Acceptance, Humor and Date Night

"There's a myth that marriage equals bliss, says Theresa Karanik, a clinical social worker, married 17 years to Alan Toy, an actor and project director for Living Independently in Los Angeles. "In reality," says Theresa, "marriage is a difficult enterprise."

Alan Toy & family
Alan Toy, John Henry Toy and Theresa Karanik

They met at a conference that focused on the role of disability in media. "I was stricken," says Alan. "I think she was, too." He strategically invited everyone at his table back to his house so he could keep talking to her. "I knew within a short time I'd met a soulmate," he says. But they've learned over the years that passionate love can bring passionate disagreements.

"There's nothing shameful about going to therapy," says Alan. "If people feel comfortable enough to say, 'We love each other, we have problems, let's find the love again,' that's a positive thing. People ought to be able to do that."

Another practice that helps their relationship is date night, going out on the town--without John Henry, their 10-year-old son--to take in a movie, have dinner, relax together over drinks and talk. But getting away is held in balance by the joy and challenge of raising John Henry. Says Alan, "Having a child is a terrible beauty, like Yeats described Ireland. It's difficult and exhilarating."

"In times of struggle and doubt," says Theresa, "one look at the child with his joy and beauty and we say, 'maybe we were meant to be together.'"

Humor and acceptance also pay off. "Sometimes if we're in the middle of a fight and both of us have said what we need to say, but we don't know how to get out of it," says Alan, "we stick out our tongues at each other."

Does Alan's post-polio condition affect the relationship? Yes, because sometimes Alan thinks about how usually it's the guy that takes out the garbage, and now even washing dishes hurts. No, because they each have flaws. She works with his, and he works with hers.

"It took me a while to figure out that I don't have to win, and that I won't die if I say, 'Oh, this is really important to you, let's do it that way,'" says Theresa. "Then we get to the point of, 'No, no, let's do it the way you wanted.'"

"Then," says Alan, "we start arguing the opposite."

Alan, Theresa and John Henry live in Santa Monica.

by Josie Byzek

Click here to view the complete article (source: New Mobility)

last update: 04-08-06
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