It begins with a sneeze.
You innocently surrender some aloe-infused Kleenex, unaware that you’ve initiated one of a relationship’s biggest challenges.
The sickness test.
It’s especially prominent now, the time of year when Facebook status updates allude to phlegm and stomach troubles.
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Don’t be surprised if your significant other catches your eye during date night, coughs and offers a pathetic “I’m sick.”
With that, you’ll meet the alter ego that will mess with your sanity for at least a week.
Initially, a Florence Nightingale instinct kicks in. “Just sit there and rest,” you say. “I’ll take care of everything.”
You find pleasure in making chicken soup and spreading cough syrup’s sweet aroma. You’re so obsessed with your medical duties that you see absolutely no harm in handling blankets lined with traces of snot.
But your altruism only goes so far.
Soon, self-interest overrides good intentions. You realize germs are present, and you simply cannot afford to get sick right now. With that, you tread the delicate balance between being a caring partner and staying healthy.
Is it rude to decline a kiss when Theraflu breath is involved?
Must you move out of your significant other’s eyesight while applying hand sanitizer after an embrace?
Will snot rag tolerance affect the Christmas gifts you receive this year?
Those questions invade your thoughts while you attempt to remain a concerned caregiver on the third day of illness.
It doesn’t help that your patient is likely bordering on, well, baby territory.
The fever has disappeared. The coughing is less serious. The flu medicine is unnecessary.
Yet somehow, the couch remains occupied and the chicken soup orders keep coming.
You arrive at yet another relationship dilemma. Your friends would certainly roll their eyes if they heard you refused to change a set of bedsheets.
But even Flo Nightingale had limits, right?
She certainly would have never believed the common cold impacts someone’s ability to operate a remote control.
Nor would she buy into the notion that an expensive steak dinner (courtesy of the caregiver, of course) is the only medically approved dining option after a 24-hour flu.
Exhausted, you reach a breaking point.
While staring at your sneezing patient -- crass, crabby and beyond control -- there is only one thing to say.
“God bless you.”
Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 706-571-8516.