Dear Blind John


Dear Blind John

     "See you, John." Said Lewis, the bus driver.

     John's cane tip found the head of the steps to descend to street level. "Take it slow, Dear." The concern in the voice from the buss's interior put John on edge. And no sooner did he answer with a "I'll be alright, Mam," then he found himself nearly dancing to keep his balance, the final step higher than he was expecting.

     Heated diesel fumes from the receding bus blowing around him, John centered his cane, straightened out the arc, got his tap and stride in proper sequence, and headed down the sidewalk toward home. "Woo, it's dark out here." He said aloud to himself. "Accepting this cane was a smart move." He thought back on recent times, other trips taken at twilight, creeping along, groping his way with his feet, the staggering pace, fear of falling, of getting lost. And of course, there had been those nights when his wife would say, "John, let's go out this evening." And he might answer, "Oh, sorry, I don't feel well." Or he might get a call from a friend, "Hey dude, how about a ball game tonight?" His stock answer being, "Oh man, would love to. But darn, I'll have to take a rain check. Got other plans." But now all that was changing. Just a couple of months into a good rehab center program to learn blindness skills and he could feel his options opening up in front of him with each new skill. It felt like, well like freedom to live his life the way he wanted to was back in his grasp.

     Pace steadying, relaxing some, John's mind opened up, "Jennie?" The problems he and his wife were working through started with his deteriorating changed him, changed her, changed their relationship. Back when they were dating, she had commented on his glasses, "WOW, thick!" Putting them up to her face, "How do you see out of them?" Answering her, "By looking through them, silly. I've always worn glasses."

     They'd married almost three years ago, back then he was still driving, reading print, basically able to function visually. It was during the second year his vision started to go downhill. At work was where he first noticed the change. He was a serviceman, a computer tech, and he started having problems performing his essential duties. "Woo, is that a three, five, or eight?" He was looking at a screen of scrolling numbers, "Better tweak the resolution or something?" Then the first real scary day came when his supervisor sat him down, "John, we've gotten calls concerning your work. You've been making errors. You need to do something about this, before we need to." Then that horrible day came when he had a fender-bender with a company van. This time his supervisor said, "John, I'm afraid we are going to have to let you go."

     He hadn't told his wife about any of his difficulties at work. "You got fired! John, it's your eyes honey, isn't it? I've seen it around the house. What's happening? What are you going to do about it?"

     "Woo, car coming, fast!" John felt behind him with a foot and stepped back upon the curb; this was the last street before his apartment building. "This training is working." Remembering how at first he told the rehabilitation counselor, "I'm not blind, I don't need that." And Jennie saying, "John, honey you have to face it; it's destroying everything you have." It still pained him to remember Jennie's tears, their arguments, and their hours of silence. In the end, he succumbed and called the counselor. Then a good thing, in support Jennie had joined in, trying the cane under sleepshades and learning Braille.

     "THACK." His cane tip struck the boards of the wooden fence, one sidewalk before his. "Crash and burn...I always have to learn the hard way. But I'll get it."

     Entering their apartment, it felt empty. "Jennie?" John said, moving from room to room. "Honey?" Entering the kitchen, he checked the answering machine, nothing. "Did she tell me she was going to be late?" At the table, his fingers bumped the edge of a single sheet of Braille paper. Dropping his cane to the floor, he found the beginning of the text. And he read, "Dear John, I had to move out. Your blindness is too much for me. I'm really, really sorry. I thought I could deal with it, but I can't."


e-mail responses to

**1. Thankfully, I've never been in John's position. But, I have heard of it
happening to others. How devastating!

I think this is more of an issue of John's wife's problems than his. Yes,
he did deny his blindness, for a time. But, when she insisted he do
something about it, he did go to a rehab center and get some training. He
was feeling good about himself and his accomplishments, as a blind person.
Then, he walks into the apartment and finds her gone...What a way to destroy
his self-confidence and image of himself as a successful blind person.

John's wife may have concerns about their future. But, she's not mature
enough to deal with them. She'll probably run from other difficult
relationships, too. She didn't have the courage or courtesy to stay and at
least talk with John about what was going on in her head. She apparently
didn't go get any help to learn about the abilities of a blind person. Yes,
she learned Braille, (at least enough to write a Dear John note), and
traveled under a sleep shade. But, she didn't really believe that John
could be anything more than a blind man

It's often said that the breakup of a marriage takes two. But, in this.

case, I put most of the blame on John's wife. Maybe she had some legitimate
concerns. But, it's just not right to leave with no discussion, especially
when John is trying.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**2. This is a sad story, and we all know as blind people that we have "been
there, done that, and even got the t-shirt"! My boyfriend of 11 years told
me that since I am now blind (diabetic retinopathy) that I am broken, and
low and behold when I spoke to him about staying in Atlanta after the
convention for a few days with him, he informed me that he has been seeing
someone for about a year now.

Diane NFB human services list

**3. I have known men and women whose sighted spouses left them. I just don't understand why, unless their marriages were in trouble for reasons other than blindness. I have also had the good fortune to know couples who stuck together and loved each other through good times and bad.

Bob and I were married 8 years when he was diagnosed in 1978. It never occurred to me to run away. This is not to say we haven't had our moments, and sometimes those moments drift into the higher decibel ranges, but we love each other, support and uphold each other, and work hard at solving any problems that may arise. I don't know what the future will bring, but I hope it includes us both together.

Carolyn Clearwater, FL

**4. I was reading along and remembering in school being reluctant to use my cane because I did not want to hurt the kids. The kids would not move out of the
way because, frankly, there was no where for them to go. The Halls of my
high school were very small plus it had lockers on both sides. As I read on
through the article, I thought how wonderful this woman of a wife is. She
encouraged him and stood by his side, even learning Braille and trying her
hands at the cane. In the back of my mind through out the entire article I
am thinking about what if this was written with a guide dog instead of a
cane because I use a cane, but I am afraid of getting a guide dog. It is
not like I can get it and decide in a few days, nah, this is not working.
I will just leave it and go on with my life. I can not do that. I know I
personally should speak to someone who has a dog and have them answer my
questions, but back to the article and the horrible ending.
I have NO idea what I would do if I was in that person's position. I would
probably be in denial then anger then barter and if she really does not want
to be with me, acceptance.
However, as a single man, I worry about not finding a girlfriend because of
my blindness. I know that people shy away from me whether as a friend or a
coworker or a classmate because of my blindness. It is hard to deal with but
as I am writing to a blind culture, this is something we all have to deal
with no matter what gender we are. Life is not fare and we just have to keep
helping out each other, keep being supportive and together, keep teaching the
One day, blindness could control the wife's life and when someone turns
from her because she is blind, she will realize how wrong she was to leave
this nice, caring, smart man.

