Beyond the vows: In sickness and in health

“Beyond the vows” is a new series about what marriage relationships actually look like once the wedding is over and life happens. Learn more about the series and how you can share your own story here!

A couple of weeks ago, I was sick. It wasn’t awful, horrible, wish-I-would-die-instead sick, but it was miserable. I went to bed early and soon started having body aches and chills. Those two symptoms are a bit intensified thanks to my fibromyalgia. By the time my husband came to bed, I was feeling quite awful. I got up and put on a second layer of PJs and grabbed an extra blanket. Though I was exhausted, it took me a couple of hours to go to sleep.

One of the things I do when I feel this way is rock back and forth gently in bed. I don’t even realize I’m doing it most of the time, but I sure enough was. It was a long night, but I made it.

The next day, my husband said he hadn’t slept well either. I thought he just had a restless night, which sometimes happens to him. We went through the day with me taking copious amounts of ibuprofen because we had an event we needed to attend for our son. That evening, my husband asked how I was feeling. I told him I was feeling better, which was true. And he then confessed that he reason for a bad night’s sleep was that my rocking kept him awake until 1 a.m. when I finally dropped off to sleep myself.

I told him that he should have woken me up or asked me to stop because I don’t realize I’m even doing it. His reply was that he knows that’s what I do when I don’t feel well and he didn’t want to bother me. So, instead he chose to have a crummy night of sleep. He gave me grace that I needed because I wasn’t feeling well.

Here’s the thing you need to know about my husband. That man has been through such a long list of health issues with me. He has loved me in sickness and in health — and sometimes much more sickness than health. In our 19 years of marriage, he’s seen me through three minor surgeries, three major surgeries, two childbirths and countless other health struggles. He has been patient. He had driven me many times to a specialist in another state four hours away just because he knew I needed to see that doctor. In fact, he’s the one who even encouraged me to go to that specialist who I thought was too far away.

Along with all of that, he’s also picked up my slack more times than either of us can count. He’s gone grocery shopping, made dinner, bathed the kids, helped with homework and rearranged his schedule time after time to take over when I didn’t feel well enough to do so. This man has sacrificed his own happiness and wellbeing on my behalf innumerable times.

Yet, when I was sick with a bug and keeping him awake, he didn’t complain once. He could have. It certainly would have been justified after all he’s been through with me. Instead he kept his promise to love me in sickness and in health. He didn’t even tell me what had happened until I was feeling better. He keeps on giving me grace and understanding instead of selfish irritation and frustration.

Is he perfect? No. But neither am I! Has it always been this way? Not completely. While my husband has always been loving and understanding, we had to do our fair share of work to be able to communicate well through sickness, because it’s hard managing chronic health issues in a marriage. We were only three years into our marriage when my health took a dramatic turn. It brought along with it some emotional issues for both of us that we’ve had to work through in order to truly love each other in sickness and in health.

And now, here we are. I don’t know how you’d ever put this on a Valentine’s Day card, but this is what true love looks like to me. Marriage and love are so very many things beyond big romantic gestures and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Those things are awesome; however, it’s the little stuff that makes a love story. It’s being awake half the night because your wife is rocking herself to sleep and not complaining. It’s taking care of dinner when the thought of it has her in tears. It’s walking the kids into school on a blustery morning so your wife can stay warm. It’s encouraging your wife to not settle for second best when it comes to her health. It’s being there every single day and choosing to work together. It’s understanding that compromises are sometimes necessary and laughing together should be a priority.

The vow to love each other in sickness and in health doesn’t even begin to explain the depths of what that means. They are easy words to say, but they can be difficult to live out in reality. Love is about action and sometimes putting the person you love ahead of yourself. And that’s always worth celebrating!

Learn more about the “Beyond the vows” series and how you can share your own story here!

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