Is love enough to keep our marriage intact?
A columnist's wife worries about their future together as her HD progresses
After my beloved wife, Jill, and I left a recent party, she was a little shaken up. When I asked why she was upset, she said, “Do you think love is enough to sustain a marriage?”
I said, “Yes, of course.”
She said, “Did you know the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research conducted a study, published in 2014, that showed nearly one-third of married couples with an ill spouse get divorced?”
I wasn’t aware of that, but I told her we wouldn’t be part of that statistic.
She said, “Well, did you know that the data show that the likelihood of divorce increases when it’s the wife who’s sick?”
Again, I acknowledged I didn’t know that fact, but repeated that we wouldn’t be included in that statistic.
“OK, you say that now, but what will happen in the future? How can you say we won’t get divorced? How can you guarantee you’ll take care of me when you don’t know how bad I may get?” Jill, who was diagnosed as gene-positive for Huntington’s disease in 2018, said. “I don’t want to be in the advanced stages of Huntington’s and suddenly be alone. I’d rather know now while I can still make arrangements for my future care.”
I didn’t want to repeat myself, but I didn’t want her to think I was upset, so I sighed, which is my “I’m frustrated, but not mad” reaction.
She added that she read about another study published in the journal Cancer that found that married women diagnosed with serious diseases are six times as likely to get separated or divorced compared with married men with serious diseases. The study was from 2009, but the numbers are astounding.
I sighed again.
“The study found that 21% of seriously ill women get divorced compared with only 3% of seriously ill men,” she said. “It’s obvious that a wife developing a serious disease causes many husbands to divorce.”
I reminded her that none of the people in those studies were Carlos and Jill Briceño. I didn’t know what else to say. I supposed there really wasn’t an answer I could give her to prove my permanent love for her.
After we got home, I hugged her and said, “Jill, you are my past, my present, and my future — whatever that may be. I don’t care how Huntington’s affects you because you are still you, and I love you. I have signed up to be your husband, and that is my most important job.”
So yes, my dear Jill, love is enough.
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