Thanks for this forum to be able to speak my mind.
Jonathan NFB Human Services list

**5. I wonder how many marriages have ended in just such a manner.
I also wonder what women really think they want.
If Jenny can answer a question about what she thinks she's lost or gained, they'll probably have a good chance of salvaging something. Because, it's probably
not John's blindness at all that's presenting her with things she cannot handle.
John doesn't seem particularly insecure at the time of the story; he's still in learning mode (as if any one of us actually ever leaves it), and he's realizing
he's got a way to go in completing training. This makes me wonder if centers, in their capacity to train newly blind adults, have counseling
sessions for couples (families, sibs, etc.) Usually when people cannot deal with "blindness", it's not the blindness but culturally imbedded attitudes
about blindness that have little to do with the reality of being blind. - as John is in the process of learning in the story.

kat Guam

**6. First, I must point out that my situation is somewhat different; I was born blind, and have mostly managed to avoid the "blindness mill," of such agencies
as rehabilitation and mobility school and the like. Having said that, at 37, I have had several very serious relationships with sighted women, and the usual reason that they have ended can be summed up in
one sentence: "I cannot be what you need." My response to this has usually been a baffled, "what do I need?" Which is usually rewarded by awkward silence, or "well ... you know... I just wouldn't
be a good person for what you need..." I finally put two and two together and got it, that these women were expecting to be turned into "seeing eye mates." I finally figured out that romance
and blindness do not mix. The minute I start asking a romantic partner, however innocently, for a ride to the store, or for help with anything blindness-related,
it puts a strain on the relationship that it cannot handle. The other extreme of this scenario is the one in which the sighted woman in my life insists that she wants to help me with everything. This quickly becomes
smothering and controlling, and then *I* am the one who leaves the relationship. The bottom line is as I said: Blindness and romance do NOT mix. If you want to date a sighted partner, don't bring blindness into it. Recently I lost my two-and-a-half-year-old guide dog to a very aggressive bone cancer. I had had him for six months, and, by the time that I had to euthanize
him, our bond was incredible. My cane travel skills, when combined with my hearing disability, are barely adequate for me to safely live independently,
and the guide dog school I have worked with for the last 17 years is dragging its feet appallingly, leaving me in a more difficult situation than usual. Coincidentally (?) two weeks after my mobility became somewhat more effortful than usual, although I refuse to compromise, and continue to do 95% of those
things I did before losing my guide dog, for the first time in my adult life, my sighted girlfriend dumped me. While she claims it was for other reasons,
the fight that she chose to pick was trivial, and the break-up followed too quickly thereafter for it to have been anything but contrived. To relate this all back to polar blind John: He *HAS* been through the "blindness mill," and while it has undoubtedly done him a lot of good, it has also
made him, undoubtedly, into a stereotype, and done little to lift him above the "lowest common denominator," which the sighted set for the blind. John's being in denial about going blind has a lot to do with it as well, undoubtedly, and I'm sure that Jenny has been drafted into doing more than her share of helping him out. Jenny's statement that she "Just can't deal with it," supports it; she should not *HAVE* to deal with it; it's between John and himself,
no one else, how he chooses to deal with blindness. The fact is, if John expects to live in a sighted world, he needs to make a choice: he can either deal with his blindness behinds the scenes, and not let sighted people get much of a glimpse of it, or he must accept being swept under the rug. The sighted have a "better dead than blind," mentality, for
the most part; what one must do to compensate for being blind must be kept private, as private as what one might do to counteract a sexually transmitted
disease. John needs to embrace the fact that blindness is the modern day leprosy; he can either be strong enough to keep up and learn strategies to compensate
that do not rely on sighted pity,v or resign himself to living in a backwater, out of the horrified eyes of the sighted world. While Jenny's actions are
not honorable, nor excusable, they are almost inevitable. The only way this scenario could end happily would be if John got a job, learned a way of mobility
that was equal to or better than his sighted counterparts and took control of his life to the point where Jenny can forget, for long stretches of time,
that he is blind. His other option, of course, is to date another blind or disabled person. But I repeat: Blindness and romance do *NOT* mix.

Mark BurningHawk

**7. How could she?! He is the one who really can't help the situation. John is going for rehabilitation. He is doing his best, and he presently is the one who is making all the sacrifices. He committed no crime, he is not a pedophile, just blind, that's all. Jenny probably fears, that it will happen to
her. She is right. It could. This is really the reason for all the prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, intolerance, and grave injustices we have to suffer. I strongly feel, to the point of hypertensive crisis if any one does not agree, that the prejudice we suffer has many grave parallels and similarities, to OTHER minorities!!! Another thing! It is not a "sighted world" but a temporarily-able-bodied world. That's what is bothering Jenny. Family members
do this to blind or visually impaired people. I have had it happen to me. The difference was that in my case, formerly, there were people who really
cared. I think John should say good-bye to her. He may meet somebody better. People may see it another way, and maybe they could work it out, but I
don't know. Jenny is being immature and selfish, in his time of crisis and need.

Peace out!

Lucia Marett, New York City, Supervisor 1, Welfare

**8. well, I fit into this one as my ex has gone blind due to stupidity in
dealing with diabetic , he was cruel in his comments when we where married so now he is blind as a bat and singing the poor me song and I have no
pity for him as he is alone . He rejected his children so they have nothing
to do with him. I hope that he will adjust to his blindness but he just is
one of those people with no common sense just an ego.

Terrie Arnold ACB-L List

**9. This really doesn't surprise me what the thought provoker says because
problems can come up in marriages when the person's vision
deteriorates. It takes a really gutsy person to handle someone who is
blind. It would add insult to injury if the significant other simply
left the blind person cold. No family. No happy times together to
spare. None. My problem is that I've been blind since BIRTH! And so
far, no boys have been able to handle blindness. None. Who among men would actually be able to handle blindness without saying, "It's too
much for me." Good excuse, Jenny. I'd stay with John.

Beth Taurasi NFB NABS mailing list

**10. "Dear Blind John" reminded me of my own slide into blindness. After reading it, I told my husband about it and asked him why he stayed. We've been together
15 years.
I'm one of the lucky ones, and I count my blessings whenever I hear of friends or relatives calling it quits, blindness or not. Illness of any kind is
extremely stressful on family members and chronic or acute illness especially so. I'm not one for villanizing or blaming, but rather for communication
and accountability. Did John and his wife go to counseling? Did they plan or anticipate changes or set goals? For that matter, did either one have time
to grieve the loss? In John's case, the fact that his wife learned Braille seemed a shallow gesture. Don't get me wrong, it's a great tool but what about
the emotional repercussions?

As always, great stuff.


Ann Chiappetta M.S.

**11. So much for "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health etc. etc."

I know very well people's ability to deal with things differs, but this kind of thing and it happens and it's real, really stabs me in the guts as if it were me it was happening to.

It hasn't happened to me, but I've been around enough to see it happen to people, and I feel it for them and with them.

I'm not even going to attempt logic right now, but it don't do much for me faith in me fellow animals.


Susan Thompson ACB-L listserv

**12. It seems like she was trying to help him at first by taking part in what John was doing to try to help him but I guess that she felt that she couldn't handle it anymore. I think that she should show him support know matter what.


**13. I was married to a sighted guy. We split up for a myriad of reasons. Ironically enough, he's legally blind now, and has all the classic adjustment issues.

I tell myself that the odds are against my finding another mate. After all, I'm , old, blind. It's just not a level playing field. I've wondered if this isn't protecting myself against all that's involved in getting into the fray. After reading this TP ... it isn't. Some sighties can't cope. Not only will they reject you, but they'll want you to take the blame for their discomfort.

It just sucks.

Abby ACB-L listserv

**14. I think acceptance about being blind was very hard for me to deal with myself. Reading this story reminded me of if you can't except who you are, than not many people will. Especially with me learning the cane like john I didn't want to do it.

Ben Micek Omaha, NE

**15. Wow! This one cuts to the bone. What happened to the cute stories about shoveling snow and decorating Christmas trees. For that matter, whatever happened to that part of the ceremony where you say, "In sickness and in health?"

I would like to say that John will be better off without her, but I don't believe that. I think that he is going to have a tough time. I know that I would find it difficult. It takes a very special person to deal with the declining health of a spouse. I am silently grateful every time my wife pulls in the driveway. The temptation to hit the expressway and leave this whole blindness thing behind must be tremendous. As my mother-in-law has kindly pointed out to me, "You need her more than she needs you."


**16. Tough to read -- although we've been together for 37 years now, and Linda knew what she was getting into from the beginning, this could (and probably should) have been me a dozen times. Maintaining a long term relationship is hard under the best of circumstances, and throwing in factors like disability, work stress and money problems make it all the more of a challenge. Even so, it is my theory that stress will expand to fill any available space, and it's the way one deals with stress that matters more than the level of stress.

