When Doug and I first met (online) he wrote that he was looking for someone who would walk into his circle of friends, and whose circle of friends would welcome him. He put it far more eloquently than that - I’m sorry all those original emails are lost to a long gone email address, so I can’t quote him exactly.
His friends welcomed me, and mine him. My sister gave a beautiful & funny wedding speech, in which she admitted that when he first met Doug, her husband told her that if Doug and I broke up, he’d keep Doug, thank you very much. Luckily, he’s never had to make that choice! (And yes, of course he was joking. My brother-in-law and I adore each other. But how wonderful to know my family has loved Doug, from the very first. It goes both ways: being “Uncle Doug” to my nieces and nephews is one of Doug’s greatest joys, and he has loved spending time with all of my family.)
From the start of our relationship, I have truly felt we were partners, making decisions bigger and smaller, as a team. And I knew he always had my back. (An aside - but a great example of how lucky I am: Doug strongly encouraged me to apply to grad school. When I narrowed down my options, he had only positive comments about each. If we moved to Oregon, he would fly fish. If we moved to Scotland, he’d be able to join a pipe and drum band. If we stayed in Ontario we’d be close to family and friends. I should focus on the professors I wanted to work with - he'd be happy with whatever choice I made.)
As his Dementia progressed, all the decision making fell to me. The tiny, daily, often inconsequential choices and chores: what’s for dinner, paying the bills, doing the housework. And the larger, life-changing decisions: shall we stay in England or move back to Canada, do I need to leave my job and stay home, what do I do when I can no longer cope by myself.
When I asked his friends for advice with regards the move to long term care, I was hoping they would provide clarity by putting his needs ahead of mine. But they are truly now our friends, they considered both Doug’s life and mine. Their advice was loving and objective.
The past year I’ve thought of us as a triad. Making decisions now has to be best for Doug, best for Louise, and best for Doug-and-Louise. We are still Team Doug & Louise, but anyone who is on our team, has to be pro-Doug, pro-me, and pro-us. I didn’t realise I was “setting boundaries” (go me!), when I let go of people who aren’t part of my life AND his life AND our life. It is a great shame for Doug that any of his friends who dislike me have no way of maintaining a Louise-free relationship with Doug. (Their loss too, but their choice.)
Truly, I did walk into his circle of friends, and he into mine, and those friendships have been one of the greatest gifts in our life.