Maybe someday I’ll write a post directed at the spouse of someone with a chronic illness and you’ll be able to show it to your spouse and say “see, told ya….” but today isn’t that day. Today is about us.
We can find quite a bit on the internet directed at the loved ones and friends of someone with a chronic illness but when there are two people in a relationship, they both have the obligation to do their part to make the relationship the best it can be.
During the whole dating process, you’re supposed to be open and honest with each other. You learn all you can about this wonderful person you want to spend the rest of your life with. You know they aren’t perfect, after all, no one is. But you’ve decided you can live with their faults and they can live with yours.
But what happens when another concern enters the picture after you’re married.
Thursday was my 27th anniversary. When I stood holding my husband’s hand and saying my “I do’s” it was just him and me. “In sickness and in health” was a line we repeated as the Pastor directed. What I didn’t realize was that one day that line would feel more like we had added another person to this marriage.
Doesn’t a Chronic Illness seem like another person at times?
Husband: “Wanna go get something to eat.”
Wife: “Let me check with C.I. – No we can’t. C.I. needs to be at physical therapy by noon, then back home by 2 pm to take her meds. She said her legs aren’t up to the walk from the parking lot into the cafe. So, as much as I’d love to go with you, I’m going to have to stay here with C.I. Oh, and by the way, while I’m with C.I. today, I’m going to need you to pick up the groceries and run a few other errands for me, ok?”
See what I mean. It’s like there’s a third person in the mix now and how we handle this intrusion can make or break our marriage.
I asked a few of my chronic illness blogger friends to offer their tips for a healthy marriage despite having an unhealthy illness. Some knew about their illness before marriage, some didn’t. But regardless of when the chronic illness joins your marriage, there are still hardships and challenges that take place.
Here are their suggestions:
Kami from Living Grace
I think our tip would be this: to make a point to regularly check in with your spouse to see how THEY are doing. It’s easy to miss our spouse’s needs in the midst of illness. We both get wrapped up in the fact that I’m sick, with conversations surrounding doctors appointments, treatment, and my newest symptoms. But his needs are just as much a priority as mine.
Rachel from Cranberry Tea Time
One of the most important things you can do is express your gratitude often. Let your spouse know that you are grateful for the way he or she works hard and takes care of you.
You may be limited in the physical help you can provide around the house, but work hard and be faithful in the areas you can help out, even if it seems small and insignificant. In our home, I try to help with a simple task each day that can be done in less than five minutes. I might wipe the bathroom counter, wipe the kitchen counters, dust, wipe a spot off the kitchen floor, or wipe hair off the bathroom floor. I do very little work in one day, but over the course of a week, it does add up.
Shelly from Renewed Daily
Tip from me: Never underestimate the impact of your presence and emotional support. This makes a huge impact on your spouse and is sometimes all they need (meaning, as a chronically ill spouse, you CAN still do what really matters).
Tip from Brian: Don’t assume your spouse will know your needs because you know each other so well. The illness is new and direction or specifics are very much appreciated!
Robin from In Spite Of My Illness
My husband feels it’s important to give your spouse permission to do things they enjoy without making them feel guilty for not staying home with you. We do that in our marriage and I think that’s huge.
Tanya from My Fruitful Home
I have two tips. First, be clear about what you need. Sometimes we have a tendency to expect our spouse to know what we need. It makes both our lives easier when this is done. Second, if you and your spouse like to do things together, have two lists of activities – one for your good days and one for your bad days. That way you won’t have to disappoint your spouse. Even on my worst days I can usually go to the movies or rent one and order food in.
My tips are:
- Pray for your spouse and your marriage daily. So many things can creep in and ruin a healthy marriage. Going through a chronic illness has always been one of the top causes for divorce along with infidelity and financial pressures. Make sure your first line of defense is spiritual warfare!
- Make running errands for you as easy as possible. For example, keep a grocery list handy that’s arranged according to the layout of your store. I have one you can download here. Makes grocery shopping easier!
- When you’re able to get out on a date night, try to keep the conversation away from your illness and focus on each other and your other interests.
- Be sure to celebrate your spouse’s successes and victories. Be their biggest cheerleader.
If you think about it, every marriage is going to have to face things they weren’t planning on. Whether it’s a lost job, care for elderly parents, a child with a disability, etc. – as prepared as you may have thought you were, no couple can know everything they’ll face during the course of their marriage.
It can be so easy to focus on our health and lose the focus on our relationship. Marriage is hard work – with or without a chronic illness. But anything worthwhile is worth the work involved.