When The Husband Is More Patient Than Partner
When The Husband Is More Patient Than Partner
Some cynics say that even a beautiful emotion like love is a myth as far as marital relationship is concerned. So long as a husband is healthy, able to earn and give the wife a good life. ‘Love’ remains, but if he is totally paralysed or suffers from an incurable illness, love vanishes and the wife, more often than not, becomes indifferent and downright hostile.
Many such couples, who were previously happily married, have ‘spiritually parted’ due to the husband’s incapacitation. Salma’s husband Shariq fell down a flight of stairs and broke his neck, an accident which left him almost totally paralysed. Shariq, now 32, is unable to work and depends on his wife, with a little bit of help from a maid, to get him out of bed and into his wheelchair, to feed, wash, shave and dress him and even to fetch a glass of water or a cup of tea.
Like most other wives looking after disabled husbands, Salma can’t leave him for more than an hour at a time, unless she arranges for a friend or volunteer to come and sit with him. Another disadvantage in our society is that the ‘friend’ has to be invariably a male! On top of this, she has their five-year-old son to bring up.
“You just don’t know what disablement means until it happens to you,” says Salma. “Then you realize how totally dependent people become – it’s rather like having a baby.”
In some ways, the accident has brought them closer. “I get my down days and so does he, but we have our good times too. Even if we had homes for the handicapped similar to those in Western countries, I could never put him in a home – I always felt as a Muslim wife I had to endure the hardship.”
In this sense Salma is lucky. It is estimated that a colossal number of people look after their disabled spouses, often at the great emotional cost to themselves. And while caring partners of both sexes share many common problems, there is evidence that women carry a unique burden of stress. The wife– the traditional ‘carer’ in our male-oriented culture – is automatically expected to cope, alone and virtually unaided.
Yet the survival of a marriage can depend on something as basic as whether the caring partner feels able to take time out on her own – sometimes difficult in the face of her own guilt feelings and opposition from her husband, who may object to a sitter coming in for the day. To compound the situation, in our narrow-minded society, sarcastic remarks are passed, like she is enjoying while her husband is suffering’, which are very hurtful to the wife.
Going out together as a couple can also be awkward. A visit to a restaurant or the cinema may involve such complications that many just give up the idea– even if they can afford it. Similarly, arranging a picnic and packing all the aids and equipment necessary can turn into a nightmare.
Even the few disability aids available in our country are not always designed with married life in mind — the special mattresses to prevent pressure sores, for example, are often available in single: sizes only, making a wife feel more like her husband’s nurse than his partner.
Continuously, disability can have a profound effect on a couple’s sexual relationship, especially when a husband can no longer take the lead or where intercourse becomes physically impossible. Fortunately, our women are chaste and faithful and rightly consider the extra-marital relationship a great sin. Hence, they suffer patiently, particularly if young, the suppressed sexual urge.
But physical difficulties are not the only reason for sexual problems; these may be sparked off by a husband’s loss of job and of confidence in his own body, or by a wife’s depression and exhaustion. It is difficult to switch from being someone’s nurse to being his lover, especially when caring can involve intimate physical tasks such as helping him to empty his bladder or dealing with his incontinence, a widespread problem which does little for anyone’s dignity.
Although the majority of couples soldier on after the onset of disability particularly in our society, there is a good deal of ‘hidden break-up’ of marriage, with two partners remaining under one roof out of feelings of guilt and obligation — and also fear of what the neighbours might think — rather than love. Most wives lie about their true feelings, as they feel too loyal to their partners to speak openly. Fear of society and ‘what people will say’ play a very dominant part in our lives and is, to a great extent, instrumental in stifling and suffocating our individual liberty and freedom.
Many women feel that the pressure on their marriages could have been eased with more support — from friends, family members as well as professionals. Yet disability has a tragic way of making other people recoil, or feel embarrassed and inadequate. As a result, couples are left to stew in misery that binds closer than any marriage vow.
In the final analyses, marriage, in our culture at least, is a permanent bond; a beautiful sublime relationship; which neither the vacillating vicissitudes of life nor the palacozonic passage of time can eradiCate or erode. Whether in health or illness, in prosperity or adversity, the “Imminence of love” which marriage symbolizes, should remain firm and fast, till “death do us part.
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