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Loving Someone with Chronic Illness

Having a partner or family member who is dealing with any type of chronic illness is difficult. Sometimes you wish you could make them better, so they wouldn’t have to struggle anymore. Sometimes you resent that they need so much care and time—and it’s okay to feel that way, by the way, as long as you aren’t taking it out on them or others.

When you have a loved one who deals with one of the so-called “invisible illnesses,” it can be even more difficult. How can they say they don’t have strength to help clean the house? They look perfectly fine, and they didn’t have any trouble going to the kitchen for a glass of water. How can they say being at a family gathering on a holiday is triggering? My family’s perfectly nice, nothing at all like the one that abused them. How can they spend the entire day in bed and not do anything? There’s so much that has to get done!

People with those illnesses, which include mental illnesses, chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, and others, don’t “look sick.” And because of the nature of those illnesses, sometimes people who have them don’t *feel* sick either. Personally, I have a few “invisible illnesses.” Some days I get up, shower, get dressed, and I’m off to tackle the day, getting more done before bed than my husband says he would be able to do in a week. I walk fairly easily, and I appear, and sometimes even feel, happy.

But other days, the “demons” attack. I feel like the world’s going to end, and I can’t stop crying. I’m in so much pain and having so much trouble with coordination that walking from the bedroom to the bathroom—which is right beside the bedroom—is almost more than I can manage. I can’t leave the house. I force myself to at least be in the living room instead of the bedroom, but that takes so much out of me that I end up dozing on the couch most of the day.

My husband is wonderful on those days. He knows I’m not “faking it” or “lazy” when I ask him to go to the store because I can’t manage leaving the house, or when I ask him to finish mopping the kitchen because I’m too exhausted after only doing a third of it. But it took a while to get on the same page about him helping me with tasks. If I said, “I can’t handle going to the store, but we need things,” he sometimes said, “Then I guess you have to go to the store.” I had to learn to actually ask him to go instead of hinting.

It also took him a while to understand that if I say “I’m in so much pain right now, I hate this,” I’m not asking him to fix it. There isn’t anything he can do about the pain. I’m asking for comfort and for reassurance that I’m not burdening him by asking him to take over doing some of my usual tasks, and now that he realizes that, he’s great about giving me a hug, or walking me to the bedroom and bringing me a glass of water while I settle down to read or sleep.

It isn’t easy having an “invisible illness” (or more than one). It definitely isn’t easy being a loved one of someone who has “invisible illnesses,” something I also know from personal experience since I’m not the only one in my family who has them. But if you work together to figure out what the person with the illnesses needs, and how to meet those needs without sacrificing others’ needs, and if you recognize that at the base, the person with the illnesses most needs love and compassion, it can be managed.

Relationship Teamwork

When you’re in a relationship and a problem comes up, sometimes it seems difficult to work together to solve it. Struggles with finances, with personal space or time together or apart, disagreements about kids…there are a number of issues that can arise in a committed relationship, and if the people involved have different opinions or feel overwhelmed, they might argue or stop discussing the problem altogether. Which, of course, doesn’t solve anything.

My husband likes to say that since we’re married, we’re a team. Even when things are complicated, or when we’re angry with each other about an issue or a difference in the way we choose to handle something, we’re still together, and that means we work together. I will admit there have been times when I’ve felt like we’re on opposing teams. Some issues are far more difficult than others. But so far, we’ve always managed to get back on the same side and solve the problem.

It isn’t always easy to function as a team with your partner(s). When conflicts arise, the last thing you might want to do is sit down and have a calm, civilized discussion with the person who you see as contributing to–or ignoring–the situation. But it’s important to remember that you chose to be on the same team, and to work together to keep things running smoothly.

Just Say Marriage

Hearts

 

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal.

Some of you reading this might live in countries where that was already the case. Two men could marry each other, or two women could, and it was considered a legal union. I’m fortunate to have spent the last six years living in a state in the U.S. where that was the case, but in many other U.S. states, only heterosexual couples could make their marriages legal.

No longer. The highest court in our nation has said that states don’t get to tell couples they can’t get married because they’re not straight. The highest court in our country has declared marriage a RIGHT for all couples, regardless of gender. And the President of our country is fully in favor of it. (I saw some of his tweets. Epic.)

Just in the past few years, there have been publicized cases where same-sex couples were denied the right to marry. Where someone was denied the right to say goodbye to their dying partner because “you aren’t immediate family.” Where businesses refused to provide wedding services (cakes, etc.) for same-sex couples.

The new law might not change the behavior of those business owners, but it will change a lot of other things. Couples will now have RIGHTS in each other’s lives. Shared parental rights over children of the marriage. Shared property rights. Things heterosexual couples have taken for granted for decades, because it’s all part of the legal marriage thing. Things same-sex couples had to spend thousands in legal fees to have spelled out in documents because they were denied being able to legally marry.