Robert Shelton

**17. Another wonderful Thought Provoker and not surprising. During my years as an adjustment counselor and active member of consumer organizations, I've encountered many situations similar to the one depicted here. Yes, Jenny worked to have John accept his need for help, standing by him during the critical part of his dealing with the situation. However, who was helping her with the strain, stress and dealing with her own adjustment to his blindness? I doubt that anyone was providing family counseling to help them handle the emotional stress. Unfortunately, so many rehabilitation programs fail to recognize the problems of adjustment for the family of the blind person. We must include the families more, making sure that they are able to experience the doubts, challenges and increased independence of their loved ones and recognizing that blindness doesn't mean inability. It just indicates that we must learn how to perform in other ways. Otherwise, the blind person may be confronted by situations such as this one or by over protection and pity. Obviously, John has begun to understand that he is able to function adequately, once he learns adaptive techniques, but who is helping Jenny? It was good that she was willing to put on blindfolds and experience, but this short exposure just showed her how scary it was for John, as well as pointing out inabilities. She really needed to be exposed to the adaptive skills and counseling. She should have been given the opportunity to examine and work through her feelings and fears. Now, John has several challenges to deal with, in addition to his blindness. The emotional stress of separation, increased need for homemaking and other independence responsibilities, and blaming himself and his disability, all will influence his adjustment or coping. He is enrolled in a program that will hopefully enable him to receive counseling, but who is helping Jenny?

Doug Hall, Daytona Beach, Florida

**18. I am not sure if I am in the minority or the majority here. I have heard all types of comments like, "Your husband did not leave you? or Are you still married?" since I went blind 10 years ago. I have been married for 35 years to the same man. I will not say it was easy for both of us when I went blind. It was a sudden blindness, went in for bypass heart surgery at the age of 46 and woke up inn total darkness. There was the adjustment of being blind, changing of responsibilities and dealing with financial changes, etc. We did have to deal with our own emotions and start over again from a new point, but we did it. It is not easy by any means and our relation has changed in different ways. I had always said in the past our marriage was as solid as a rock because we worked different shifts, him evenings and myself days. Well that was the biggest test with me home all day and evenings. We have managed and still together. With the situation described in your email it sounds like John was going in the right direction with the training, but it takes more then the short time mentioned in the email to move forward. She definitely added another hurdle for him to climb over. He needs to keep going forward and put one foot in front of the other and take one day at a time.

Joyce from CT

**19. When my wife and I tied the knot, I still had some useful travel vision and I could identify colors close up. With that came the ability to tell when lights were on and when the sun set. All of that has gone now, and we have more than a few "discussions" about blindness and the limitations and sources of friction which come with even my loss.

I am a believer in the notion that respect must be a mutual factor in a successful marriage, and that is true when one spouse is blind and the other sighted. I have always taken the position with my wife that if she finds a person with 20/20 vision that she believes suits her better than this hillbilly, then by all means she should go after her dream man. These arguments/discussions, occur less frequently as we grow older together.

I had the pleasure of eating my words last year, when my wife had a detached retina and went through the surgery to reattach it. In the past I had told her that I would love it if she lost her vision for a day and had to walk in my shoes. When the prospect of that happening, materialized, I found that the taste of crow was not to my liking.

I know of some relationships where one spouse has used the pity card to try and hold the marriage together, even including the threat of suicide to try and force the other spouse to remain in the marriage. These tactics do not work well in the long-run, and not at all in many instances. While there are social norms which have a larger impact on our lives than we normally recognize, and those social pressures do hold some marriages together, I would suggest that a healthy marriage is one where both partners wish to remain in the marriage. In many of the divorce cases I have handled over the years, a spouse asserts that they have done nothing to deserve the treatment of the filing partner and that they wish to prevent a divorce. I ask the question, "if we could enlist the national guard on our side and have them go out and find your wife or husband, would you want them to be brought back at the point of a gun and told to remain with the party with whom I am talking, and told to remain there under penalty of death"? Most have decided that a marriage held together by force is not what they have in mind. I do agree that life becomes more complicated when a wife or husband is sighted and the other blind, as the power issue comes to the forefront when discussing travel and other issues, but the basic rules for a successful marriage remain the same and if the sighted member of the partnership believes they are somehow inherently the dominant force in the marriage, then trouble is definitely in the offing.

Yours Truly,

Clifford Wilson ACB-L listserv

**20. Unfortunately, this scenario is all to common. I saw it often when I attended the California orientation Center for the Blind, and when I worked at the VA center. I once new a woman whose husband left her with a small child when she lost her sight due to Diabetes. As usual, there is no simple reason why. I am sure that some of it has to do with our natural fear of blindness. The story didn't say whether or not the wife had a career, but some of it may be due to fear concerning how the couple will make it economically, etc. Another factor is how blindness changes one's self concept. When you lose your sight, you are not the same person you were, except that you can't see. Being able to see contributes a large part to who we are, our interests, activities, etc., and how we relate to others, and who we relate to. Surrendering independence, such as the ability to drive, is yet another factor. I wonder if the blind rehabilitation center offered counseling services for the couple. Enlightened programs have recognized the importance of this. This is where many services for the blind just doesn't get it.

Andy Baracco ACB-L listserv

**21. hi i am Asha Kamachee of Trinidad and Tobago. read your story from my best friend tom. I will like very much to be a part of your group. I am blind from birth and have so much to say. Being a blind woman is not all that easy. Glad and thank god you got help but I hope jenny comes back but god is great. You keep up the good work and I am sure blind people's lives will bee much better because of you.

**22. A few weeks ago, I was channel-surfing, and came across a rerun of "Bonanza." By some weird coincidence, it had almost exactly the same plot, except the blind person was a woman, not a man, and her story was sudden, not gradual. Stories about blindness always seem to find me, somehow. Oddly enough, I haven't read any true stories about relationships or marriages breaking up over blindness, unless it involved multiple disabilities. Therefore, to offer a erspective on the idea, I'll tell you what I have found: Breakups happen more often among other disabled groups than the blind. However, in a general sense, people react with disgust toward all types of disabilities, and even toward those who are not disabled, but less-than perfect. These incidents are well-documented. Alexander Graham Bell had actually married a deaf woman. Yet he discouraged other deaf people from marrying, for fear that they would breed more deaf kids. He even talked Helen Keller out of it. (Bring up Bell's name to a deaf person, and he might hiss.) In the 1920s, it was common for the state to forcibly sterilize the disabled, however slight the perceived disability was. (read "The Sterilization of Carrie Buck.") Such attitudes occur because people are basically, evil, cruel and selfish. They are packed to the rafters with "self esteem," to the point where they can't stand the thought of somebody else's disability. For example, Jan Little was going blind and deaf, but didn't even realize it until she was 14. Why not? Because her parents were ashamed to admit that they had a disabled child. Thus, she went to school and had teachers constantly yelling, "WHY DON'T YOU PAY ATTENTION?" (She could barely hear.) Or, "WHY DON'T YOU WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING?" (She could barely see.) So denial causes more trouble than people realize. (read "The Survival of Jan Little.") Mind you, Jan Little was in school back in the fifties. So anybody who thinks the fifties were "idyllic" is a fool. Put it this way: If Jerry Mathers were disabled, he never would have been cast in "Leave it to Beaver." TV producers and their audience want a physically-perfect world. This is made all the worse when the disability occurs after marriage. Darryl Stingley (recently deceased) was paralyzed, in the NFL's most notorious injury. His wife "loved" long as he was an awesome athlete. After he landed in a wheelchair, she wrote HIM a "Dear Quadriplegic John" letter. This is not always the case, but exceptions are rare. Joni Earickson Tada was paralyzed when she was 16, yet a man met her and married her years later. They are still together. I recently saw a documentary on Discovery Health, titled, "Paralyzed and Pregnant." The woman was a C-5 Quadriplegic, with partial use of her arms. Her father warned her, "Whoever marries you would have to have a lot of guts!" (Not to be mean, but to be bluntly honest.) Yet somebody did marry her. (They even "danced" at the wedding.) They even planned a baby together, and he stuck with her despite enormous complications. Now, put yourself in that position: Could you, as a blind person, put up with a person even MORE disabled than yourself? Suppose your spouse were a quadriplegic? Would YOU love her enough to lift her in and out of the bed or the chair? How about bathing or spoon-feeding her? What if your spouse were deaf-blind? Those of you who are spoiled by your screen-readers have no idea how tedious it is to relay even the simplest information by tactile signing. Would you have the patience to be somebody else's ears? Yet, when you think about it, a disabled person would make an ideal friend. Why? Because there are too many people out there with "perfect" bodies, who quite frankly have no use for anyone but themselves. They hate the idea of a less-than-perfect body, and they can't stand seeing one. That's why Woodhull, Hitler and Kevorkian tried to kill them off. What if you have a person who fits into none of these categories: not disabled, but not "perfect"? The person is not "built," wears unstylish clothes and glasses, and is not rich. Such a person finds no solace in this world, and would therefore seek out the lame, the maimed, the halt and the blind. Why? Because at long last, that person has found somebody who needs something. But John's wife is too proud. She has so much self-esteem that she can't stand the thought of pulling herself away from the mirror long enough to give John a ride somewhere, or read to him, when necessary. She is far worse off than John. You can live without eyesight. But you can't live without a heart.

