Saturday, June 11, 2011

Letters to a Paralyzed Husband: Be a Team

Introduction: This is the first of a series of posts inspired by the upcoming wedding of a bright-eyed couple who we met via this blog. I have thought of things we have found helpful. Some are specific to being paralyzed, but most have a kernel that applies to any marriage.

When you become a husband, your spouse is your partner for life. The familiar vows, "for better or worse," encompass about every situation you'll face in life. The most important takeaway is to face every situation together. Regardless of situations, your spouse is your most important teammate.
Our first winter together, Dana and I were eager to play in the fourteen inches of freshly-fallen snow. She bundled me up like a mommy does a little kid and got a serving spoon --she didn't know why I asked for it. By the time I was all prepped she was a frustrated mess. It was the first realization what a production just going out in the winter would be. She was done.

That's when I realized something very important. I told her, "We're a team. We're doing this together. You're not just my support crew. You're the quarterback."

During football season communities rally around their team. Fans don their gear and cheer on the players. Cheerleaders rally the crowd and the players. Coaches lead the players. The support crew supplies the players.

You and your spouse are teammates. Neither of you is a fan, watching from the bleachers. She is not your cheerleader, pumping you up for your big play. You are not the coach, telling her how to play the game. She is not your support crew, making sure you are attended to.

As a husband with a disability, you are not the one being taken care of any more. Your role is significantly changed. If you have caregivers still, they are an extension of you --like your hands, arms and legs-- but not your mind. Your life doesn't revolve around your caregivers' needs, but around what is good for your spouse.

Remember this: your spouse is your number one teammate. She's the all-star quarterback and you're the offensive lineman. Together you execute the plays. She will throw the ball sometimes (letting someone else do things you need), other times she'll run with the ball (carrying the responsibility herself). You run ahead and make sure nothing gets in her way. This means confronting people, managing and heading off snags in your day-to-day care, and making sure she feels protected.

A team requires good game plans and communication. You will face several challenges. As time goes by, you'll recognize them before they come. Your challenges are unique to your personalities and needs (physical, spiritual, social, and emotional). Talk about them and together work out how you can handle them next time.

"The best offense is a strong defense." This puts a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. Your disability brings you both challenges you cannot imagine. Get this concept in your head and everything else we cover will fall in line: you are the first line of defense and essential source of security for your spouse.

We still remind ourselves when we're knee-deep in the mud that we are a team getting through this together. We went out in the snow --despite narrowly-plowed sidewalks and places D had to push me through. We played, drew in the snow, and even had a snowball fight (ergo the spoon). It was a memorable day we could have missed out on if we'd given up.

Added by Dana: We never saw that spoon again. It was lost in the snow when Michael threw one of his "snowballs" at me!


Kristen Maddux said...

Great thoughts, Mike. I love what you all are doing thru this blog.

Melanie Phillips said...

haha...I know who you are talking about, and I am so looking forward to this blog! Thanks for sharing your insight, and ideas, and you life! You guys are an inspiration!

LAiA said...

This is a great blog!! I will for sure be reading it. My boyfriend and I are starting to plan our wedding, and he's also in a wheelchair, so I am sure most of this advice will be great for us. Thank you!!

Lina Monges said...

You both are such an inspiration...My boyfriend has been in a wheelchair for short of 2 yrs now due to a motorcycle accident. We got engaged on Valentine's Day and are now starting to plan our wedding and our new life together. Your insight and advice has been so comforting. I'm sorry I haven't written on here sooner. Thank you so much for sharing and being so open.