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two canes stored in a cardboard box

The Upside of Being Abandoned

Of course, there is no upside to being kicked to the curb in the beginning. It smarts like the dickens. It’s outrageous, too, let’s face it. It’s so easy to feel self-righteous when I am clearly the innocent, injured party. And it hasn’t just happened once. In fact, I’m not sure where abandonment and rejection began since it can take so many forms. But if I narrow it down to romantic situations and potentially romantic scenarios with MS being near the center of the conflict, those started six years ago. Please know that I’m heading towards a very specific place with this piece. A positive place.

My spouse’s resentment

In my December 4, 2012 essay titled: It’s Complicated, I describe the jarring take-down that ended my two-year marriage from a spouse that, despite knowing I had MS, had ardently pursued me in the beginning like a smitten schoolboy, then did a 180 and despised the ground I walked on six years later. His carefully hidden resentment of my broken body hit such a high pitch that he could no longer cover his true feelings. A big part of me felt deeply sorry for him. It can’t be easy to be labeled the putz that dumped his disabled wife. Whenever I run into him around town these days, he wears his shame valiantly. And he’s very nice to me. I am a very forgiving person. I can always see the other side of things. For example, even after I read his online dating profile post-separation and saw that he’d adamantly written that she must be healthy and active, and that life shouldn’t be lived on the sidelines. Ouch. I took it very personally at first, but it wasn’t meant that way. He must have been terrified of making the same mistake twice.

It makes some kind of sense to me now

It makes some kind of sense to me now, to emphasize physical robustness as a requirement even though he was in his fifties, a time of life when our bodies soon start failing us all. I’m wise enough to know that everyone has preferences, and it’s okay to not want to be involved with a disabled person. Looking back, he should have ended our relationship around the time he proposed marriage four years into our relationship, plenty of time to figure out whether you want to make a commitment. But it is indeed complicated whenever you feel love and hate and confusion and at the same time know that you really want an activities partner, not a sedentary spouse with a cane. Let’s face it, not everyone has the stomach or the patience for it. And that’s okay. Although the best thing is to know thyself and choose a partner accordingly, a lot of us don’t— including me. My own judgment really blows, and that leads to anger and self-pity.

Being open to growth

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, truly. I do highly recommend wallowing in self-pity from time to time. It serves a valuable purpose. It is how I access my pain and allow myself to feel it. I worry that people who refuse to indulge in self-pity might be denying themselves the experience of truly embracing pain, thereby losing their fear of it. I’ve lived it so many times I know I won’t die from it. It hardens me, casts me adrift for a time, but I am not lost for long. Anger and self-pity do not thicken my skin, however. It’s as thin as it ever was. Thinner, even. Anger and self-pity embitter me. But I am still soft inside. The soft side won’t disappear because I won’t let it. And bitterness? I embrace mine, it’s not a bad thing, either. Bitterness means I’ve lived through hate and injustice, abandonment and rejection at the hands of some selfish, shallow people. I am deep and always at the ready to learn from my experiences. Being introspective and ready to doubt myself keeps me open to growth.

Gaining independence and self-confidence

So what’s been the biggest pay-off, the uppest upside of abandonment? True independence and self-confidence. It’s kind of crazy. Left to live alone for the first time in my life at a time in my life when I was (gulp) at my most disabled? It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I can mostly take care of myself and have learned to ask for help when I really need it, guilt-free. In a marriage I always felt shame whenever I was helped. And worry, worry that I’d pay a price for that imposition one day. It turned out to be true. The cost of imposing on a spouse was to lose the spouse all together. No more nightmares about that, no more shame or guilt or worry. No spouse to lose now. My boyfriend doesn’t live with me and I’ll never allow it. It does make a difference.

My only wish is that I don’t have a need for anyone for anything. I don’t mean I want to drop off the grid and be a hermit. I only mean that the people in my life would be there because I want them to be. Not because I need them.

Remember that song from Funny Girl that goes: People/People who need people/Are the luckiest people in the world?

I used to believe that. Now, not so much. Do you?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. It’s Complicated; Doc, It Hurts When I Do This; blog by Kim Dolce, pub. December 4, 2012.


  • grizz951
    10 months ago

    Great article and so sad because it is a sign of the times all around folks all about themselves no time to live up to vows or promises. But what doesn’t kill up makes us stronger right. Comes a time when the only person you can depend on is yourself and your strong enough to do it.

  • swampdoctor dave
    10 months ago

    Hello Kim, good article (as usual). I am one of the lucky ones in that my wife is always there for me. When we first started dating she knew something was “wrong” with me, but we would work it out together. We have been married for 26 years and still going strong. She gets really frustrated at times with me but we always work it out. I thank my lucky stars that she is in my life.

  • Julie
    10 months ago

    My husband of 30 years left a few years after my diagnosis. He said he couldn’t deal with the MS anymore. I guess I didn’t know it was that easy to walk away from MS. I guess I thought the marriage vows say something like thru sickness and health.

    I was crushed at first. I married him when I was 17 and didn’t know anything else. From my parent’s home to his. Being a part of a relationship was all I knew. I was afraid. Very afraid. Could I do this alone?

    Eleven years later I’m here to tell you that not only can you do it, I DID do it. Living alone has been eye-opening but it’s also a preference. Yes, I still run into my ex. We have 2 kids and 2 grandkids. How can we NOT run into each other? I believe he is sorry for what he did. I know this because he has told our daughter. He has never told me so does that count?

    I wouldn’t be the same person if I were still married to him. I am a much stronger person. I have much more self-assurance. I speak up for myself. I like who I am now and hope I continue to grow stronger even though MS is making me feel physically weaker. There’s a balance in there somewhere. I hope it all works out.

  • Deb
    10 months ago

    My husband left me after I was diagnosed, I was devastated and then a Dr said to me, “he did you a favor” and you know what the DR was right. Not what I wanted but I’m ok & will stay strong. Great article

  • LuvMyDog
    10 months ago

    I had a friend much like you. She got her feelings hurt more times than I can count and as she got older, became a very bitter person.
    Me, I’m not like that, regarding feelings that is.
    As a kid and an only child, I spent a great deal of time around the adults in my family. I saw and heard a lot regarding relationships. Very few are all they’re cracked up to be.
    No one is perfect and I’d say that 99% of the people you meet in life, including your family, will indeed disappoint you.
    I had a couple of disappointments and decided that was enough for me.
    Relationships are too much work, especially if the other party isn’t putting in the same amount of effort.
    People are people. Everyone is different. But everyone you meet in life expects something from you.
    And you expect something from them.
    I have met only one person who met my expectations of being a truly decent and caring person and that was decades ago.
    Decades! Not weeks or months or a few years…but many decades.
    I think there is way too much emphasis put on romance, marriage, boyfriends/girlfriends,
    even what some people call “a good friend”.
    I’ve had a few of those, or so I thought. Again, disappointments. Live and learn.
    Why do people choose to be disappointed over and over again? Just too needy?
    I think there should be a point when you say, “that’s it, I don’t need the aggravation anymore.”
    I did that, a long time ago now.
    I think my life is better for it.

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