In America last year, the famous talk show host Dr Phil uttered the (now infamous) statement that in a relationship where one of the couple is disabled, they “can be his lover or you can be his caregiver, but you can’t be both…. It won’t work, 100 out of 100 times this won’t work”
Now I know nothing of Dr Phil and his show (I’m more of a Phil and Holly fan myself!😉) but I do know that there’d been one hell of a hoo ha surrounding his comments.
The website “The Mighty“ that supports people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, mental health issues etc. had a Twitter campaign against it with the hashtag #100outof100. There was a huge backlash against his statement, with people from the US and in the U.K. saying that his claim was totally untrue and offensive.
Implying that you were ‘insane’ to want to love someone with a disabilty, that people who need care should be single, that maybe disabled people are therefore ‘unloveable‘ and as one tweet said “that no sane healthy person should love and care for a sick partner, because you are a burden, unworthy of an able person’s time, let alone their love”. (@_AbbieCooper)
But there was also a large amount of people saying that he was right so the question in my mind was …
Who was right…….?
As a fairly newly disabled woman, I feel I have a pretty good idea on how these relationships work, or not work as the case may be. Also as someone who has become disabled whilst in a stable relationship, I can give a different perspective to this than someone who was disabled from birth or a much younger age as my circumstances may be completely different.
So do I agree with Dr Phil then…..?
Well, to be honest, I think it’s not a binary option, that it either does or doesn’t work; it’s such a difficult situation to find yourself in, it’s all down to the people involved and as usual personal relationships are so very complex and complicated.
When IT happened to me, it was such a slow descent into disabilty that we were constantly looking for what we would do when I recovered. When we were told that this would not be the case, I would be lying if I said it didn’t affect us as a couple. Being in constant pain is no fun and then being told it was permanent, I withdrew into a black hole with my darling P trying to remain upbeat and trying to help me out of my depression.
But then as I emerged and started to feel stronger and more confident and ready to claim my disability and to try and advocate for disabilty rights, P was suddenly hit with his own ‘black hole’. His desire to love and protect me sometimes clashed with my need to get out and push myself too hard. He then found that he had to ‘pick up the pieces‘ when the inevitable crash and huge pain spike came and I needed his nursing.
He is the one who has to help me with my personal needs, he is the one who has to do all the household chores and tasks and he is the one who has to hold me at night when the strong painkillers bring the night terrors and the hallucinations. (Seeing green swarms of absolute horror at 4am is no fun believe me)
And in his words, he is the one who ‘feels lonely when he now has to do things alone when we used to do them together“. (Yep, that made me tear up when I heard it too…..)
A relationship which has to undergo a huge change is bound to have a few ‘tremors’ but I think the thing that Dr Phil ignores is the presence of the oldest feeling in the world – Love.
Love is the thing that binds you together, that seals the deals you make together, the reason that you put up with dopey annoyances; the shoes left in the middle of the hall, the towels left on the floor, the empty glass left on the side of the sink instead of in the dishwasher, and the thing that in these instances, stops you running for the hills and just giving up.
It is this love that you hear of throughout all those #100outof100 tweets, comments and blogs. This is the love that conquers couples who have faced spinal injuries, paralysis, strokes, heart disease, chronic illnesses, physical and mental health conditions and a multitude of other issues.
And it is this love which defies whatever Dr Phil or anyone else says; yes, love is challenged when these things occur, and don’t get me wrong, these things could happen to anyone of us at anytime, and this is when the strength of your love is tested, but real love, true love does not drop out and run away, it’s stays, says “ok, this is crappy but let’s get through this together“.
Sounds good to me so seeing as I love P and P loves me, we’ll just carry on facing whatever life decides to fling at us and do as the poster says, “keep calm and carry on”!
What the hell does Dr Phil know?!? 😘