Ronnie's hospital stay is coming to an end. We are so close I can taste it. It's been a decently long stay (3 weeks exactly). It's actually been a pretty good tune-up all around (I'll post more on what Mckenna and I did to keep busy in another post or this one will ramble even more than normal…I know, seems impossible to ramble even more, doesn't it?! Trust me, I can go all day). Anyways, the stay has been pretty good. I think it's been the best one since Mckenna was born. She was good. We kept busy. I kept my sanity. All in all…a win.
During the stay, I got a message from a girl with CF. She is also battling a flare up and is having a harder than usual time getting back up to par. She has a boyfriend. He is usually good at handling her CF, but this time she wasn't getting as much as she needed from him. He was indifferent to her feelings during this time and not opening up. She wrote me asking: "So I guess my question is, how have you and Ronnie had a successful marriage?"
Talk about a doozy, right? I answered her the only way I knew how: honestly. My response boiled down to this…we have a successful marriage, but that doesn't mean I don't suck as a wife from time to time (more often than I like to admit). And not that you're asking, but I'll tell you anyways, here's what I think about successful CF relationships.
CF spouses are people first. I think sometimes we forget this. We all do. CF patients and spouses alike. We are often told, "oh you're so special" for marrying someone with CF. And sometimes we allow those sentiments to change our expectations of ourselves. In reality, we aren't special. We are human. We fell in love with someone with CF, and we went with it. Sure the lifestyle is a little different, but CF spouses aren't the only people that fall in love and sign up for a life that's a little different. In fact, most couples and families have some sort of "challenge" that they "sign up for"…a spouse that travels a lot, a spouse in the military, a spouse that's ugly (haha that one was a really bad joke..I kid. I kid). Anyways, back to my point. The point is, we are just people. And when there are conflicts in a CF relationship, we sometimes bring CF into the mix, when really if we just took CF out of it and just looked at the person or the issue, it would be a different story. For example, in the case of the girl that messaged me. She was concerned that he wouldn't listen to her fears about CF and wouldn't open up. In a CF relationship, and because it has to do with CF, we may blow this up. We wonder, "does this mean he can't handle a life with me? Can he not handle CF?" When sometimes it's as simple as this. He's just a person. He's just a guy. Most guys suck at discussing feelings and would rather rip out their fingernails one by one than sit and talk about their own feelings. When he doesn't listen to feelings about school or work, we don't think anything of it. We give him a free pass and let him play the "honey, I'm a guy" card. We allow him to say, "unless you give me something to fix…let's not discuss it." (Anyone else's husband operate this way?! Unless Ronnie can fix it, he doesn't really want to discuss the what ifs and hear all my hims and haws. I bore him with them anyways, but I know he doesn't really want to hear them). But because it has to do with CF, we sometimes think too seriously about things that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Do I think we shouldn't strive to be extraordinary spouses? No. I think we should always strive to be better. But, ultimately, we are just human. We experience the same less-than-heroic-thoughts that everyone has. Which brings me to my second point: I'm a selfish wife.
Woah… it just got real, y'all!
Here's the truth: my husband sugar coats me in his own mind. We have a great marriage, but I'm not 2013's Wife of the Year. Ronnie thinks I'm the best wife in the world because he loves me, but I suck most of the time. Most of us share the good and keep private the bad (thanks for that, honey!) But I realized in reading her message that we've maybe perpetuated the high expectations for CF spouses through what we share (or more accurately, don't share). I think we only hear the highlights in some CF couples' relationships, and then it leaves younger CF patients looking for this perfect person to spend their life with. When in reality, you'll never find someone perfect to marry, CF or not. You'll just find someone perfect for you. Whoever we marry will always just be a person. All people are flawed and no one is perfect.
I'm a great CF spouse, but I'm still selfish in my marriage sometimes, even in our "CF life." I am 100% ok with Ronnie's CF. I view CF as a blessing. I embrace the life we have. I think, quite frankly, we probably have one of the best lives around. We are extremely blessed, and I wouldn't change a thing about the life we have. If there's someone that is cut out for the CF life…it's me. To an outsider looking in, I could see exactly where her question originates. If you only see the highlights, I can see why there would be nerves about, "have I found someone cut out for this? Some people seem to be more ok with it." But in reality I am human, and honestly, I am selfish. We have a successful marriage, but not because I am always a successful spouse. The week before Ronnie went in, I knew he didn't feel good. But he had been sleeping in every morning (because he didn't feel great) and one morning I was exhausted, so I just made him get up. I didn't care how he felt that morning, I felt like I needed sleep more. His last hospital stay I hounded him endlessly about when he was getting out because I had about had it being a "single mom". I sometimes wish I had something I had to do to buy me 45 minutes of alone time when Mckenna is being a pill. Some hard days alone with Mckenna during a tune-up I have even felt a little resentful that Ronnie is just "relaxing" while I'm running around like an idiot all day trying to maintain my cool (I should note, that the more rational me knows he's not "relaxing" and that it's hard work and he feels like crap and would rather be home. But the me that's fighting a two year old in a battle over something ridiculous isn't rational! HA!) Ronnie gets out today and my first thought isn't, "oh good, he's all better and feeling great." Instead my initial thought is, "oh good, I need a break…" I know those little tidbits are less than flattering. But I think they need to be shared more often, possibly. Even those of us who are totally ok with CF; those of us who love taking care of their spouse; and those of us who wouldn't change their lives for anything, have their moments. I was made for this life. I was made to be Ronnie's wife. But I am human. And I have selfish moments.
I think it's important to realize there's a difference between being a CF spouse and being human. I think we need to separate CF from most aspects of our relationships. I think we need to not blow things out of proportion just because they have to do with CF. I think we need to teach younger people that successful marriages are always between two imperfect people. I think we need to allow ourselves and our spouses to be imperfect. I think we need to be honest about how we feel, even when it's not flattering so that others understand what marriage is truly like. I think we need to help others learn what they can expect from a spouse and what they should look for in a spouse. I was so thankful for her note. I think dialogues should happen way more often regarding CF relationships. And I think we all need to cut ourselves some slack!