David Lafleche

**23. For better, for worse...but not for blind.
"We might be poor, but things could improve." "Things are pretty tough, but
they can always get better." "In sickness we look for a cure and renued good health. But blindness is forever".

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**24. At the VA blind rehab centers, during the last week of the veteran's stay, the significant other is brought in, and housed either at the center, or a nearby motel. The significant other can be a spouse, or an adult child, or even a parent, if appropriate. The significant other shadows the vet through his training activities, and is encouraged to try traveling with the white cane, either under blindfold, or by using especially designed goggles that can replicate many kinds and degrees of visual loss. There are also sessions with the staff psychologist for the couple, and for the significant other individually. i haven't seen data, but the VA claims that this kind of intervention has reduced the number of divorces.

Andy ACB-L listserv

**25. Hi Andy, Here in Washington we did something very similar. But I could only sneak it in twice a year for three days. We called it a Family and Friends conference and used other money to underwrite it. We took the entire training center staff and students and their family members to an Environmental Learning Center. These conference centers had all the amenities, large meeting room, full kitchen, bed rooms or cabins and lots of open space. All we had to do was to bring along our own food and cooks. We provided family training, hands-on experience and lots of interaction and leisure time for informal discussion. We never developed a statistical base, but I believe from conversation that we managed to help several relationships that were foundering.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**26. John's wife could write Braille? It seems to me she dealt quite well with his blindness. It seemed to be he she could not deal with. I say this, because if it were his blindness with which she had trouble, she would be so filled with guilt concerning leaving him alone and abandoned she wouldn't have left him at all.

Angel Blind-X listserv

**27. I read this story with a mixture of disappointment and hope. Hope that this man finally comes to grips with his blindness, after many struggles. He comes out of denial and goes in to rehab learning Braille and cane travel. It is difficult to give up driving and perhaps his job. He trusts in the kindness and love of others and his wife deals him the cruelest blow of all. She leaves him, because as she says "she could not deal with his blindness. How many times in our lives have we heard people say," that they are so sorry but they just cannot deal with this one small thing our blindness. Sure she was there when his eye sight was good and before he went in to rehab. I think the fear was that he might be come to dependent on her for errands, and other things which involved driving and reading mail. I kept on asking myself as I read the letter she wrote to him where was she when he really needed her. The marriage vows say "in sickness and in health "in good times and bad "for richer or poorer." I guess she forgot those phrases when tings got tough. They were still newly married and she decided to leave him. Let's hope this story does have a happy ending with them finally reuniting, and her coming to grips with a husband who is lovable but blind.

god bless you all

Friendship and peace

Karen Crowder

**28. I can't imagine my husband leaving me over blindness. I have known Shawn for almost 20 years. We met in church when we were both preteens. We grew up together, and he always knew I was blind. We dated throughout high school, and Shawn saw me accept my blindness more as I joined the National Federation of the Blind. By the time we got married, in 1999, I had gone through an NFB training center, and I was serving on its Board of Directors. Shawn has always wanted to gain as much knowledge as possible. Thus, he started learning Braille and learning to use a cane under sleepshades. He has always said, that if he was losing his sight, he would go through training willingly. He recognizes that blindness should not stop people from living their lives. I count myself fortunate that I have a husband who accepts my blindness, and that of two of our children, so willingly. He has had to kick me in the butt sometimes, to get me to do things he knows I can do. I wish everyone had such an excellent spouse. However, I do know people who can't handle blindness. I say they are missing out on a great adventure!

Kasondra Payne NFB blparent@nfbnet. mailing list

**29. It sounds like this woman didn't truly love John, for who he was.

RJ Sandefur NFB NABS mailing list

**30. It also seems like she really didn't want to remain supportive of him any
longer and see him finish his training.

Rania NFB NABS mailing list

**31. Another good one. My first thought on reading this was for shame on Jennie. Has she no feelings, no love? But other thoughts came as I pondered the story. Any relationship, whether a marriage or just friendship will suffer when there is a death, severe injury, financial loss or disability. Many marriages break up when such a tragedy hits them for they do not have a solid footing. I recount in my case, when she left one excuse, among many was that "I was going blind". But my eyesight trouble never really made a difference in my life for another 15 years. Another friend, severely injured in a work accident loss both eyes. About the first he heard after coming out of a coma was his wife saying that she was leaving him right then. Still I know many cases where the couple was actually drawn closer together. We sometimes come down hard on the sighted spouse in such a case without really knowing the full story. John could have been going through a devil of a time and may have just made her life too unhappy until when he made a change for the better she could not hang on any more. Some just can not take such responsibility. So we need to consider both sides. Regarding John I say it is great that he is getting help.

Ernest Jones Walla Walla, Washington

**32. I couldn't respond to this one right away, it brought up too many feelings for me. But let's try to process some of that and come up with something more productive than, "I hate that so-and-so witch." What a wimp, did she think it was going to be easy, I mean marriage?" No, she probably figured since he wouldn't be able to support her again for a while, it was okay to just leave him flapping in the breeze without support. She can't handle it, did she ever consider, (probably not), what he might be feeling and that he might need support and that he had no choice but to deal the best he could, he couldn't just walk out the way she so easily seemed able to do? What I'm getting at is that I simply cannot imagine the kind of pain John must have felt upon reading this note. She left him when he needed her support most. And often in our culture, anger comes as a mask for hurt, because we men are socialized not to admit that we are vulnerable, that we are hurt. Or, probably worse, he may try to pretend that it really doesn't bother him, that he quite understands Jenny's behavior, when inside he's in pain. Remember, he wasn't honest with Jenny about his blindness until he was forced to be after having been fired and tried to make light of things even when they were dating, see his remark about his glasses. But he will grieve, go through all the stages including denial, bargaining with God, anger, all of that. But what scares me is that his feelings and how he handles them might show up in inappropriate ways, substance abuse, increased isolation, and deciding that maybe this rehab stuff isn't worth it after all, that he really is not going to be useful to society as a blind person after all, and that could lead to moving backwards and perhaps even suicide.

