And yet, more than anything else, it's a day in our life like any other.
Couples who use traditional vows promise during their wedding ceremony "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part."
But apparently way too many people say those words, or some variation of them, without really thinking about the meaning behind them:
In sickness and in health.
The most common statistic I've seen for divorce among couples dealing with a debilitating chronic illness for one or both members is 75 percent.
That number terrifies me, which is silly because it's not like perfectly healthy couples aren't getting divorced every day at an alleged rate of 50 percent. In my small circle of friends and acquaintances, I know of four couples who started the divorce process in the past six months and several more who are in troubled marriages that may or may not survive.
And I have to admit that while Scott and I used a mostly traditional vow, neither of us expected to have to deal with the kind of chronic illness I seem to have. Sometimes I think Scott got a pretty raw deal by marrying me. (Of course, without marrying me, he wouldn't have gotten Ellie, whom we both adore. So maybe that's some compensation ... :-)
I got an email last week from someone at More Magazine asking for feedback on an article in their September issue focusing on exactly this subject. The best part of the article, besides the fact that it quoted several of my friends for the blogosphere's chronic illness community, is that it focuses not on why marriages break up due to chronic illness, but on how they survive.
There's a lot of wisdom in this article, and I highly recommend it. It's long, but well worth the time to read it. And the tips from people who are managing to cope and even thrive would be useful for anyone in a relationship.
I'm lucky that my marriage is a strong one. I think we benefit from having married later in life than many do, and we both learned some good communication skills before we met. And Scott is a glass-half-full kind of guy, which helps a lot. He regularly acknowledges that even though he's doing more than his fair share of keeping our household running, he knows I still contribute and that being a single parent would be far more difficult. And of course he loves me. :-)
I think it helps that I acknowledge how much he's doing and how hard it is on him. And although he doesn't seem to need to very often, I let him vent when he does. (And vice versa, he listens when I need to vent too.) We've both mastered asking for what we want, and not feeling like it's any less valuable for having had to ask. Neither of us expect the other to be mind readers. And we know how to give the other one space when s/he needs it (although, since we're not mind readers, we sometimes have to explicitly ask for that space).
There's no guarantee that our marriage will survive, either my chronic illness or simply the tests of time. But I hope so. And I'm grateful every day that we found each other and found our own path to follow.