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In Sickness and in Health

In Sickness and in Health

Love, Disability, and a Quest to Understand the Perils and Pleasures of Inter-abled Romance

A frank, humorous exploration of interabled dating, love, and marriage

By author: Ben Mattlin

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Ben Mattlin's wife, ML, recalls falling in love with his confidence and sheer determination. On one of their earliest dates, he persuaded her to ride on his lap in his wheelchair on their way home from an Elvis Costello concert. Thirty years later, they still travel like this from time to time, undaunted by the curious stares following them down the street.

But In Sickness and in Health is more than an "inspiring" story of how a man born with spinal muscular atrophy-a congenital and incurable neuromuscular condition-survived childhood, graduated from Harvard, married an able-bodied woman, built a family with two daughters and a cat and a turtle, established a successful career in journalism, and lived happily ever after. As Mattlin considers the many times his relationship has been met with surprise or speculation by outsiders-those who consider his wife a "saint" or him just plain "lucky" for finding love-he issues a challenge to readers: why should the idea of an "interabled" couple be regarded as either tragic or noble?

Through conversations with more than a dozen other couples of varying abilities, ethnic backgrounds, and orientations, Mattlin sets out to understand whether these pairings are as unusual as onlookers seem to think. Reflecting on his own experience he wonders: How do people balance the stresses of personal-care help with the thrill of romance? Is it possible that the very things that appear to be insurmountable obstacles to a successful relationship-the financial burdens, the physical differences, the added element of an especially uncertain future-could be the building blocks of an enviable level of intimacy and communication that other couples could only dream of?

We meet Shane Burcaw, a twenty-three-year-old writer, who offers a glimpse of his first forays into dating with a disability. There's Rachelle Friedman, the "paralyzed bride," as the media refers to her, and her husband, discussing the joys and challenges of a new marriage and a growing family; and acclaimed journalist John Hockenberry and his wife, Alison, who reveal the intricacies of long-term married life. What emerges is a candid glimpse into the challenges and joys of interabled love-from the first blush of sexual awakening to commitment and marriage and through to widowhood.

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"Mattlin expresses himself clearly and succinctly, without an underlying tone of self-pity. His interviews with other couples also portray steadfast relationships where each has thrashed out problems in ways that allow them to stay together. Moving and informative stories of 'uncommonly intimate and enduring' interabled partnerships."-Kirkus Reviews

"In this chronicle of will and hope, Ben Mattlin demystifies the interabled relationship, showing that it should be a matter neither of wonder nor of pity. This is an urgent, deeply felt, and sometimes hilarious account of marriages that feel as obvious to those within them as they are bewildering to many people outside them. Mattlin gives us a testament to the deep humanity that can manifest in any kind of body, and to the passionate love such humanity can provoke in others."-Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree

"Ben Mattlin has written an inspired and inspiring book about couples facing the challenge of one partner's disabilities. In Sickness and in Health is a very candid examination of the unique and daunting obstacles these couples face in their daily lives, as well as an anthology of compelling love stories."-Jay McInerney

"This insightful, irreverent exploration of 'interabled' couples is both an illuminating look at a very particular kind of relationship-one many readers will know little about-and a powerful statement about our common humanity." -Adam Cohen, author of Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck

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