So what should he do? First of all, confide in someone, maybe his rehab counselor, maybe his therapist if he is seeing someone, maybe a good friend, but someone. Someone needs to listen to him, if he is able to discuss this, the tears, the rage, all of it. He might also want to consider, at some point, if there might have been ways he inadvertently contributed to Jenny's leaving by doing things that made it harder for both of them, his lack of honesty at first, for example and talk about what that was about. I think that is a common reaction on the part of the person losing his/her sight and he may feel guilt about that along with everything else, so he needs to get perspective on this aspect of things. Also, it is by sharing this kind of thing that he may be brought into contact with others who understand, who have been there, either from the consumer groups such as ACB or NFB. He may not be ready for that for a while, but he needs to be made aware that this help is available when and if he should want it. Then he can find that he will survive and can live a full, productive life as a blind person, as so many of us do, with or without Jenny. He might even find someone else who will not shy away from him because he is blind, or who herself may be blind and looking for a good man. Above all, he needs to continue his rehab, if not immediately then as soon as he can.

In closing, let me say a word or two about Jenny. While it is tempting for me to want to condemn her to hell, I think it is also true that blindness is feared more, when people actually think about it, than almost any other problem. This fear contributes to a lot of the ignorance about it in our culture. Perhaps Jenny was afraid of what might happen should she become blind someday as an older person and couldn't communicate that. Perhaps she genuinely was afraid that she would have to be the bread-winner and take care of John at home as well, although judging by his seemingly rapid progress with issues such as mobility, that fear seems a bit misplaced. Maybe she was getting pressure from her equally ignorant parents that she should leave him because, in their minds, he would never amount to anything now and maybe in their minds, being of a different generation, it should have been the husband's job to support her economically. Maybe, in spite of John's seeming to think that their marriage was fine until his vision loss, there were other problems with the marriage and this was the final straw for Jenny, that if it had just been the blindness and everything else was fine, she would have stuck it through with him. See, all of this we don't know, we can only speculate about. And, whether we approve of what Jenny did or not, unless she is a sociopath, someone literally without a conscience, she will probably be feeling lots of guilt herself for a long time and might have a hard time discussing that after all, she would have to admit that she left someone at a point when they needed her support in a big way, and she might not be too comfortable with what otherwise supportive friends might tell her about her behavior. No, I don't envy Jenny at present, she thinks she had it rough emotionally with John, I suspect that rough road for her on an emotional level was nothing compared to what she will be facing as she tries to live with this guilt the
best she can, probably with very little support.

Mark Tardif

**32. Well for me , it was the other way around...when I became legally blind , I became very angry ...and I left my marriage. Part was I was going to deal with things on my own, another was I think I was trying to run from it. Luckily , my husband took me back . I just come to a point where this hole thing wasn't ok...I didn't want nothing to do with it.
Now I am accepting it day at a time.

Lisa Duran RPlist

**33. I can sort of relate to the issue here, its sort of a old school fashioned way of thought process, and reminds me of the time about thirty years ago, I did still have sight, although my late husband being a juvenile diabetic, eye sight began to fade quickly, and went into kidney failure where the prognosis wasn't good, his parents called me to their home one evening for dinner where they in their southern polite way told me that they would never have any bad feelings for me if I wanted to call it quits because of our daunting future ahead, and would understand if I wasn't able to cope. and offered me a quite enticing money offering to support me in the future years.. Of course they never mentioned this to their son. His parents knew I was quite young in my twenties and didn't want me to let my best years slip away. I ate their scrumptious meal, held polite chit chat, and then with a pleasant smile told them that our marriage vows however to the both of us did mean something "for better or worse". My late husband passed away in 1982 but unfortunately not from kidney failure, but from rather a silent heart attack which all his doctors were totally unaware of. So no one really can predict your future so cherish the moments you have, and be sure the ones you loved know your true feelings. . . Life is too short.

Kim Lookingbill ACB-L listserv

**34. Kim, I am so proud of you to stay all the way threw. I was told from my doctor that many women don't stay with their mates because of the problems they have. I said until death do us part. So I did the same thing. Did you get married the second time? I did. Now my husband is working with me, since I am a diabetic. Still doing pretty well over all. I always thought, that I would have some time, after my husbands passing before I would have to worry about pills and such. Wrong. I will stay as strong as possible. Wishing you the best.

Dar ACB-L listserv

**35. dam people like that make me sick. Do not give up sure you will fine a better woman. Great you have your own independence so good luck. You have a friend and that is me.

I am asha kamachee of Trinidad and Tobago

**36. a lot of men cant handle blindness I have observed as well. I like Beth have been blind since birth andw what I find interesting is when the ones that are partially sighted saying that they cant handle blindness when they themselves are partially blind.


**37. What a sad story. This really is a thought provoking, thought provoker! It sounds like John was beginning to feel good about himself after several months of working to get his life together. Jennie picked a cowardly way to end the relationship. I'm sure this very thing happens more than we know. I am not married but know couples who are like this couple. One sighted and the other blind or visually impaired and sometimes I feel that the sighted person feels a great deal of pressure and responsibility and simply can't cope with it. It's a hard thing to understand. It's no ones fault. That's the way it is and probably always will be.

Pat Wagner

**38. Dear Blind John is a very sad story. It brings up a very common experience in the lives of blind people, whether we have been blind since birth or whether we have lost our sight later in life. For some reason we find it difficult to articulate the deepest feelings that we have. I think we often find it hard to feel our feelings. Why is that so? And why do the sighted people in our lives have the same problem? I think it has to do with feelings of guilt. We believe that there are things we shouldn't express for fear of hurting each other and if we're not careful we end up hurting each other by not talking. I am married to a sighted man and we talk about everything, the good, the bad and the very, very ugly. We have both learned as individuals before we were married that life is too short to put up with the elephant in the living room. The saddest thing of all about this story is that John was beginning to be happy about his progress with blindness skills but the communication between him and his wife had deteriorated to the point that he couldn't share it with her before she left.

Chris ACB-L listserv

**39. this really struck a cord with me as recently I have assessed a couple of people who are in the same situation as John, I.e. not accepting their loss of sight. here in the UK we don't have many rehabilitation centres and the rehabilitation officer is the person who provides training in daily living skills mobility and communication skills. This means that often rehabilitation officers are chipping at the tip of an ice berg.

Jayne Connor UK

**40. I agree, Andy. The personality does undergo some changes after the loss of vision, or any other disability happens. It has too simply to adapt to that loss. It is not, necessarily, a bad thing but can indeed be very difficult for families, especially the partner / spouse, to cope with. That person met and fell in love with one person who suddenly became quite another person and so they now are faced with whether they even like this other person, or can live with and get to know and continue to love that person. Whether we like it or not, that is the reality of it--hard and cold. I hear many of my clients lament "I just want to get the old me back." Well, they will never get "the old me" back because there are some things
"the new me" cannot and will never be able to do. And many of those things, the new me must learn to do differently and/or with help, and so if new me cannot find a way of doing them, then new me must accept new me isn't going to do it either and find other things to do. No more drag racing, hunting, fishing alone, probably had to give up old job or at least modified it, absolute spur-of-the-moment things involving the car, etc: we all know the drill. And, if old them was the caregiver who suddenly became the recipient, that is sure a difficult place to find oneself as well so now, the relationship that was an "I take care of you; I provide for you," or, "We are equal here," becomes an "You are taking care of me and you have control over me." Folks, that doesn't quite feel good, especially for people with very strong control issues of their own anyway. So we add to all those problems that were there before the disability: poor communication, anger management problems, low self-esteem, not liking one's job, not making enough money where one works, really loving what one does, having a great life and a great marriage and absolutely not wanting anything
in life to change, and then bam! it happens. One loses their sight?

