For fifteen years I cared for him.
His accident was days after our engagement. My mother pulled me aside and said I could still walk away if I wanted. I knew it would be a hard road of nursing him back to health. No one knew if he’d recover or what recovery would mean. It meant putting my career on hold. Putting my family second. Putting my fiancee first in all things.
And I did. I stayed with him. For weeks in the hospital. For months of being home bound as he regained his strength.
I married a man who was still, we hoped, getting better. He has gotten stronger. Or perhaps simply better at adapting to his circumstances.
For fifteen years we lived like this. With me bearing the burden of responsibility for both of us in so many ways. With me still letting him be the man of the house. With me always putting my husband first.
I finally decided I couldn’t live like this anymore. With my identity all wrapped around his. Subsumed by his.
My nephews are in that phase where they’re obsessed with favorites. What’s my favorite food? Color? Hobby? Animal? I realized I didn’t know any of the answers for myself any more. But I knew them all for my husband.
I didn’t do anything dramatic. I decided to join the local gym and take a class once a week with some other ladies from church. To make sure we attended church together every week. To take a little time each week doing something for me, even if something else feels more important. That’s three or four hours a week for myself, after fifteen years of ignoring myself in favor of someone else.
He didn’t like it. He met someone new at church. I should have known something was wrong when he stopped trying to make excuses to not go. I was so excited when he stopped protesting, when he started getting ready on his own. I was thrilled to see people every week, feel connected to something. He felt connected to something else.
The thing is, part of me is thrilled. To be free, finally.
Sometimes the bitterness wells up in my throat. I gave so much to him and it was never enough. Does he even realize what I did for him? But I know it doesn’t matter. I know what I did. I know how much of myself I’m willing to give. And I know he would never do that for me.
It’s as if a weight has been lifted off of me. It has been, really. The weight of a man who I’ve supported all of these years.
Moving forward, I can finally support myself.