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The Weaker/Stronger Relationship Equation

Puny Man and His Muscly Neighbour – A (rather average) Fable by Kate Jackson

There once was a puny man, who lived in a house with a very beautiful garden. Puny Man loved his garden more than anything else and nothing made him happier than to be in it, care for it and think about.

But there was one small problem.

Puny Man was too puny to do all of the tasks that garden care requires. He could water it and sit on the ground pulling out weeds but he was too puny for many of the other tasks required to keep his garden so beautiful.

He was too puny to weald a shovel and dig holes for new plants.

He was too puny to mow the lawn.

And he was certainly too puny to do any of the heavy lifting that was often required.

‘How is his garden still so beautiful?’ people would regularly cry!

Well, enter Puny Man’s secret weapon, his incredibly kind and helpful friend, Muscly Neighbour.

Muscly Neighbour was so helpful that he would come round to help Puny Man every day, he couldn’t bare to see Puny Man suffer his garden deteriorating, and the upset that caused him, and so he vowed to help him.

Once a week Muscly Man would come round an mow the lawn.

At weekends Muscly Man would come and help plant new plants and dig holes.

And when ever heavy lifting was required he would be round as soon as he was available to help.

Sometimes this could be exhausting for Muscly Man, after all he had a job and his own house and garden to look after, but he tried not to complain or grumble. After all it wasn’t Puny Man’s fault that he couldn’t do these tasks.

Puny Man was so grateful for his neighbours help, every day he was thankful, he honestly didn’t know how we would get by without him.

However, Puny Man felt other things as well, things he expressed less regularly.

Every time Muscly Neighbour came round to help (which was often) Puny Man felt guilty. He felt guilty about how much of Muscly Neighbour’s time he was taking, guilty about the sacrifices Muscly Man was making, all just to help him with his garden.

On the few occasions that Puny Man raised his concerns with his neighbour, Muscly Neighbour told him not to be silly, told him he was happy to help, wanted to even.

But Puny Man would see the signs of strain showing on Muscly Neighbour’s face after a long day at work. He would see him cursing the mower on days where it was a struggle to find the extra time. And so he would continue feeling guilty. He knew that wasn’t what his neighbour wanted, and he believed what his neighbour said when he told him he was happy to help. But he also cared for his neighbour greatly, loved him even. And it pained him to think that he should be responsible for causing him any additional stress or pain.

Mr Puny had another feeling as well.

Occasionally he would feel pangs of jealously towards his friend.

It was nothing to do with being ungrateful, which we’ve already established was not the case. But Mr Puny loved his garden so much, that his dream was to tend to it himself. To be responsible for it and to be able to give it the care and attention it needed.

Sometimes his heart would break over the fact that he was unable to do the things his garden needed from him.


One day Mr Puny decided he would like to build a rockery in his garden. He had a pile of large rocks delivered from the garden centre and there they sat, in a pile, ready to go. This time he didn’t mention the work to Muscly Neighbour. He wanted to give him a rest. To give him some time off, when he didn’t need to worry about Mr Puny and his garden. And so he had booked a strong man service to come and help with his rockery needs.

As Mr Puny stood examining his garden and deciding where he wanted each rock to go, along came Muscly Neighbour.

“Need a hand?” he asked, helpfully as ever.

“No don’t worry,” said Puny Man “i’ve booked a strong man to help, he’s coming next week, you’re off the hook this time!”

“Oh, I’m not good enough now?” Mocked Muscly Neighbour. “Don’t be silly” he continued “I can get this done in no time”.

So he started picking up the rocks one by one and moving them into the rockery.

Mr Puny felt sad. He hadn’t intended to offend Muscly Neighbour, but he had wanted to try and be a little more independent, to remove the guilty feeling just a little, and perhaps to feel a little more responsible for the thing he loved the most.

As his neighbour came back toward him to collect the last rock, Mr Puny made a request.

“Perhaps neighbour, I could help you lift this last rock into place? I would really love to help, and I genuinely hate leaving you to do all of this work alone” he said.

Two responses came instantly to Muscly Neighbours head:

‘Don’t be daft, the jobs nearly done, it will be much quicker if I do it.’


‘No, I will do it, it’s too heavy for you and I really don’t want you to hurt yourself.’

He opened his mouth to speak when a third answer came into his mind. He opened his mouth to speak again,

“OK neighbour, let’s do it together.”

My Puny smiled a broad smile. And so with great effort he helped his neighbour lift the last rock. He new Muscly Neighbour was taking most of the weight. And he knew that his neighbour genuinely wouldn’t have minded doing it alone. But the fact that Muscly Neighbour had understood why helping to lift that rock was so important to him, meant everything.

The end.

I don’t know if it is only me that feels similar feelings to My Puny in the story (lets face it if it is then this post is probably not going to get many shares and likes!).

What I do know is if I had been able to calmly articulate this (average) fable a couple of weeks ago, it might have saved a major barney between me and my husband. A fight that is the ultimate in relationship fails – where you are arguing the same point in a different way (ultimately – I care for you and want to help you), and neither can step back and see the others point of view for long enough to realise it.

Being either party in a relationship that has a chronic illness attached isn’t always easy (that much is probably more widely agreed with). And my (average) fable probably frames the story more from the side of the less healthy partner that the other (as let’s face it, that’s the side of the story I’m qualified to tell).

But hopefully what it hopefully can remind us of, is that both parties are often coming from the same point of view, of wanting to look out for the other, and that is no bad thing. We just need to try (hard at times) not to take it as a question of our care, or commitment when the other tries to support us, but as a show of love.

(And if you’re anything like me, you possibly need to think about the words you use before you open your (big) mouth, or you are certainly in great danger of possibly saying something that is taken hurtfully, when you were actually trying to show care. #relationshipfail #sorryhusband).

That is all.

Anyone else? Or just me?

Speak soon,