Oddly enough, I tend to be impacted more by words that had good intentions but were still hurtful or ultimately, abusive. If you’re trying to be mean and I know you’re trying to be mean, I don’t take much stock in what you say.
When I was 14, I had a teacher say something that rocked my world and fed into a web of growing insecurities. I don’t remember how it came up, but in front of a room full of fellow eighth-grade students, that teacher said the words “it will take a very special person to be willing to marry Jamie.” I think he was trying to say something nice considering this teacher was normally very kind. But it had no business being said in a classroom full of teenagers!
Without realizing it, I carried that thought into my teens and 20s. I didn’t start dating until my late 20s and it even was in the back of my mind then. Subconsciously, I kept seeking out people who had faults that I would have to “overlook” to “make up for” the fact that they had to “be special”and “put up with” me being a woman with a disability. (Yes, that’s a lot of quotation marks.)
Fast forward several years to now, when my husband and I are approaching our fifth wedding anniversary. We’ve had our ups and downs, but for the most part the major trials we’ve faced has served to strengthen our marriage, not tear it down.
So what about those old insecurities? I won’t lie, they are still there some days. I still feel guilty when something comes up related to my disability and I feel like a burden. But I’ve learned that is only Satan talking to me, trying to tear me down. John accepts my disability as a part of me and he finds it odd that people (including me sometimes) find him extra amazing because he loves me unconditionally whether I’m disabled or not.
So what is wife enough?
Part of being married, or any kind of cohabitation partnership, is developing roles and responsibilities. It isn’t about sexual politics, it’s about establishing who handles what tasks so that the household runs effectively. These should be determined based on capabilities instead of gender, but I do believe that at least for us, some of those roles fall along traditional lines because of our innate abilities. If that agreement is not honored by either partner, problems can erupt. Being mindful of that is part of being wife enough.
Old and new insecurities are something that I think plagues every woman whether she lives with a disability or not. We always look to see if we are “enough” for our partner, be it roles that we’ve made up in our head through society’s influence, or through something from our own past. This whole idea of being “wife enough” is hard to define, hard to understand. It think it’s something I will always struggle with, and in some ways that’s a good thing.
Throughout this 12-month process of learning about “enough,” I’ve learned that being enough means meeting the needs. Not doing more or less. If I ever decide that I don’t need to pay attention to that in my marriage, I am not being wife enough.
For me, the biggest struggle is something I battle even with our pets. It’s loving another being how they need to be loved, not how I need to love them or how I think they should want to be loved. As a society, we focus so much on putting ourselves into someone else’s shoes as a method of empathy but really? That doesn’t work. We are putting ourselves into someone else’s situation and seeing it how we would see it, not how they see it.
True empathy is seeing a situation through that person’s eyes. This is so true in marriage. There are ways I know or feel is good to express my love, but it means little to my husband. He appreciates the effort, but the actual action does not reflect love to him. It goes the other way, too. There are ways that he needs me to express love and partnership that I fail to do.
This process of both being and feeling “wife enough” is like all things in life that are worth going through…it’s a journey. A journey for which I am very grateful.