When I heard the decision Friday morning, I burst into tears. Not because I’m directly affected by it; I’m not. Nor are the same-sex couples I know here in Massachusetts, where they already had the right to legally marry. But because this is something I didn’t believe would happen in my lifetime. So much hatred, prejudice, and ignorance exists in our country that I didn’t believe same-sex couples would ever be able to legally marry anywhere in the United States, whether their state of residence likes it or not.

I burst into tears because this means my 20-year-old and 17-year-old have grown up in a world of far more tolerance than the one in which I grew up, and this is further proof of how far we’ve come. It gives me hope that my grandchildren, if I have any, will come into a world where hatred and prejudice are the rare exception rather than the all-too-common rule.

I burst into tears because despite the *world* in which I grew up, my home was a place where I learned that it doesn’t matter what biological sex or gender you are, love is love, and love is an amazing thing. My home was a place where my three “uncles” were not only tolerated but whole-heartedly embraced as a loving triad… back in the 1970s-1980s, when most people in our city would have been horrified at the thought of *two* men in a committed relationship, let alone three.

I grew up not understanding why people hated. Why they cared who their neighbor shared a bed with. Why it was any of their business what anyone else did in their bedrooms–or who anyone else loved, as long as it was consenting adults.

And now at least a few small steps have been made that mean I’m living in a world where other people agree that it’s none of their business and that love is love.

It isn’t “traditional marriage” and “same-sex marriage” anymore. Let’s just call it marriage. And let’s just call it love.

Spending Time

If you’ve followed this blog and read my bio, you know I’m married. My husband is a good man. He supports the family while I stay home and write. He’s my rock when my anxiety or depression take over, and he’s great with my kids.

But for him, being married just kind of means… being married. We don’t really spend any time together. We have no shared activities or hobbies. Other than reading and sex, we don’t have much of anything in common, and we don’t even read the same types of books. This doesn’t bother him at all. He’s perfectly content just knowing I exist in his life.

For me, that’s a problem. I love him, and I like the times that we interact, but sometimes I wish we actually did things together. Date nights. Or dancing (which we did briefly when we were first together, but I was seriously ill at the time and couldn’t keep up with the lessons). Or anything that would involve the two of us actually spending time with each other doing the same thing, and sharing something with each other.

When I’ve expressed that to others, I’ve been told I’m ungrateful. That I should be thankful he’s willing to support my kids and me, and I shouldn’t care that the most time we spend together is in bed.

I am grateful for what he does for us, but to me, a relationship is about more than physical affection and just coexisting in the same space. I think in any relationship, there should definitely be space for each person to be an individual, but there should also be times to be a couple.

At least, that’s my opinion. I’m interested in hearing yours.

10 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Since Saturday is Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d offer some suggestions of ways to spend it with your special someone…

Valentine's Day Heart 5

1. Cuddle on the couch watching TV or a movie

2. Make tissue paper flowers together

3. Go to dinner at a restaurant you haven’t tried before

4. Go to dinner at your favorite restaurant

5. Lie in bed together talking about your dreams for the future

6. Order dinner in and eat it by candlelight

7. Share snippets of your favorite books with each other

8. Try something new in bed

9. Go dancing–or dance at home

10. Say “I love you”

Build Up, Don’t Tear Down

Just something I was thinking about over the weekend…

There’s a difference between being honest and being brutal. There’s also a difference between lying and finding something positive to say.

Telling someone “That dress isn’t the best style for you” is honest. Saying “That dress makes you look awful; see how much your belly sticks out?” is brutal.

Sad Silhouette

Telling someone “Oh, you look gorgeous in that dress” (using the dress from the above example) is lying. Saying, “That’s a great color for you” is positive.

When you love someone, you usually want them to be happy and to feel good about themselves and the relationship. But sometimes all it takes is one brutal comment to tear your partner down.

If your partner asks for your honest opinion, give it–but stop and think about how you can phrase it gently. You can be honest without hurting feelings, and doing so is worth the effort.

Teaser Thursday- Knot Intended

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He folded his arms and narrowed his eyes with a fury that made Nolie tremble. “You’re boring the hell out of me, you know that?” Joseph snarled. “All those times I watched you walking around your house, you looked like such a sexy bitch. I thought you’d be fun. That’s why I snatched your hot little ass. But you never shut up. Maybe I should gag you so I don’t have to listen anymore.”

Nolie’s chest tightened, and she shook her head. That was the second time Joseph had mentioned gagging her. This time he sounded as if he truly intended to do so.

She wouldn’t be able to tolerate it. The mere thought of having something in her mouth she hadn’t put there herself turned her stomach. She wanted to scream. Joseph knew how she felt about that, and rationally Nolie doubted Joseph would do anything she wouldn’t accept. But her fear wasn’t rational.

She shook. He simply stood, glaring at her, but when Nolie looked more closely at him she saw concern in his eyes. She took a deep breath and swallowed the lump in her throat. This was a game. She would be fine.

Joseph remained still as if waiting for Nolie to speak. She swallowed again and tried to sound convincing as she begged, “No, please don’t gag me. I wouldn’t be able to breathe.” Her voice broke on the last word, and tears came to her eyes.

