Traditionally, wedding vows are along the lines of “I take you to be…blah…blah…for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
Having been through the “or worse” and “in sickness” bits more than once, I can tell you that most people, when they get married, don’t want to deal with that part and don’t expect to deal with that part.
By that I mean, neither partner envisions themselves to be the “or worse” and deep down does not really want their spouse to go through the pain of having to suffer though the worst part of themselves.
I bring this up now because my wife is in the hospital, and has been for over a month, due to brain hemorrhage related to her chronic health condition. It is an exercise in patience and endurance for both of us. The relief provided by medication and proper health care (her) and an understanding employer (me) is appreciated, but it does little to alter the fundamental terribleness of our situation.
Of course, people claim to want a spouse who will stick with them through thick and thin. But it’s like insurance. We are in favor of the idea of having it, as long as we never actually need to use it.
In reality, people don’t want that. They don’t want to face the ugliness of it, or the grim reality of it.
Because the spouse who is “in sickness” is not sexy. And the grieving spouse who is trying desperately to hold it together is not sexy. The sights, the smells, the broken body, the seemingly endless bedside vigils.
Absolutely none of it is sexy, believe me (unless you’re into that kind of thing).
Of course, popular culture would have us believe otherwise. We have movies such as Dying Young and Now is Good and While You Were Sleeping, none of which I have seen, but I’m pretty sure they gloss over the reality of what they think they are depicting.
A more realistic take on such things is a book titled Alice & Oliver, by Charles Bock. Read it – I highly recommend it.
So if ever you are tempted to think that a dying lover is somehow more attractive, or the long-suffering spouse or family member is somehow attractive, stop right there. They aren’t, and never can be.