No, you're just not going to be the same person you were and I don't care how you slice it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with "good" or "bad", or whether you become a better or worse person. I hope the person, somehow, figures out how to be a healthier, stronger person through it all as with any other adversity in their life and some do, some don't. But your life, and you, will never be the same again nor should anyone expect to be, or expect you to be. How could you be?

Jessie ACB-L listserv

**41. One person in a relationship going blind affects the relationship/marriage in several different levels and any one of these levels could bring the house of cards tumblind down. When I lost my eyesight it was the end of my marriage not that my wife couldn't be seen around town with the blind guy or be bothered reading things to me etc. What ultimately caused the break up was the loss of income due to my blindness. When the 50 foot Searay, Jaguar, House on the lake went away so did she.

Frank ACB-L listserv

42. Then the problem wasn't your blindness at all. It was as you put it your loss of income. This happens to sighted people all the time. If your company had downsized and you lost all the money you earned. If you were unable to find another comparable job in a short enough time she may have left as well. From what you say, she married your bank account rather than you.



**42. This one really hits home! As a victim of RP, my blindness came upon me gradually. I wrecked a lot of cars, made the same kinds of excuses, and finally, through the Veterans Administration, I went to a rehab program. I balked at using a cane until the rehab facility director asked me to show him my badly scarred shins. He only smiled and I started cane training the next day. A lot of personal relationships went down the drain, but some flourished, mostly with those friends who were told of my approaching blindness and still wanted to be friends. Against their better judgment, I was allowed to pitch in the slow pitch softball games on Sunday afternoons, and occasionally, they insisted that I be the base umpire at little league ball games because no one else was available! I insisted on job interviews that the prospective employer should place more emphasis on what I had between my ears and not what was on each side of my nose! Fun times, but as the blindness progressed and I needed more help with transportation, paying bills, reading prescription labels, etc., my marriage deteriorated and ended in divorce-my choice-I just could no longer bear the verbal and sometimes physical abuse from my wife who refused counseling which was provided by the VA at no charge. I have since remarried to a wonderful lady who acts as my eyes with an exuberance of a loving wife. We travel the world, and people in our tour groups never fail to tell us about how inspired they are when they see us and how they are driven to try the more difficult excursions on vacations, etc. Having sort of been there, I sympathize with Blind John, but trust me, John, it's not the end of the world. Learn to rely on yourself, but never be afraid to ask for help when needed. You apparently do well with cane, but one word of advice-When crossing streets, ignore the cuckoos and bird calls that some politicians had installed at intersections because they apparently believe are helpful to the blind, and rely solely on your mobility skills when crossing streets! Stay active and when you find the right partner, latch on to her, especially if she demonstrates a willingness to deal with your blindness with you.

Jim Theall Longmont, Colorado

**43. Wha... wow this guy sounds like so many older people who lose their eye sight and its sad to think some don't understand or not be able to understand and leave the blind person. Oh also makes me think of my dad who is against my use of the cane, even though I've been a cane user for 2 and a half years, he's still against it and his comment of: Should have used your stick. Any how's I related to this one very well.


Sean Moore

**44. I cannot respond to this one. It happened to me. My feelings are still deeply hurt. I went blind and my husband started cheating on me. I threatened to leave and he moved me out. Then I was blind and homeless. I took training in a blind center for veteran's and now I can live on my own again. Going blind was bad, but being treated like a broken household appliance was worse. Now it is hard to find men who will date a blind woman. I don't mind being blind, I am capable, I live alone, I work. It is the way others treat you that is so disheartening.

Broken and dishearten in Seattle

**45. As a counselor who is blind and works in the mainstream with a lot of couples, this Thought Provoker caught my attention. I work with sighted couples but have worked with several facing the stress of an unexpected disability. Such situations can be so difficult on both parties and much of the success of working through these times depends on good information and good communication and teamwork. This is really where I see whether couples are prepared to live out "for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health," and so on. I think many blind people wonder about this. We wonder if the person we are dating or marry will eventually find our blindness something they can't deal with, that it's too much for them to handle in some way. I think this is true whether we are blind from birth/childhood, or if we loose sight later in life. I think even those who are already blind and have good skills who start dating a sighted person think about this. The reason is that the sighted person may not have thought fully about what they're "getting themselves into." They might be so excited about the new relationship that they don't initially consider little things like needing to read menus, helping their partner run an occasional errand, or even being stared at when the person they're with is using their cane or dog. I think many of us worry that, even if the person we're with seems fine with our blindness at first or for a while, they may eventually see it as more of a burden for some reason, such as us loosing a job or if we move and are in a situation requiring more help, etc. Perhaps even those who wind up getting involved with other blind people wind up feeling overwhelmed by the situation of both having to continuously adapt to a sighted world. This can mean double the frustrations or can mean greater teamwork depending on how independent each person is. In any event, I would think it is particularly difficult when the person who is blind is having to adjust to vision that is getting worse and having more and more of an impact on daily life. This comes up a lot with those who are elderly and dealing with macular degeneration, though it sounds like John probably has RP or something similar. Both the person who is blind and the spouse are trying to adjust at the same time and each is dealing with his or her own emotional reactions, which likely include frustration, feeling overwhelmed, uncertainty about the future, some sense of grief about life being different, and many other feelings. I think it is important for spouses to be able to talk about such things honestly and openly with each other, though such conversations can be very difficult. It is also important for each to also have a place to talk to others in a similar situation, such as support groups or counseling for John with others who are losing sight and for the wife to perhaps meet with her own counselor or a group of others who's spouses are loosing sight. I wonder if his wife knew his vision was likely to get worse before marrying him. It sounds like she may not have, because he wasn't really being honest with himself about his own condition. It sounds like his wife had been trying to be supportive and honest, even when her husband was stubborn and dealing with his own denial. The tragedy here is that John was getting help and on his way to being much more independent again. John thought he was doing so well and that his wife was happier now, too, and I can't imagine how finding such a note would be in terms of his feeling shattered and devastated and caught off guard. Perhaps his wife just got tired of waiting for the changes to happen or realized that the changes he was making in terms of learning to be independent still weren't making her feel better about things. Maybe she still wondered if he would be able to find a good job, if they would be able to have a family, or perhaps she found things such as the cane very strange and off putting. Maybe his learning to use such things made her realize how "real" the situation was. Maybe the cane, John's possible awkwardness in social situations, or other things, embarrassed her. Maybe their friends were shying away because they didn't feel comfortable around John anymore. It is so hard to say what all the dynamics are in such a situation and what his wife may have been thinking and feeling. My hope for this couple would be that they would be able to get some marriage counseling. A skilled counselor could help them talk through things, including helping the wife to be honest about the feelings she has been holding inside. Even if the wife chose to be separated for a while, they could still be meeting for counseling and talking and perhaps spending time together, etc. The counselor could help them to look at the positives in the relationship and help the wife try and find some hope that different is just different, not better or worse. Sometimes, different can be better. If John has been so focused on his sight loss that he has not been spending as much time with his wife in terms of going out, talking, etc., he can be helped to realize the need to do this and for them to find some activities they can still share. If John has surrounded himself with new friends who are blind, perhaps he can be helped to realize that it is important to his wife that they spend time with their previous friends and social support groups, if she wants to do that. The counselor might talk with each individually some, too, so that they can work through personal feelings and concerns and also may recommend support groups, books, and other resources. This counselor doesn't have to specialize in blindness related issues as long as he or she is willing to educate him/herself and help the couple find the resources they need. This way, they could both know they'd really taken time to work on things before she decided whether or not she really wanted out of the marriage. It is understandable that John is upset and devastated, but he has to still keep working towards his goals. No matter what happens with his wife, he will need these skills and gaining independence and confidence has to be something he does for himself, not just for her. He can contact his wife, let her know he doesn't want this, and invite her to join him for counseling, or let her know he wants to talk about how she is feeling and will listen nonjudgmental. It is important that he try and understand how she is feeling. He can communicate his feelings clearly, too, but it is important that he not chase her or beg her or she may run further away from him. John's first reaction may be fear that he can't live on his own. He needs to talk with his rehab counselor so that he can be helped to learn to do the things around the house or in other areas that his wife may have been doing. Whether they reconcile or not, he has to stay focused on becoming as independent as possible, as this may help his wife realize he can still take care of himself as an adult, not someone she has to "look after." Of course, his new independence may lead her to feel that he doesn't need her anymore and part of their conversations or counseling may be for her to realize he still needs her, just for different things. These are just some of my thoughts. This is a sad situation for both of them and I hope they try to work things out. Their marriage could grow stronger through this, if they are both willing to work at it.