She blinked them back. If Joseph saw her crying, he would break his character and become the loving husband again. Right then, that was not what Nolie wanted.

He visibly relaxed. “Fine. You not breathing would be a problem. After all, I wouldn’t want you to pass out before I have my fun with you. So if you don’t want to be gagged, keep your mouth shut unless I tell you different. Got it?”

Nolie opened her mouth to answer, then thought better of it and nodded. Joseph wouldn’t gag her, not after promising not to. But he was so into this character she could no longer be entirely certain what he would do. Her predictable husband had become completely unpredictable.

She loved it.

“Good.” Joseph sounded both pleased and disappointed. “Maybe you’ll make it out of this in one piece.” He went to the headboard of the bed and banged his palm against it. “Fuck. Why do hotels always make these things solid? How the hell am I supposed to tie you down if there’s nothing to tie you to?”

Tie me? Nolie bit her lip to keep from blurting out the question. When she’d mentioned being tied as part of the fantasy, she hadn’t expected Joseph to go through with it. Early in their relationship, she’d mentioned a desire to have her hands bound, and Joseph hadn’t seemed interested. Role-play or not, she hadn’t believed he would be any more willing now than then to bind her.

She wanted him to follow through. The image of herself stripped naked, unable to move, filled her mind and tightened her pussy.

She was so turned on she wanted to touch herself, but she didn’t dare. Her “captor” certainly wouldn’t be pleased if she “took matters into her own hands” as Joseph sometimes put it. But knowing if he tied her he would be able to access any part of her body he wanted to use excited the hell out of her.

She moaned and immediately clapped her hand over her mouth.

Trusting Your Partner

Many people who are in relationships have at least some level of trust with their partner. But there are some things that require more trust, and sometimes giving that trust can be scary.

Something as seemingly simple as sharing one’s sexual fantasies can involve more trust than you might think. Some people have fantasies that they would never want to make reality, and they’re afraid of what their partner might think if those fantasies are spoken. And even if someone is willing to share their fantasy and is interested in making it reality, engaging in something new and different involves trust in your partner as well.

In my novella Knot Intended, Nolie has to decide whether she trusts her husband Joseph enough to tell him her darkest fantasy: being kidnapped, tied up, and “forced.” Once she chooses to risk sharing the fantasy, Joseph offers to act it out with her to help spice up their sex life. Allowing her husband to play the role of her “kidnapper” requires even more trust from Nolie, as does remembering, during the roleplay, that Joseph is her husband, loves her, and would never truly hurt her. And because Nolie is able to give Joseph that trust, their sex life and marriage improve.

Trust isn’t always easy to give, but it’s often worth it.

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The “Click”

I read a quote on Tumblr the other day, which I won’t quote exactly because I can’t find it now and I wouldn’t want to use a quote without being able to attribute it to whoever originally said it.

But the basic gist of it was that when you meet someone you click with right away, it’s a wonderful feeling, like you’re coming home.

I definitely agree with that. When I met my husband, there was a click. An almost audible one, like putting pieces together. Even though that was the first time we’d met, I knew he would be part of my life. Within half an hour, we were finishing each other’s sentences. By the end of that first night, we were *starting* each other’s sentences. We had things in common, and something about us just fit together.

The same thing happened earlier this year when I met the man I refer to as my “person.” Even though hubby and I have okayed seeing other people, I wasn’t trying to, but Person messaged me on the website we both belong to–the same site through which I met hubby–and something about his message made me answer. A couple of weeks later, when he and I both had a free Saturday, even though I doubted anything would come of it, I met him.

And there was that click again. Our conversation flowed naturally. We spent eight hours together that day, and never once ran out of things to talk about. There were no awkward silences. Again, I knew I’d found someone who would be part of my life. And again, something about us just fit together.

When you meet someone like that, it is like coming home. Like returning from a long trip and seeing someone you’ve missed the entire time you were gone. Only with the “click,” you’ve been missing someone you didn’t even know existed until that moment.

People talk sometimes about “soul mates” or “true matches.” And others scoff at the idea. But if you’ve ever met someone with whom you’ve truly clicked, it’s hard to be skeptical about the possibility that you were meant to be with that person all along.

Communication Consideration

In my opinion, the key to any relationship is open, honest communication. When you’re in a relationship, you have to be able to sort out problems, make agreements, set boundaries, etc, and the only way to do that is to talk to each other.

In our tech-heavy society, it’s easy to communicate with other people. We can text, email, instant message, place a good old-fashioned phone call, etc.

But some things just should be said in person. It’s a matter of respect and consideration.

Last week, my husband and I had an issue because he told me something important, that impacted us as a couple, via text message. And it wasn’t a text along the lines of “I need to tell you something…”; it was casually thrown into the middle of a conversation about him needing to use my car.

I didn’t have an issue with *what* he told me. I had an issue with *how*. I felt disrespected because he didn’t seem to think I deserved to have him come to me and talk face to face about the situation, and I was hurt and angry because of how he went about it.

He did apologize and admitted he’d been inconsiderate–and he did that face to face.