When John told me that he was leaving me, he revealed some pretty ugly things–most of which I won’t write here. But perhaps out of those the one that surprised me the most, was when he told me that he’d basically checked out of our marriage two years ago when I was ill with that mysterious antibiotic-resistant infection. He explained that it was just too much for him to endure–caring for me with no certainty that I would ever get well again.
He was so gracious and kind during that entire illness, I never knew that it had been so terrifically difficult for him. Indeed, I was quite surprised to learn that that was the breaking point. Perhaps not coincidentally, I’d been thinking myself recently about how difficult it’s been to care for John during his ongoing degenerative issues with his back and hips. For about four years John’s been nearly-unable to walk more than a few blocks (sometimes not even that far). When we’ve traveled, we’ve pushed him in wheelchairs at museums and altered our typical on-foot walkabouts to short jaunts to accommodate John’s limited mobility. For a long time he was unable to even walk through a grocery store because of the severe pain that it caused him. I’d wondered how I would handle life with a spouse who had such a long-term physical limitation, and was hoping that I could do so with as much aplomb as John had done with my various health problems…but I had concerns about keeping it up–his pain made him short-tempered and frustrated. He was so much more difficult to live with than before. He lost his energetic “bounce” (I missed that part of John’s personality quite a lot).
So what I wonder is this….at what point do we throw in the towel on our relationships when things don’t turn out as we expected? And when do we hang in there, even at a high cost to our own autonomy?
Some of my thinking along these lines also has to do with recent encouragement from friends for John and I to reconcile. Part of me wants to fight and hope that we could make our marriage work again (as I have many times before), but I fear that isn’t a choice I even have the liberty to make–John seems quite sure that he’s done with us (and with me). But I wonder, have I given up too easily? Is there something more I could or should do? Or some concession or change that I could make that would make John feel happy again?
Or is it time to wave that white flag and move on, realizing that I just can’t endure it any longer?