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Navigating Relationships through Health Hiccups

Dear Harlan

Here we are, 8 years on, navigating relationships 🙂

This time 8 years ago you and I were on a plane to Australia. We had adventure under our feet and the vast unknown ahead. We had no idea what it held in store for us, except that we were going to your Aunt Sue’s place on the Gold Coast. From there we would begin our search for a campervan and follow the season…head north with the winter to stay warm.

We had known each other for 9 months. We had been dating for 6 – you in Hamilton, me in Auckland. Meeting on the weekends in alternate locations. You’d accepted my offer about this mission while visiting me in Australia 7 months earlier. Did you want to join me on an exploration trip of Australia? Did you want to throw in your job of about 8 years? Apparently the answer was YES!

I wonder if you knew what you were getting yourself into back then. You fell head over heels in love with this girl. A stubborn, head-strong, opinionated girl whose free spirit could be alluring. Did you realise how head-strong? How critical she could be? NO! Otherwise you may have reconsidered your answer. Did you realise that together we would walk some of the most beautiful times, but also some of the hardest and harrowing? Most likely NOT.

Did I? NO! I didn’t even know if we could make it work at first, but I loved your handsome boyishness. Your deep and dimpling smile. Those blue eyes that sparkled and told me so much without you saying a word. I loved your desire for mischief and adventure. So travelling in a campervan together seemed like a good idea. I wasn’t sure though that we would be able to figure out our differences. Or should I say if I could figure them out. They didn’t bother you.

You see you are a very accepting person. Me, I have my moments. I’ve had a history of being very hard on myself, and as a result am very hard on those I love most. My expectations are sky high. Sometimes impossible to meet. I’ve had the tendency to create a vast and inviting space for Failure to step in and point out the unmet expectations. Usually with a whip…he’s not subtle that guy!

Relationships require work.

They are like anything in our lives. They need sustenance, nurture and nourishment. Regularly. Without it they wilt and sometimes wither away. My stubbornness is good for one thing. I’m a firm believer in communication and come hell or high water I’ve made sure its present. We attended an imago relationship weekend early on. It was all about dialogue – really hearing the other person and giving them the space to share their feelings without our own stories over the top.

Honestly, most of the time you play that game better than me. I think my opinion kicks in at the drop of a hat, and unless I’m reminded, I hear your words through my stories. You, on the other hand, often have the foresight to diffuse a situation by simply saying those magic words…I hear you say… They’re like an instant cut to the gas of my vent. It helps me to realise what I actually want to say and then I don’t feel like I need to harp on. Thank you!

You know life happens and then suddenly you think Oh shit, that’s right, this relationship actually needs some servicing! Businesses need to be run. Bees need to be attended to. Chronic health issues cloud pictures. Homes need to be managed. And so it goes.

Relationships are the constant.

They make you grow. If you choose to of course. I want us to both grow together. I want our relationship to challenge me…gently. Us to challenge each other…gently. Like you, I have changed over the years and one of the up sides of coming home to myself through my health journey is that I have become more balanced (have I? ;)). I’m not as critical. I don’t live in fear of our differences. I realised that was my stuff, and the sooner I could start letting go of it the better.

When I feel more balanced the relationship flows more smoothly. When I am struggling with my own demons, navigating chronic pain or finding my way through health disappointments, debris is thrown into the river of our relationship. On so many levels.

Small things get bigger, big things are forgotten for a while and we go into cope mode.

I couldn’t have asked for a more compassionate, supportive person to walk this crazy healing journey with me. You are able to put aside the fact that many days I have been near on impossible to live with because of my pain, both physical and mental. You know when to hold me and when to leave me alone. Yes, you’ve used avoidance tactics at times, but who wouldn’t? I don’t know if I could have been as supportive if the roles were reversed. You are an outstanding example of a good man.

Today I sit here and reflect on that tongue of mine. We talked about it. It needed to happen. The judgments and criticisms I can throw at you. Sometimes they’re because I’m feeling critical of myself. Other times they’re because we haven’t checked in for a while and we need to air some things. And then sometimes it’s a mixture. Like today.

So today, 8 years on, I’m thinking of judgement. I realise it has no place in relationships. It’s not usually a very pretty emotion, and so I wonder if I can morph it into something more productive. What if I dig deeper and see where it’s coming from? Is it just my stuff, or is it related to stuff we need to navigate our way through together with the wonderful tool of communication?

Maybe we could do with a little refresher. We could call on our experienced mediator to guide us through this part of our journey. We haven’t seen her for years. Maybe now is the time. Surely not many couples could still love each other so much after what we’ve been through. What I’ve been through. What you’ve been through. The focus has been on my health journey, but I think people often forget to ask you how you cope with it. You are just as much in it as I am, but in a different capacity. Your life has also been seriously altered as a result of this fistula.

I have so much support on so many levels. Do you have the support you need? I know we deal with things very differently. It’s one of our differences. And wisely you like to remind me that you’re not me, and I’m not you 🙂 But do you have the support you need? I know my full acceptance of you, as the incredible life partner you are, would go a long way. I will work on that. And maybe you can think about the support you might need from yourself or others.

And so together we grow…gently…

With love x


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