My Partner's Relationship with Chronic Eczema
The thought of being in partnership with eczema can unleash a variety of emotions for many. That used to be, hands down, my biggest fears.
Was a relationship possible?
One, that a relationship wasn't even possible for me. I had completely ruled it out thinking that no one would ever possibly love me with this chronic condition.
Would eczema destroy a relationship?
Two, I was so terrified my whole life that eczema would rear its ugliness as a big surprise in the midst of the relationship, and, that I would feel the devastation of the shame - that he would be disgusted by me, and of course, leave me. This fear chased me ALL THE TIME throughout my adult years whether I was in a relationship or not. These haunting thoughts ran like a movie, revealing just how unlovable I felt, and how impossible I thought this was for me. Especially after my 4-year near-death experience in my forties.
A focus on myself
Interestingly, as I write this, I realize that entwined with my fears, the focus had always been on me - what might I need? What about my moods? How would I handle my emotions? I never even lent thought to what a partner might need or experience in all of this because I hadn't been in a healthy relationship up until then and I was too busy living in me me me.
Finally, a healthy relationship
While I had always considered myself a late bloomer, I finally met my beloved, Eric! It was 2016 and I had been on medication and my world had changed… we were madly in love and 1 ½ years in, the nightmare unfolded. The drug stopped working and my life felt like it too, came to a hard stop.
A test for our relationship
Surprise, Eric, meet my second head to toe, uncontrollable, experience of eczema. Basically bedridden again, I gave him every possible out to walk away as I clearly understood he did NOT sign up for this. Though after 3 years in that severe condition, not only did he remain devoted to me and our partnership, our relationship deepened in a most profound way. So I asked him if he might share with our community, his experience of how he remained unwavering in our relationship and, his devotion to navigating this journey with my chronic eczema.
What was it like for my partner?
Eric shares, I will be very honest, it was very difficult at times. Jude's condition needed a lot of care because of the severity. There is a fine line between wanting to support your partner who is suffering, watching her suffer, and at the same time, taking time to care for me and, needing space for myself.
What did he need from me?
Jude demonstrated the courage to ask me throughout this 3-year intense bout of eczema, how it was affecting me, and asked what needs did I have so that she could support me. I think it can be so easy for the person with the afflicted condition to lose sight of the needs of their partner. And one of the key elements was that she invited me, and truly held the space for me to openly express my feelings and needs. That meant everything. Her allowing my honest expression was vital to our tender constructive and authentic dialogue. I had never experienced this before with a partner.
How did it affect our relationship?
With that said, it took time to not feel guilty about sharing the reality of how our circumstances impacted my own desires and goals because one, my health was strong, and secondly, being in a fairly young relationship, our lives were somewhat on hold. I never wanted her to feel responsible for what was happening. For me to be able to acknowledge my experience and genuinely be heard, kept me from harboring any resentment or bitterness. In fact, my love for her grew more profound, and my faith and commitment to our future together were evident!
Were we able to protect our relationship?
Our faith gave us the determination to strive for a strong life force. Faith in our relationship, as well as in resolve for Jude’s healing to overcome this obstacle as a team, was certainly tested, though I never felt that the “condition” threatened our relationship from thriving. The ongoing conversations, closeness, caring and love for each other cemented the idea that we were in this together. This was so important for us to maintain a healthy balance as mutual caring partners, rather than me taking on the role of a caregiver. We consciously were aware of that so that we could protect our intimate partnership.
How did we create a healthy relationship?
I have come to learn in our journey together that a truly dedicated and loving relationship grows, develops, and nurtures itself as long as both partners are devoted to open and heartfelt dialogue. Love can often grow deeper during adverse times, and the true nature of a relationship will be revealed. Ours certainly was.
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