Carmella Broome Ed.S., LPC/I, LMFT/I

Crossroads Counseling Center

**46. Been there done that! Boy, that was a hard one to read. Luckily, I wasn't married (yet) when this happened to me...almost exactly. I just started taking control of my life and becoming self-sufficient when my fiance "called" to tell me she didn't think she could "take care of me" because I am blind, and that our relationship was over. I was definitely hurt, both because of an ending relationship, and because she attacked something that was a part of me - at least that's how I felt at the time. Some 8 years later, though, I keep coming back to the same question: Was blindness really the reason? I have come to believe that some, if not most, people who use this excuse are simply using the most obvious and at-hand excuse to move on. They feel that society won't judge them for breaking up with a blind person, especially once they start to become self-sufficient. I now believe that my fiance would have broken up with me whether I was blind or not - that was just her excuse.

I am now about to celebrate a fifth anniversary for my current happy marriage to a sighted woman. The funny thing is that I make the income and we take care of each other. The biggest mystery about this Provoker is how supportive she was before the sudden move. Was she faking the support? - it's possible. Was she scared and unsure of their future? - probably. But this happens all the time to people who lose their jobs, and in this case, I think it is also possible that she simply used his blindness as the excuse she needed to get out of the strained relationship.

Jamison from NM

**47. HI. I just finished reading some thought provokers on the NET about sighted and blind spouses. At the moment I am one frustrated person. My husband began losing his sight at age 46 following an accident, nerve damage, Parkinson's syndrome and spinal cord injuries. Although he learned to walk again he rapidly began losing his sight. I have 20/20 vision. Almost immediately after he began his association with a consumer group of the blind I was being told by him and other blind persons that I "don't understand him." I am also told to respect his need for "independence." My husband left two months ago for Braille and Mobility training in a center program . Our home is in Philadelphia. During these two months he has barely spoken to me. He has meetings and classes 7 days per week. He will be in the center program for 8 to 10 months. In the meantime he has not responded to requests to attend court hearings with a neighbor who is harassing his family and even called me to tell me that his female therapist (who has never met me) told him that I am not a good wife...excuse me but who worked 3 jobs for 6 years to support you while you applied for SSDI which pays half of what you used to make. My daughter and I moved to an apartment after the court ordered our dogs out of our home (no dog for a blind man--permanent injunction) and the consumer group, and the center program and other organizations are ignoring our cries for help. My husband has not talked to our oldest daughter who was unable to walk for her college graduation due to the onset of a rare nervous disorder... IS THIS INDEPENDENCE that my husband tells me "I came here to get away from you. You don't understand me." OR IS THIS JUST AVOIDANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY. Father is not coming home for Father's Day. We bought him an expensive phone to communicate with us and he doesn't call--just let's the messages pile up until you can't get through for about a week, then clears them. He no longer takes calls at a common house ground line where he is boarding. Is this the philosophy of INDEPENDENCE? What would happen to me as a sighted person if I neglected my family in this way? HELLO FROM PHILADELPHIA.

"Marathon" Mary in Philadelphia Thanks for listening !

**48. Having lost my vision as a child, I have never been in a romantic relationship without being blind. I can sort of understand Mark's feelings in that being petite, soft spoken, and seemingly vulnerable, I attracted many men who wanted to control me, isolate me and were jealous to the point of being suffocating. I tended to keep most men at bay with humor and clowning. The man I did marry was shy, gentle and had very low self esteem. He is legally blind in one eye, but can read, drive and all the rest of that sighted stuff. So he understood that my blindness was a characteristic, not the whole package and has always been there to support, but not to confine or restrict who I am or what I choose to do. I agree with those who say they don't have enough information to judge these two. Relationships are too complex for anyone on the outside to truly understand. Curt and I have been married for 36 years. We have had some tough spots as does anyone who is in a long term relationship. We made it through because we talk and what is even harder, we listen to each other. It doesn't sound much like these two did much of either thing.

As for the lady whose husband used a center to break from his family, I would have to agree that he was irresponsible and got himself swept up in a them and us cult mentality. Perhaps he will come to his senses and recognize what he is throwing away. Whether he does or not, she will have to try to pull herself and the kids into a loving unit and move on with out the poor jerk. Before you can love another, you must first know who you are and what your needs in a relationship are. I don't need a live in reader and driver, but a man who will never raise anything more than his voice in anger, who is willing to meet me half way and discuss problems, not pretend they don't exist. Someone who won't deal with the hard times by retreating into alcohol or drugs or seek to blame but help to figure out what we can do about them. A strong relationship is a give and take, not all give with out return. For the abandoned lady all I can say is try to put aside your bitterness and hurt. They will only do you harm and hold your children close, they are hurting too and you must love them enough to help them through this.

DeAnna QuietWater MO USA

**49. A. In a message dated 6/17/07 6:01:55 PM, writes: block quote Blindness and romance do *NOT* mix.

This poor guy has optarectalitis. (This is a serious condition where the optic nerve gets rerouted to the rectum giving one a crappy view of life) Blind people fall in love as often as sighted people. What he needs right now, however isn't romance, but a good course of cane mobility skills. And a course in people skills wouldn't hurt either! (Just my personal opinion)

Lori Stayer Merick, New Yourk

50. Be. If a relationship develops between two people when one is already blind, then the blindness is not as much as an issue, since the other knew about it to begin with. David and I have been married almost thirty five years. If anything, his blindness became something upon which we built our lives and careers, and our daughters did the same. Rachel is now in a Masters program for Special Ed. Melodie is raising children who are accepting of blindness, and find it exciting to own "twin vision books" that their grandfather can read to them. If a person leaves a relationship, there is usually more working than the other partner's visual acquity.

Lori Stayer Merick, New York

**51. As usual, (from other lists), I thoroughly agree with Carmela’s well-thought-out therapeutic comments. On a more personal note, as a woman born blind, I have never understood the idea I have heard from sighted men in whom I was interested that I would, for some reason, need help, or that I couldn’t do various activities with them, etc. I have always been unsure where the idea comes from that a blind spouse would need any more help than would a sighted one, or why a sighted spouse would feel responsible for a blind one, or why the blind man in this provoker couldn’t continue to be the bread winner in his family if he had always been such. As a totally blind perswon, I have always paid all my own bills, provided my own transportation in the city, earned my own living professionally, guided myself with my cane—and have forever been baffled by the idea that I needed help.

