When my husband, Jared, and I were dating, many of our friends thought we had the perfect relationship. We were snuggly best buddies, intimate and passionate lovers, and mentors to each other. It was a bond I could only describe as spiritual and otherworldly. I had never met anyone who resonated so much with my inner soul — my damaged inner child.
Our relationship was intense from the start. We reveled in conversations about philosophy, values, politics, and other controversial things. We acknowledged, accepted, and nurtured each other’s weirdness. On the outside, our relationship looked perfect, even magical. The Instagram photos with our wacky, crazy-in-love faces masked a duplicitous reality: We were really just two broken people trying to heal each other.
In reality, Jared and I have our fair share of conflicts. We are two imperfect people in a “perfectly imperfect” marriage, as the engraving on our wedding rings says. For all his life, Jared has lived with hemophilia and epilepsy, whereas I must deal with depression and anxiety, which not only bog me down, but can also affect my relationships with others. We both entered our relationship with a certain amount of baggage.
Most of the time, we are able to bond over our respective personal traumas. We are able to relate to each other on a deeper level because we can understand what the other has gone through.
For Jared, the experience of chronic illness has been exhausting and alienating. Whenever we would talk, he would often recall the mental anguish of going through blood transfusions as a young child, because he was terrified of needles. And when he was with other kids, he felt different. He couldn’t roughhouse with them for fear of getting injured.
He enjoyed playing sports, but had to sit out physical education classes. Sometimes, he even had to lie about engaging in physical activities. He never wanted to be dishonest, but he was coming from a place of desperation.
I’m no stranger to feeling different. As a child, I was precocious, both mentally and physically. My parents had a hard time finding a school that was right for my needs. I picked up knowledge quickly. Inevitably, I was also easily bored. We had to relocate from our home province in the Philippines, to the capital, Manila, which was two island groups away.
I felt immense pressure to succeed and to achieve. At some point, it became too much. Achievement became my anchor — it grounded me and gave me an identity. But it also weighed me down and kept me from moving forward. I grew terrified of straying from the only identity I had. That’s how my anxiety started.
Sometimes my anxiety can get out of hand. I become fearful and lose touch with reality. I start to invalidate other people because nothing seems more real than my own fears. That often causes conflict between Jared and me. It eats away at our loving relationship and threatens the foundation we built on mutual understanding.
Thankfully, conflict can pave the way to growth and healing. Jared and I practice intentionally and constructively working out our conflicts. We try to see beyond our own hurt and empathize with each other. That way, we are able to understand each other better and draw closer. As two broken people, we know that we need to heal together. After all, it takes two healthy people to maintain a healthy partnership.
Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.