How my wife’s health issues early in our marriage took a toll but made us better friends
My wife and I got married very young. We were both in our early 20’s and for whatever reason, everything just clicked and we decided that it made sense for us to get married.
We weren’t religious or inexperienced sexually, there was no societal pressure or anything like that. Quite the opposite, in fact, we both had healthy dating lives, we both were seeing much older people when we met, but within weeks of meeting it had become obvious that we were just compatible.
There were no fireworks moments and Cupid never shot us with arrows, I just remember being out having lunch with her in a shopping center food court one day, telling her that she was “the best” and suggesting that maybe we should get married. She agreed that I was like “the perfectly sized glove for her hand.”
About a year after we met we were married. No big fancy weddings or long engagements — we got married at City Hall, neither of our families could attend, but we didn’t care.
Life was great. We’d both just graduated college, I’d landed an awesome job, she ended up working at a big firm that she didn’t hate, and we travelled a lot and doing interesting things all over the world.
Our sex life was really good. There was nothing incredible about it, but we were young, so the frequency was high and we just had fun with it.
Everything was working out better than I had ever expected — my family was poor and slightly dysfunctional while growing up, so having plenty of money and a hot wife who I enjoyed spending time with was like a dream.
About three years into our marriage, my career had taken off and my wife didn’t really need to work. She’d always wanted to be a writer, so we agreed that she’d leave her job and try her hand at writing until she figured out what she wanted to do next.
My wife has never been overly ambitious or career-driven, but the last few months while she was working she started taking sick days, complained constantly about work, and honestly, her sex drive fell off a cliff.
I just assumed she hated work, that she was in a toxic environment, and if she got out of there, she’d rebound.
She told me one morning she was going to resign that day. When I arrived at my office that morning I booked a two week holiday for us to the south of Italy so that she could recharge her batteries. When I got home that night and she told me her last day was in two weeks, I surprised her with the holiday.
She seemed excited, but not overly so — I didn’t think much of it at the time.
Two days before the holiday, she told me she didn’t want to go. She said that she wasn’t interested and would rather stay at home to relax.
That should have been a sign something was seriously wrong.
There were a lot of signs actually. I was just young, busy with my own career, and if we’re being truthful, I was frustrated at her for being so apathetic about everything.
Shortly thereafter we had an argument one night about something insignificant and it escalated… I yelled at her to go see a doctor because something was wrong with her and she broke down crying.
I felt horrible… But it turned out I was right.
My wife went to a doctor and after a battery of tests, she was diagnosed with nodules on her thyroid glands that were releasing thyroxine. She also had significant hormonal imbalances that were obviously the cause of many of the mental and physical issues she was dealing with.
It was a relief to get the news that there was something actually wrong with her physically. I had started to become insecure and worried that maybe she’d felt she’d made a mistake marrying me.
This was the best “bad news” that I could have received — she had a benign illness that they could establish a treatment plan for.
My mindset shifted immediately, the only thing that mattered in our relationship was that my Queen returned to full health and be the vibrant, fun woman that I knew her to be.
Getting her various hormonal and thyroid issues took much longer than anyone, including her doctors, expected. They gave her dozens of combinations and cocktails of medications in a variety of doses. Nothing seemed to work and my wife became incredibly hard to deal with emotionally.
My career was on a rocket ship and a considerable amount of international travel was part of my job. She neither wanted to come with me or seemed to care that I was gone. In truth, many times, I was relieved to have a break from her medically imposed misery.
We both knew she was sick and that the issues we were having were not real or her fault, they were a symptom of what she was going through.
But that didn’t make them any easier to deal with.
After three years of trying to find a pharmaceutical solution, the doctors began talking about more radical, surgical and nuclear medicine type treatments.
She was scared. I told her that no matter what, I was in this with her for the long haul — “for better or worse” was meaningless unless you were prepared to deal with the “worse” parts.
She opted to not go with the radical solutions and since financially we were in a good place because of my job, I was able to get her in to see a world-renowned endocrinologist.
When we flew in to visit the doctor, it was the first time my wife had been on a plane in four years, she’d developed a fear of flying due to imbalances in her dopamine and serotonin levels. That was the kind of nightmare we were facing, her hormonal imbalances were creating phobias and psychological issues.
As the doctor called her in, she grabbed my hand and brought me into the appointment with her. The doctor introduced herself to my wife and asked who I was. She said, “This is my best friend… and he’s also my husband.”
That’s when I knew that no matter what, we were going to be ok.
It took another year or so for life to return to some semblance of normalcy for us — my wife got her energy back, a number of the idiosyncratic behaviors that she developed went away, she started talking about the future again, and our sex life returned to normal.
Another year after that, my wife fell pregnant with our son. Her endocrinologist was very concerned about “pregnancy hormones” and aside from a few blood pressure complications, she came through it like a champ.
Not everything was perfect anymore in our relationship, some things had changed and even now, some fifteen years later, they’ve never gone back to the way they were. We talk about some of those things occasionally, we acknowledge the differences.
Her illness made our relationship ill in many ways and we’re always going to carry the some of the scars of that time.
But, it also made us better friends.
I can be a fairly uncompromising human being at times and during the height of what she was going through, I had to learn to be more compassionate because she needed me to help her. I struggled every day to tell myself that she wasn’t behaving the way she was on purpose and that she loved me and I loved her.
My wife is one of the most naturally laid back people you’ll ever meet. When she was sick, she became unmotivated, cynical and apathetic. She says that she “lost” five years of her life and that I carried her.
I remind her that I “cared for her”, I didn’t “carry her”.
She now makes more of a concerted effort to embrace life rather than just watching it go by and I tell her regularly that this zest for life that she’s developed makes out family better.
Having been through that when we were so young and so early in our marriage, it would have been easy to quit.
But we came out the other side more appreciative of each other’s strengths, aware of our own weaknesses, and with an understanding our how our relationship fits together.
It’s not perfect, but it’s now built to last.
Every time I hear “for better or worse” during a wedding ceremony, I feel happy that we’ve been able to weather the “worse” and I am so much more appreciative of “the better” in our marriage.