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Sylvia’s divorce story: “In sickness and in health, those vows were not honoured”

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In sickness and in health.  Vows that Steve and I exchanged on our wedding day 25 years ago and were not honoured.  

We met at the local rugby club when we were around 18.  We used to have such laugh at weekends with the rest of the rugby club.  Win, lose or draw, we would go into town, drink, go for a curry and dance away in a nightclub.  We were part of a group that had grown up together.  Now we were all in our early 20s and starting married life.  We even held our reception at the rugby club where we met.  It was easy, comfortable and we were both happy. 

The Chairman of the club, Maurice, was a real father figure to us and helped us out as much as he could. He rented us our flat and he let Steve work and train at the garage he owned in the town.  We were so grateful to him that when our daughter Tanya was born, Steve proudly took her to the rugby club and asked Maurice to be godfather.

When Tanya was around 2 years old, I started to feel a little a strange sort of tiredness that was with me all day.  I assumed it was normal as I was looking after a house and a lively toddler.   I was nevertheless happy; Steve had a good career, we had a bigger home, and we were besotted with our daughter.

When I noticed numbness in my arms and the odd stumble here and there, I decided to go to the doctor.  Eventually I was diagnosed with MS at the age of 26.  I was shocked, but held it together for Steve and Tanya’s sake, but as time went on I began to get weaker and unless someone helped me, I was virtually housebound.  

Steve was great to start with, but as my mobility gradually declined further and I needed help with the most basic needs. I could sense that Steve was struggling but he did not communicate this.  It was also difficult to get intimate when he had to help me to the loo and cut up my dinner.  

Steve was still a young man, and I know that he was still attractive to the ladies.  It wasn’t long before he started to stay out longer after training and the games.  On day, I took a phone call from one of his friends who told me that Steve was “playing away”.  

I confronted Steve, and to give him his due, he owned up to couple of flings, with women I did not know.  A lot of things were said that night and Steve eventually said that he could not deal with my illness and packed his bags and left.  It broke my heart. 

Steve left the town as he was shunned by his friends and during a row with Maurice, told him to stick his job.  We divorced and lost touch.  He has no contact with Tanya or me.  I know he found it difficult to deal with his guilt, and heard he had a failed overdose on pills.

My illness is difficult to deal with, and we did not appreciate how hard it would be to keep those vows in reality.  I like to think that I would have stayed, but I have come to realise that I might be physically weak, but am emotionally very resilient.  Steve was the opposite.

He simply could not cope.  

When someone becomes ill in a partnership, it is important to think of how you will both cope (if at all) and be ready to forgive the person you love if they cannot.  I forgive Steve and I forgive others, including myself for shaming him.

In some ways I have adjusted better than he has.  I now live in a nice bungalow designed for an invalid and a carer.  Most importantly, I have been touched by the support I have had from friends, family, Maurice and my wonderful daughter.  The deterioration is very gradual so I try not to think about it too much and try not to let it hold me back. I don’t let it hold back Tanya either, who is enjoying college.

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