I Couldn't Care Less: The Balance of Power

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The Balance of Power

One thing that makes a couple of any sort work well is that they complement each other. In a relationship this probably means that while you share interests, outlooks, goals and ambitions, your skill sets are different. One of you is practical, the other emotional, one can do the plumbing, the other one can keep up with the accounts. When the relationship is skewed by the impact of disability, the balance of those relative contributions can become fragile. The carer needs, if possible, to ease the burden of some things they may have been doing to compensate for the time and effort they are putting in with the caring role. The disabled person may not be able to fulfil some of their natural roles due to their disability, but at the same time will want to do what they can for the caring partner, and also want to continue contributing as much as they can in order to feel like a partner in the relationship rather than simply a burden on it. When one or other of you falls out of the equation for some reason, that already delicate balance can become next to impossible.

In our marriage, my wife is the practical one. This is diminished by the fact that there are more and more things she is not physically able to do, but, in theory at least, she is the one who knows how to cook, clean, mend and make. She was taught a great deal by her grandmother and others when she was little, and then more at school when her dyslexia meant she was written off as thick and sent to do woodwork and wall building and other such skills which have turned out to be invaluable in retrospect. I am more numerate and literate that she is, due in no small measure to the dyslexia, but also more physically able. As such I tend to manage the bills (although she is the one who budgets) handles all the morass of paperwork that surrounds managing her health condition and, in theory at least, earns most of the money.

Usually this state is disturbed when my wife becomes particularly unwell. I have to pick up the slack doing the things I usually do: the shopping; the cooking; looking after the animals. We're still working on training me to be able to fill her shoes for as long as necessary, to be able to understand the animals and know their needs like she does, for example. That's a work in progress. But once in a while I fall off the radar. Physically, that has happened a few times due to illness, although not very often. Last week depression rather got on top of me. Money worries, job worries, wife's health, animals all piles up and I just ran out of energy.

My wife has many skills and qualities, but she wasn't brought up to deal with emotional malfunctions. She's a practical creature, who deals in real world physical problems. She understands my emotions, she doesn't know how to work with them. What she does know how to do, though is organise. It was my birthday, so on the Friday she had my friends round for dinner. Saturday was more friends, tea and cake. Then my parents visited on Sunday, my actual birthday. Cards and presents and people made the weekend better and happier. She can't do what I can do but she can find ways to compensate. Hopefully I can learn from her.

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