Karen Rose, MFT

**52. After reading this, and the subsequent responses, there's one factor that has been hinted at, but not fully addressed: the situation in which one spouse (typically the sighted spouse) assumes the role of the parent and the blind spouse (as a result) assumes the role of child. Even though they've assumed this role, they did it to make the sighted spouse happy, and the parenting eventually grows to the point of being as oppressive to them as Nebraska's summer heat. When they step out of their comfort zone and acknowledge this about the parenting, it can hit like the first blast of that same Nebraska heat when you step out of your air conditioned home or office. The emotions caused by this oppression hang on you like the humidity...weighing you down, almost suffocating you. Okay, enough with the analogy. My point is, there are some of us who (against our better judgments) became like children in our marriages and knew the only way to break the cycle of this behavior was to leave. For some of us, this lead to a decision that time at a good training center to bolster our skills, and more importantly our self confidence was in order. In my case, the timing of my marriage, and attitudes about leaving my spouse for nearly a year to receive proper training had interfered with getting a proper level of confidence, and moving to a city less "blind friendly" than where I had grown up caused me to develop a somewhat turtle-like thought process. I didn't want to come out of my shell because of having to face the ignorance, paternalism and patronize around me. Codependency had a huge hold on me until I made my decision to leave. I don't remember who said it, but someone mentioned verbal and emotional abuse, which I had been on the receiving end of as well, so I had to leave that, because it, too, was sapping my belief in myself. I know this response is long, and will be edited, but I had to speak up because the blind/sighted spouse dynamic is so complex that there are all sorts of situations that can arise, and I felt I needed to share mine.

Alan Wheeller Lincoln, Nebraska

**53. Yaaah! That was painful, but it brought up a whole lot of interesting thoughts and feelings. First, as I read the story, I have to say I wasn’t surprised by Jenny’s eventual leave-taking. For while many responses have somewhat suggested that there may be more to this story than John’s blindness, the cold hard facts of life are that very often blindness or other forms of disability are very often the sole reason why partners/spouses sometimes leave.

Back in college, I worked an internship with another blind friend and a person who sustained some work-related injury, though not so much that he couldn’t walk. This person related to my friend and me how his fiancé called off their marriage right after he became injured — and this was only a “mild” disability. (I put “mild” in quotes because of my belief that blindness is nothing to be either ashamed of or scared of.) Also, I once had a friend in college who dated his blind girlfriend for two years, even going so far as to move into a house with her, before telling her that he thought her blindness was holding them both back. The irony is that he was losing his sight to RP. Pardon my Latin (I come from the provinces and should be pardoned), but I felt this was a really shitty thing to do. I wonder why he never even seemed to realize that if his totally blind girlfriend wasn’t enough for him, what in hell made him think that he was so hot that someone else wouldn’t drop him for this self-same reason, especially given that his vision would deteriorate further? Interesting.

I also know of someone here in our building with multiple sclerosis, and his condition seems to be getting rather worse. One of our neighbors, who also works in the office downstairs, told me the guy’s wife up and left him as soon as she got the bad news.

Now on to other things. I have to agree with Ms. Stayer’s comment (and use of scientific terminology to describe Mr. BurningHawk’s response [#6]). I, like Mr. BurningHawk, have been blind since birth. I, like he, have been sometimes rejected as a possible mate because of my blindness, though I have to admit that I haven’t dated hundreds of thousands of people either. But I have also done my share of dumping because things just didn’t work out so well. Of the roughly nine people I’ve dated, about five of them had no disability to speak of. In three out of those five relationships, which really didn’t last all that long, blindness was no factor. We either parted amicably because we found we had rather little in common, or I dumped one because I myself got the cold feet almost as soon as the relationship began. Of the remaining four, two just happened to have CP while the other two were blind. Again, in three of those instances, we sort of ended up dumping each other due to a lack of common ground. In the fourth instance, we got married, and I have to say that blindness only comes up when we have to deal with each other’s differing perceptions about it. Mostly though, if there has been dissension in our marriage (and there sometimes has), it’s usually because one of us has either done or said something that really frosted the cakes of the other one.

I suppose my point here is that while blindness can play a factor, and it can’t be gainsaid, it’s usually because (a) the other person has more of a problem with it than you, the blind partner, do, or because (b) your attitude about blindness may in fact suck meatloaf. I will say also that perhaps Mr. BurningHawk’s suggestion that blindness and romance does not mix might be based on the fact that he simply hasn’t found the right person yet, or perhaps his own attitudes about blindness are so negative that maybe the right person has already run from him. Who can say? I dunno him from a hole in the ground, but I’d have to honestly say that I bet I stand a 50/50 shot either way. I might also suggest that if one doesn’t have the necessary confidence in oneself in knowing that he or she can attract a partner, then finding that special someone is going to be all the more difficult in the long run. I suppose every blind person might just go through some apprehension that the object of his or her desires will reject them because of blindness. As I said, this happens, but personally, I’ve always found that I was more paranoid about my general appearance than ever I was about my blindness. I suppose that couldn’t be helped; I had pretty severe acne as a teenager, and then I actually started losing my hair when I was 17. It’s like that comedian Gallagher, who is bald, once said: “Would you wanna pet your dog if he looked like this?” In short, I found that when I dropped the paranoia and just started operating as though it was up to the other person to accept me or not, I ended up finding someone. In fact, I ended up finding two people at once, and let me tell you, it’s no fun to choose. So I guess I have to say that I disagree that blindness and romance don’t mix.

Now Mr. Lafleche’s response (#22) is in many ways the most interesting to me. I’ve heard it said that blindness is really feared by the sighted. Maybe so. But how many of us, as blind people, ponder the repercussions of dealing with a spouse/partner who may someday become more disabled (for lack of a better term) than we are? I’ve never in my life had to spoon-feed someone. I’ve had to help someone to bed, but I’ve never had to wipe someone’s butt for them or change a diaper. Heart of hearts, I wonder what I would do. I like to think I’d stick it out. I like to think I’d learn what to do. I like to think I’d grin and bear the adjustments. And for the most part I do believe enough in myself to think I definitely would. But I confess it’s sometimes difficult to ignore that little tiny voice in my head that asks: “Are you sure you’re sure?” “We all have choices, and that’s the cold hard truth.” (George Jones)

John D. Coveleski, Minneapolis, MN


Unfortunately, break-ups and divorces are common when a partner becomes disabled--blindness, brain injury, spinal cord injury, etc. Even if couples discuss with each other different scenarios of catastrophic events that may happen while they're together and their implications, the response and end result is often different than what they dreamed of. They may discuss the situation and think, "oh, don't worry. We'll get through it together. We can do it with love and determination". However, when that situation or similar situations occurs, the partner that's not disabled finds that he/she cannot deal with it like she thought she could. Perhaps there were things he/she did not think about, or they just did not have the wherewithal they thought they had. When John and I met almost twelve years ago, he was able to walk much more than he can now, and he was using a manual wheelchair. As the years progressed, the less he's able to walk. Back in 2000, he fell ill with pneumonia. While he thought that his ex-wife and kids would help him, I was the one who was with him 24/7 instead--advocating for him in the hospital, nursing him back to health at home, cooking, cleaning, etc. In all that we have gone through with his medical problems along with nuromuscular problems, it still amazes him to this day that I stick with him through and through. In fact, when it was evident three and a half years ago that he would need a power wheelchair because he's no longer able to propel himself in a manual one, he started feeling ashamed of being in a wheelchair and fearing of becoming a burden. Not only had I become a role model for him as a blind person up until then, but my constantly encouraging him and showing him different ways of how to do things in a wheelchair has helped him become more independent and less ashamed to be disabled. Yes, he asks me for help, but he doesn't feel like so much of a burden as he feared he would be to me. Our motto when it comes to helping each other is, "John's my eyes and I'm his legs". As to how we've come this far in sticking together through thick and thin, I think that it's knowing from the beginning what medical problems to expect of one with a spinal cord injury and diabetes. I'm not saying that the back surgeries and diabetic episodes are easy because they're not. They are very scary and stressful for both of us. It's the fear of losing each other that keeps us together and keeps us fighting to live. In fact, he asked me the other day how it was that I stick with him when he has a diabetic episode or has a severe allergic reaction to something he took. I told him that I'm never thinking about the fact that I have to help him. Rather, I'm focussed on what I need to do to help him.

Linda USA