For my wife, a drive is never just a drive, because she struggles with a set of illnesses that are as frustrating and mystifying as they are debilitating. Which means, of course, that so do I.

I thought I knew what I was getting into when we started dating. Em told me about the Crohn’s, but it wasn’t until the first time we made love that the reality set in.

On the occasions when Em isn’t able to join me at dinner with friends or at family gatherings, I field a barrage of well-meaning inquiries about her health. I’ve learned to gloss over them with “She’s just resting”—because how would getting into the complicated truth really help?

Tom Petty was right, the waiting is the hardest part. Waiting for her next appointment, for a new medicine to kick in, for her to get well. Waiting for her to digest so we can make love, waiting for her vision to clear so we can binge-watch Netflix like a normal couple. Waiting to stop waiting.

I used to think that because I was helpless to make her better I was also useless, but as she closes her eyes and presses my palm to her chest, taking in my warmth, I know that I am useful, like when I dice vegetables small enough for her to digest, or listen—really listen—to her without trying to solve or fix anything.

Read the article on Men’s Health.