I have known my wife for more than 20 years. I watched her grow up through her teenage years when her parents were concerned about her health and were constantly reminding her to complete her cystic fibrosis treatments and medications. As our relationship became more serious, I found myself spending more time with her than her parents were, until eventually I became the person who was always asking about her treatment regimen and if she had completed it. As time went on, I began to realize there was a fine line between a caregiver and a lover.
The last thing a young person wants when she finally gets freedom from her parents is to be told by her boyfriend how to live her life. I really did not know all of the details and protocols required of a person with CF. We were 18 and in love, and all I wanted for her was a healthy, happy life.
We have been married for 12 years now, and I still fight the battle between being a husband and a caregiver. On the one hand, she is a mature 37-year-old woman and a mother to 5-year-old twin girls, and the last thing she needs is me getting “on her case” about her health. She needs me to be a supportive and understanding husband. But on the other hand, there are times when I need to be reassured that she is doing everything to be as healthy as possible. I am involved every day in her CF routine. I clean her aerosol cups; I make sure she has all her pills and vitamins for the day; I wake up earlier than she does to get her medications from the fridge or freezer so she can sleep in. It all stems from my desire for her to be healthy, which sometimes adds stress to our relationship since I can come off as more of a caregiver than a supportive, loving husband. Don't get me wrong, my wife appreciates what I do every day, but walking that fine line between being supportive and nagging when I ask her about her day and how she's feeling can be tough.
I have learned after 20 years of being together that I will always continue to help my wife in any way possible to ensure that her health is as good as it can be. The best way to do that is to trust her and her ability to care for herself. If she is having a bad day, I will wash those cups or I will allow her to sleep in.
But this is not what she really wants. She wants ME. She wants me to hug her, to give her a back rub or to give her a kiss. She wants me to love her for all that she is and not to worry about if and when she has completed her CF treatments for the day. It's a tough role, with a fine line between husband and caregiver, but I do realize that I have to step back from the stress that CF adds to our relationship and focus on her wants and needs within our relationship.
We will enjoy those hugs, those back rubs and all those kisses. We will enjoy each other.