact

Covid-19 has been affecting the normalcy of things, so working on assigning equal responsibilities has become less feasible for many inter-abled couples. Many disabled individuals cannot risk catching the virus, so fear and stress weigh down their relationships. Many have to stay at home and rely on their partners to go do the errand runs. Wheelchair-bound individuals who need physical help daily cannot see exactly social distance because others have to lift them and such. 

Therefore, significant others have to work extra hard and carefully to not become exposed to any germs. The added pressure could easily cause partners and spouses to become more emotionally drained, especially if they have to go to work in public. There is no way of knowing if a person is being exposed to the virus or not. 

My husband and I have been lucky enough to not have our normal routine affected. I don’t have any serious medical issues that make me an easy target for fatal viruses. However, my husband still has to be extremely cautious because he has to help me physically. He has stayed alert with any chance of exposing, and he wears his mask religiously. I am grateful for his devotion, especially when I act like a clean freak.  

It is as stressful for a partner who has to work at home because they have no personal time to recharge. All couples need individual time to value togetherness. Before the outbreak, My Brandon and I had a good balance of couple time and individual time. Now, since there is hardly anywhere to go without getting exposed, we spend a specific sizable amount of time at home. We have been enjoying each other’s company, but sometimes we annoy each other.

If you are having the same issue, try to shake things up. Even though it seems impossible to be adventurous right now, plan a fun activity or road trip. You can take a drive to a national park and have a picnic. If you want some separation, go enjoy a personal hobby or get together with friends (social distance-wise). 

For example, I love going on long beach vacations, but my husband doesn’t. Our time apart usually happens then, and it has been beneficial. He plans a guy time with his friends whenever I go. So respecting each other’s individuality has strengthened our bond as spouses. 

It is more incredible to find a wonderful, significant other. 

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Brooke Smith
Brooke Smith is from Louisiana. She graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in History. She has a blog called Creative Works by Brooke Settoon Smith, which presents her most recent short stories and poems. She is a contributing writer for The Mighty and Coffee House Writers. The most unique thing about Brooke is that she was born with Cerebral Palsy and she lives life limitless.

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