Skip to content

Substitute Spouses

Substitute Spouses

It was a startling statement.  “You need to go to the hospital right now for a CT scan to rule out stroke.”  I blinked without focusing and shook my head in disbelief.  I had arrived at my doctor’s office with the confidence that she would give me an antibiotic to alleviate my self-diagnosed sinus infection (despite no actual symptoms).  How else could I explain the pain in my head and the blind spots I was having in both eyes?  A Google search had indicated it could be a sinus infection…

I arrived at the hospital gripping the referral sheet – fear keeping one foot in front of the other. I sent texts to my mom in Oregon, my best friend in Florida, and my business partners to advise them I would be late returning to the office. 

I sat in the waiting area and my eye caught a couple – one clearly reassuring the other.  I was scared and felt alone.  I honestly didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.  This turn of events had left me reeling. 

I felt her presence before I saw her.  Instinct made me look up from the study of my hands and there she was.  Susan.  My long-time business partner had arrived to sit with me.  She arrived approximately 12 minutes after I had sent her the text.  I will not soon forget the sheer relief that washed over and surprised me.  I didn’t realize how much I needed someone until she was there.

Being in an unhappy marriage is one of the loneliest spaces in which you arrive.  When married, there is a perpetual expectation/hope/desire to have your life partner support you in your joys, sorrows, chores, and responsibilities.  When they constantly fail to meet that role, the isolation is numbing.

The loneliness that happens when you are divorced and single is a different kind.  It is seeped in wistful heart tugs of what once was and was lost.  I could have had a spouse sitting here holding my hand as I waited for my name to be called.  But I don’t.  Until I did – my substitute spouse.  Susan touched my hand and resolutely told me that answers were on the way.  (And they were – no stroke!)

Substitute spouses are everywhere.  It’s my brother-in-law installing an electrical socket for me.  It’s my co-worker catching a movie with me.  It’s my best friend texting me most nights from 10 – 10:30 about politics, Schitt’s Creek, and when I can adopt another cat.  It’s my mom making a homemade meal for my girls and me to enjoy tonight.

Do not overlook those in your life who provide the support of your joys, sorrows, chores, and responsibilities and do not underestimate your need for them.   I am grateful now that I no longer have that blind spot.

Angela Dunne