Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your story of true love in chronic illness with us!
Kristen and her husband, Tim, live in North Carolina, where Tim is studying at Bob Jones University.
Kristen and Tim both answered our questions in the following video. If you’d like to read as well as listen, we’ve provided a summary below. (But please watch or at least listen to the video! Kristen and Tim have some great wisdom and stories to offer that didn’t make it into the summary.)
How did you meet?
Tim: We met at Maranatha Baptist University. She caught my eye at some point, and I asked her if she wanted to do a group project with me and some others in the class. I knew she was the kind of person I liked and was pretty sure I wanted to talk to her again. During that first outing, she said she had to go home, because it was that year she had started struggling with chronic fatigue. I liked her well enough I was willing to wait it out and pray about it. We started talking on Facebook at some point to get to know each other better and maintain some bit of a friendship.
She came back to school a year and a half later. I asked her if we could talk, to figure out what we were. We tried to just be friends, eventually figured out we definitely were interested in each other, and casually started dating that semester. I didn’t know how bad things were with her health, just how sick she was and what it meant to be ill with CFS. Because I had committed to going into ministry, I didn’t know if I could ask Kristen with all her conditions to do that with me. So I told her I thought it was best if we just remain as friends. For all intents and purposes, we broke up. I never forgot about her.
A year and a half later, I asked her if we could start talking again. I had learned more about her condition and come to understand what she could and couldn’t do and that there is some light at the end of the tunnel—it’s not like she’s cursed for life. We’re both confident she’s going to be better one day. It’s important to understand that you can have a relationship with someone with chronic fatigue or some other issue. It has its challenges, but you can do it. After praying about it a lot, and doing a lot of thinking about it, I asked her if she wanted to start talking again towards a serious relationship. After a year and a couple months we got engaged, and then we got married. Now we’ve been married six months.
What was dating like for you?
Kristen: If you’re dating someone, just give them time. I think I just wanted Tim to be this superhero person who came in and was like, “I accept all your health problems, no problem,” but he had his own thought of how his life was going to go. That’s usually not in people’s dreams: “I’m gonna date this chronically sick person, she has issues I have to work with.” You need that person to be faithful to you for sure, but if it takes them some time to get there, that’s okay. Tim proved himself faithful, that he was really serious about this and he was going to stick through despite my health problems.
Tim: When we started dating, we were actually able to go out and do stuff, a little bit. But we definitely weren’t free to do as much activity as a normal couple would. It was very chill. I think most people would look at us and be like, “They’re a really boring couple, you don’t do anything together.” We were fine with that. We’d watch movies together, we’d talk about things, we were okay with that. I think our personalities were made to help, they really fit the needs of our relationship.
Kristen: Dating definitely looked different, especially in the last days because I would mostly just lie on the recliner while he did homework. We would maybe watch some TV or something exciting like that until my brain got tired.
Tim: Our typical date is we just sit together and talk or watch TV, or I get something nice to eat and bring it here. We do chill stuff. You can do that, can stay home and make it special. You have to be creative and have to be okay with it. Sometimes it can be hard, but you appreciate what you have, and it’s doable, and we have a lot of fun with it.
Can you tell us a little about your condition?
Kristen: The main conditions that I have are CFS and POTS and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, plus many other things that go along with those diagnoses. It affects just about everything, with persistent fatigue, brain fog, pain, and not being able to sit or stand for very long. I’m not able to work, really, and as of right now my abilities are very limited. Tim does pretty much all the housework. He cooks.
Tim: I try to cook. She tells me what to do and I cook.
Kristen: I tried to go into marriage with the mindset that I can do it all, I need to be a good wife. But I re-realized I don’t have to meet all these standards that I have in my head of what a good wife is, if my body and my health are not there yet, and that is okay. I can still be a good wife and love him and serve him in other ways.
What challenges have you faced together because of your condition?
Kristen: When we first got married, I knew it was a lot on him with taking classes and working 30 hours a week. I thought, I’m just at home, so I can make supper. But after a while, doing that and other things, I realized I was pushing myself and I’d crash.
