My wife often tells me that she is in pain. When she does, I look at her, and I feel powerless. Usually, I ask her if there is anything I can do to help.
I often wonder why this is happening to her and not to me. Why is she the one in pain? Why is it her that wakes up some mornings with a more limited supply of energy than most people our age? Why don’t I have to adhere to a rigorous diet just to make everyday activities bearable? It’s not fair. But it wasn’t always this way.
Those who know my wife know she loves people (sometimes too much). She is extremely loyal and terribly compassionate. She is an incredibly faithful friend. She also enjoys exploring the world around her. This is a passion we share. Many times, she would tire me out with her endless curiosity, energy, and spontaneity.
Before we were married, her mother once warned me that Alicia would wear me out. I didn't quite get it back then, but soon enough I found myself asking Alicia for breaks when we took trips together. My tired feet could barely keep up!
My wife is the same amazing person I fell in love with years ago, though her physical capabilities have changed. She can't walk long distances like she used to. And sometimes, she tells me I’m walking too fast for her to keep up.
Nowadays I miss being outdone by my wife. I hate the random flare-ups she has to endure, and I despise the pain she experiences — pain that I can’t understand.
Every now and then, she expresses her fear that I’ll leave her because of her illness. It upsets me to hear that. I refuse to give up on my bride. In sickness and in health, she’s my girl. I choose her. Yes, sometimes it’s challenging, but all relationships are. Her rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is never the cause of the issues we have.
My wife works from home as a daycare provider. She also looks after our two young daughters every day. In addition to that, she makes sure we all eat quality meals and manages our finances. She amazes me. She’s a fighter. I admire her passion.
She’s tried different medications to figure out what works best for her. She is now better than she was a few years ago. The painful flare-ups are not as frequent, and some days she has a decent amount of energy. With the right medication, your loved one can manage their RA symptoms.
My wife is not fighting her RA alone. If she feels weak, I’ll do everything I can to give her strength. I took a vow to be by her side “in sickness and in health.” It’s hard to think that an autoimmune disease can have a positive impact, but my wife’s condition has opened the door to new ways of showing her how much I love her.
I don’t always get it right though. Sometimes I forget that my wife is living with an invisible illness. Though I have improved, from time to time I’ll lose sight of the fact that she is living with chronic pain. I get upset with myself when that happens. I want to be better for her because I am better with her.
To those in a relationship with someone who has RA, love your partner as they are. At times, their illness can be an obstacle, but they’re not in control. You’ve been blessed with the opportunity to hold them up when they can’t do it on their own. You can be their strength when they have none left. In turn, your love will grow stronger each day.
Mark J. is a poet, storyteller, and public speaker. He is married with two daughters and resides in Sacramento, CA.