A Solo Partnership - those words do not really go together well, do they?
I have been mulling over those words in my head for over a week and it was finally time to put pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard). When you see those words together, what does it make you think of? What can you imagine someone might mean when they string them together?
How can you be both solo and a partner?
This is an entirely possible situation, and one that is talked about freely in support blogs and small conversations between those that understand. Relationships that form as a partnership can somehow fragment into a puzzle, one in which the while picture is present, the pieces just don't seem to fit together the same way anymore. What you get is a picture that looks normal, but doesn't quite work together the way it did in the past.
I often refer to my conversations with families and spouses in my blog that live with a loved one that survived a brain injury. The conversations can go in many different directions, but one of the most common places they journey is to this feeling of aloneness, of being part of a marriage that is lonely.
Now, this isn't just a "brain injury" issue. I think many of us know plenty of marriages where one person has checked out. It happens - people get bored, complacent, and want to move on.
In the world of brain injury, both individuals may be present, but may not be able to be engaged in the true sense of a partnership. Cognitive limitations, emotional detachment, fear, anger or memory loss can erode the daily interactions and play that occur when people are in a partnership. Changes within conversational structure, patterns of interaction or just the difference in ones ability to help and plan throughout a day can impact a marriage.
These changes can go unnoticed by the injured partner, or if noticed, may be difficult to adjust. The caregiver may be able to bridge the gap between the two individuals, but eventually, a continuous pattern of compensating for that gap in communication and partnership becomes too much to continuously cross - and fatigue seeps in.
Partnership by definition needs two or more to participate - when one cannot participate due to a brain injury, the partnership becomes a solo pursuit of determination to keep it together.
A solo partnership cannot last forever.
So now you are asking yourself why bother? What stay around? Why would anyone stay when staying just makes you feel even more lonely than being alone?
I asked that question of those around me, and the answers that I got brought me to tears, and I realized the answers were true for me as well. When asked, why do you stay I am told:
I stay because when she laughs out loud in that way, I remember all the times we laughed together.
I stay because when he gets that bossy tone of voice, I remember all the times he would tell me to get things done, and give me a quick kiss and a smile as a thank you, and I knew that I would do anything that he asked.
I stay because when he thinks I am not looking, I watch him close his eyes and smile while listening to his music, and he looks just like he did before he got hurt.
I stay because sometimes, he looks at me, and really sees me again, and time goes away for just that second, and I know that somewhere he is in there.
I stay because he didn't ask for this, and for better or worse, we will figure out a way to make it work. And sometimes, he remembers to tell me he loves me, and if he can remember the love at those times, so can I.
A solo partnership - not what anyone has asked for, but what some have been given. The emotional strength it takes to survive is astounding, but the strength in those that work through brain injury recovery is equally amazing - and sometimes recognition of the strength in one another can be the bridge to carry that partnership again.
* It is important to both Frank and I that I are clear that not all conversation, situations or topics are part of our life and reality. Each brain injury life is different, and with that, it is important to know that this blog reflects many families with brain injury, not just ours. In order to honor Frank, I want to be clear that when speaking about relationships and trials, I am not always referring to our family.