After my husband and I had been married for 16 years, his liver became damaged from Hepatitis B. A year later he had a liver transplant which he survived for five and a half years. At the end of that period, the Hepatitis destroyed his new liver and he needed another. He died during the second transplant.
I had married him when I was 19 years old and he was seven years older than I was. I was depressed and suicidal when we became engaged. I was doing okay emotionally when we married, but I was dependent on him emotionally. We had three daughters together, and he and our daughters were very much my life. I had seldom been employed. The last four years of his life, I worked on my B.S. in Management Information Systems in order that I could get a good job. We knew he wouldn’t live much longer.
Eventually, he died, and I felt so alone. Eventually, I became interested in another man, but I discovered he was interested in my middle daughter who was 15. I immediately recognized that I needed to put my daughters first and keep them safe. And so I broke up with him and decided to remain single until my daughters had grown and left home. My youngest daughter has now been out of the house for several years, but still I have not remarried. It is by choice.
Living as a single parent, I had to learn to depend on myself. I found, after several years, that being in partnership with another person was not necessary to me. This doesn’t mean I don’t need other people. I have sometimes been lonely, but I have good friends to do things with and who support me when I struggle with depression. I also have my daughters, their families, and my dog. I am not really alone.
We often are led to believe that we need to be in a relationship to be a whole person. And there are many good reasons to be in a healthy relationship. We are less lonely. We have a long term sexual partner. We have someone to lean on and someone who can lean on us. We can pool resources. And there are other reasons to be in a relationship.
Too often, though, we enter into relationships primarily because we are trying to ease loneliness or we feel insecure and want stability. These are not very good reasons to enter into a serious relationship because too often it ends up being an unequal relationship and damaging to the person with less power. I am thankful that I learned I can take care of myself and that I can now enter into a relationship (if I ever choose to) as an equal partner.
Rev. Mary Alice Do, who has bipolar disorder, is a retired Disciples of Christ minister and has worked 16 years in the mental health community providing recovery information and advocacy. Read the rest of her posts for IBPF here, or watch her webinar on How Churches Can Promote Recovery. She also has a blog of her life story called Journey Towards Wellness.