Thank you, Emily, for sharing your story of true love in chronic illness with us!
Emily lives in Colorado, where she works as a marketing coordinator by day and a cakepop baker by night. She and Andrew will make their together home not far from her current home after they marry in May. (If you’d like to learn more about Emily, check out her bio in the About page.)
How did you and Andrew meet?
Our moms are best friends, so Andrew and I have known each other since birth. We lived in separate states, but our families would vacation with or visit each other, and Andrew and I would occasionally talk on the phone or text each other. When I was 16, I began liking Andrew and started praying for him as my possible future husband.
Last April, Andrew called me out of the blue, and we talked for over four hours. We had an amazing conversation talking about our dreams for the future, our values, hardships in our lives, what God had been teaching us, etc. After getting off the phone with him, I knew something had changed.
I began really seeking out the Lord and praying for wisdom for Andrew and me and whether we should take our friendship to the next level. I later found out that Andrew was also seeking out the Lord and getting wise counsel about us as well.
On a shared trip with my family in May, Andrew and I had so many opportunities to talk heart-to-heart. It hit me one night how comfortable and safe I felt around him and that he was becoming my very best friend. The last day of our trip, he told me he felt the same way, and we decided to date with the intention of marriage.
We had to say goodbye to each other the next day and start our long-distance relationship. Since then, we have spent countless hours on the phone sharing our hearts and growing into deeper love with each other. It hasn’t been easy–I had an extensive surgery and Andrew was looking for a job–but through it all, God’s faithfulness has been proven over and over to us, and we can’t wait to get married in May.
What was dating like for you?
When Andrew and I started dating, we had no idea what was happening with my health. I would have major surgery in two months, so we were heading into our relationship with a lot of unknowns.
While it was a very challenging time, dating through my surgery and recovery also drew us closer together. I had to be more vulnerable with Andrew and show him my weaknesses, because you can’t hide a lot when you’re recovering from surgery! (He knows me so well, he can tell from my tone of voice how I’m doing.) We also had some really long talks during my recovery, and it was at that point we decided to get married the next year, in 2021. We became unofficially engaged and started pursuing marriage.
Being long-distance has been a huge blessing, because even if I wasn’t feeling well, I could still talk on the phone, for the most part, and I could recline while talking on the phone. We also have chosen to give each other grace. He doesn’t put pressure on me to feel a certain way, or if I’m not feeling up to talking or need to get off the phone sooner. It’s really all about keeping an open door of communication. That’s especially huge when you’re dealing with health issues, being able to communicate how you’re feeling.
Another benefit of long-distance dating is that literally the only thing you can do is talk. That’s been incredibly beneficial for me and Andrew–we’ve been able to work through a lot of really hard things early on in our relationship.
We’ve built a different strength and bond with each other, a special bond that is just indescribable because we’re relying on each other in a different way and relying on God to get us through. And we don’t take things for granted. Even if all we can do is sit together on the couch, holding hands, or with his arm around me, that is something big because we’re spending time together.
Can you tell us a little about your condition?
I deal with intercranial hypertension, which means I have constant headaches, major brain fog, fatigue, and sensory issues. I have to be in a reclining position, and I can’t sit upright for a certain amount of time.
What challenges have you faced together because of your condition?
A health condition can affect all aspects of your relationship. It especially takes a lot of selflessness for the guy to take you as you are. But there’s something beautiful about it too, because when you get ready to say your vows on your wedding day, you truly have been living through “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health,” so when you’re saying those vows, you know what they mean.
Andrew and I have seen the emotional toll that a chronic condition takes on both of us. I’m going through it physically and emotionally, but he’s going through it emotionally with me, and I’ve had to be aware of that. There may be times where it’s incredibly emotionally draining on him—for instance, when I go to a doctor’s appointment and don’t get the best news. While we grieve separately, we also grieve together. We’ve learned to be there for each other while also giving each other grace and space and time.
We’ve also learned not to depend on each other for our emotional strength but to depend on God, because He’s the only one who will get us through. If God has called your man to walk with you into marriage, He’s going to provide the grace and strength your man needs. It’s a supernatural grace and strength, and God has given it to Andrew, and that’s been really incredible to see.
I also struggled to open up with Andrew about where I was at with my health. That was a personal decision I had to make, but it brought us closer and we were able to build trust and a deeper bond with each other as a result. He knows as much as he can what I’m dealing with, and it gives him the chance to show compassion and help me. He wants to help, but he feels helpless a lot, especially in our long-distance relationship, and that’s been hard.
As I let Andrew into my journey, I’ve learned to give him a chance to share his opinion as well. Andrew is great—he’ll say, “Ultimately it’s your body, at the end of the day you do what you feel is best,” but I’ve allowed him to have a say in my health decisions, and sometimes having that different perspective really helps give clarity when you’re so stuck in your situation.
It’s also important because it affects him too now. It’s been a mental switch for me: it used to be just me, where it affected me and was my journey. Now that Andrew’s a part of it and we’re getting married, it’s us. Everything revolves around us now and impacts us and our future, so any news from the doctor, yes, it may impact me physically, but it impacts us as a couple too, emotionally and otherwise.
We also had to figure out physical boundaries when we were together in person. We both had concerns about our physical interaction with each other because we didn’t know what would set me off and what wouldn’t. But it was amazing–usually I have these no-touch spots (neck, head), but I had no problems with Andrew. It’s like God literally made us for each other: my head rests perfectly on his shoulder, where it helps with my pressure, and the way he puts his arm around me doesn’t trigger my neck and actually supports me better. That’s been a huge blessing.
What do you wish you had known when you were starting your relationship?
I want to encourage women to be open and honest with their men, because that’s been the best thing with me and Andrew. Just make sure you’re heading towards marriage–don’t just be open on your first date. Make sure the man is trustworthy, respectful, and honorable and that you both are heading in the same direction (toward marriage). Then you know it’s safe to share with him what’s going on with you.
Being open is huge because you don’t want to go into marriage and then be completely surprised. It’s vulnerability where you’re almost giving him an out but you’re also testing him to see if he’s going to stick with you through it all.
When Andrew asked me if I wanted to date him, I did ask him if he would take me as I am, not knowing what the surgery outcome would be. He said he would. That spoke volumes to me, knowing that someone would accept me for all that I am, including my health complications, especially if the surgery didn’t turn out the way we were hoping.
We’ve also had to make sure we clearly set our expectations (or lack of them) and communicated them with each other. We’ve already talked through some hard things like, “What if I have to have surgery or procedure after we get married? What will that look like?” Or, “If I’m too tired to cook one day, would you be willing to pick something up or make something? Would you be willing to do the housework? These are my limitations–are you willing to pick up the slack in that area?” We’ve already started building the team mindset and team communication for when we get married and become one.
How would you advise women with chronic illness to pray for their Special Someone?
Pray that he would have compassion and understanding for your health needs, that God would start preparing his heart for what’s to come. Pray for God to send people his way who can encourage and guide him. Pray for God to give him grace and strength to help you and walk through his own emotional battles.
What resources helped you specifically through your challenges?
It’s been a blessing for both of us to have other people to talk to, whether they’re married and deal with chronic issues or are just in a godly marriage. It helps if they can relate to you and be able to answer questions, from basic things like meal planning to spiritual and nitty-gritty topics.
Premarital counseling (from a trained, biblical counselor) has also been a big help to us, especially since we’re dealing with bigger things like health issues. It’s really helpful to have a third perspective that can help work through those things with you.
Is there a part of Emily’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!