Tim: I was trying to be very considerate and ask her what she wanted to do. But she wanted to do more, and I think we both thought she could do more, so that was a challenge. We had to do a lot of reorienting and adjusting.
There have definitely been times for me when I’ve been frustrated because I want to do more than just sit and talk. Even though we both like a lot of the same things, even watching a movie can be overstimulating for her sometimes. Doing things that I think are relaxing aren’t necessarily going to be relaxing and resting for her. That can be frustrating and you just have to make the decision to love her anyway. You know that it’s not always going to be this way, you enjoy the times that you do have. It’s a challenge but you just keep loving each other and work through it, and you change your expectations to what you see is good for this moment and what’s not good for this moment.
Kristen: One thing that has helped me is really focusing on priorities, which can be really hard, especially when you have super limited energy and you feel like even your top priorities don’t get the energy they need, and making sure he’s at the top of the list–keeping your priorities in line and preserving your energy for things that are important.
Tim: One more challenge for me was adjusting to losing the amount of time that I have just for myself. Some of that was just because of getting married, you have a lot to do—you have that with a healthy person too. But even more with Kristen, because I’m doing a lot of things that she’s not able to do. That was frustrating in the beginning. But again you just have to be patient, remember that you made a commitment because you love this person, so you have a good attitude about it. You recognize that things are different now, that’s part of being married, that’s okay, and it’s worth it.
What do you wish you had known when you were starting your relationship?
Tim: One thing I wish I knew at the beginning was the nature of the chronic illness. It took me a long time to really fully understand the severity of chronic fatigue and just how long chronic fatigue can be. But thankfully Kristen was very patient with that, and I think she tried to help me with that. So if you’re starting a relationship, be patient. You might have to explain it, you might have to explain it again, and he might not get it. It really is a hard thing to wrap your mind around if you’re not living inside of it. So be patient with your partner.
Kristen: I remember specifically one time, fairly early on in our relationship, him bringing a chair over for me, saying “This is for you to put your legs up,” and I was like “He knows that, he’s registered that, he’s trying to help me.” I just had to realize that it will take some time.
How would you advise women with chronic illness to pray for their Special Someone?
Tim: Definitely pray that God gives you a person He has taught to be patient and flexible. Love is patient, and to not be patient with somebody is because you love yourself more than you love that person. So you need somebody who, especially if you’re dealing with chronic fatigue, God has worked in his life to help him be a person who’s patient and who’s willing to cancel plans, who’s willing to change plans, who’s willing to give up what he wants to do and his expectations for your benefit, because sometimes that’s just the way it has to be.
Pray for yourself as well. Pray for patience for yourself going through your illness. Also pray and teach yourself, remind yourself that God is good to us where we’re at. If you’re struggling with any kind of chronic thing, you’re going to have to learn this lesson a lot more than other people do.
Kristen: I’m sure there’s going to be moments–I have them recorded–Will anybody marry me like this? That was after we had broken up essentially because of my health problems, and it added to that fear. It’s important to just accept where God has you at the moment, and to realize there are good men out there who are willing to see your personality beyond your illness and accept you for that and grow with you in that. It might now be right now and it might not even be later.
I also think it’s really important for someone especially with chronic illness to not step into a relationship with a person who’s very weak in his patience and flexibility, because it’s going to add a lot of unneeded stress to your life that’s going to make your health issues worse, and that’s not where you need to be. Don’t rush into anything.
I would just pray that God teaches him whatever he needs to know–He knows that, you might not know. Pray and expect God to work in you as well to prepare you for whatever task He has for you. Even though it may feel like there’s not much you can do, there is something you can do. It might not be showy, you might never be seen for it, but God sees even when no one else does how you respond to your illness. He sees how you respond to your trials, and even if only a few people see how you respond, that’s still glorifying to God if you’re doing it because you love Him and to show glory to Him, and you’ll be rewarded for that one day.
Is there a part of Kristen’s story that most encouraged you? A word of advice you plan to take home? Any stories of how YOUR Special Someone (or a friend or family member) has shown you true love in your chronic illness? Please share in the comments, we’d love to hear!