By Bunmi Sofola
Did it ever occur to you that when you stood at the altar and promised to love your husband ‘in sickness and in health,’ that one day you’d be forced to confront the reality of those vows? You ought to. This is life. We’re all going to get old.
Some of us may suffer long-term or terminal illness or have accidents that leave us unable to look after ourselves.
When accidents happen, would you be able to look after your sick spouse unconditionally? Would your husband do it for you? More to the point, would you want him to?
“I’m not the kind of person who copes very well with illness or stress,” confessed Kate. “I’ve only been married for two years.
If he suffered a long-term illness now, I would probably walk away. I am young and I have my whole life ahead of me.
However, if it was something short-term, I would stay and care for him. I would also do this if I was in my 50s, or 60s, and still with the same man I’m with now”, concludes the 30-year-old dentist.
Eight years ago, Solape’s husband was away on business when two of his colleagues called at the house.
They told her that Bruce, her husband, was involved in a car accident and had been hospitalised. “I was distraught,” Solape said. “We’d been married for 14 years and with three growing children, I needed the support of a healthy partner.
When his colleagues refused to tell me the extent of his injuries, I was really scared.
“It was when I got to the hospital that I found out he was in a coma where he remained for almost two weeks.
He eventually regained consciousness but he had suffered some injuries to his brain and would need constant care.
It didn’t ever cross my mind not to be there for him. He was the father of my kids. But would he do the same for me if the roles were reversed?
I was thinking of this seriously when a female colleague of his visited. She said she was away on transfer when the accident happened.
I was friendly with her and she commended me on my staying with him when I knew there was another woman with my husband in the car when he had the accident.
She was the woman he was rumoured to be having an affair with and which he had vehemently denied.
“When she realised I hadn’t heard of the mistress until she told me, she felt guilty and embarrassed.
I assured her she’d done me a favour. I was at breaking point when this happened. I knew my marriage ended with the accident and now I can relieve myself of the caring job fate trusted upon me.
I couldn’t take care of the children properly and my business was suffering. In the end I had to tell him I knew about the woman he had with him when he had the car accident and that I was leaving with the children.
We had a right to live a healthy life – he’d already chosen the path he wanted to walk. He’d obviously betrayed me and our marriage vows before the accident – no one would judge me negatively if I left, so I did.
I made sure his relatives knew what my decision was and that they would have to take over caring for him.”
“Twelve years ago when I got married, the ‘in sickness and in health’ part was very meaningful to both of us,” said Tolu, a nursing sister.
“Although neither of us is sick or injured, my husband is a high ranking policeman and I knew that there is a possibility he could come home a different person – it could be with fewer limbs or even a psychological problem.
When you marry a person, you marry them for a reason – it doesn’t matter how much you have to do for them or how much strain there is.
There are many reasons why you might walk away from a marriage, but illness and injury should not be one of them.”
“When you are committed to someone, it becomes automatic, no matter how unpleasant it is for you to care for them “in sickness or in health,” said Evi, an educationist.
“I looked after my husband when he had kidney cancer. The cancer spread to his bones and he was virtually bed-ridden. We were told the illness was terminal.
“He wouldn’t let anyone else look after him. Even when he was in hospital, I was there 12 or 14 hours every day, washing and feeding him and helping him to the toilet.
I had a good job, but had to resign because I was away for too long, thankfully, money wasn’t really a problem. For me, there was no choice. My husband was dying and I wanted to be with him
every waking moment.
I knew I would have plenty of time to sort out my
career and get my life back on track once he had gone. I was 41, and he was 54.
The months we spent together were amazing. We talked about me re-marrying and about what it might be like to be dead.
“The biggest difficulty was not knowing how he felt. He was the one with the disease and I constantly worried about his pain levels, both physical and emotional.
When he eventually died, the hole that he left was enormous. I am not in any way ashamed to say that there was also some relief. Relief that he was out of pain, and relief that I could get some rest. But there was also contentment knowing that I had done whatever was needed. I had cared for him until the last day.”