Many people suffer from chronic illness, some visible and some not. As one who suffers from several chronic illnesses, I can honestly tell you it is difficult to be married to me. Some days are good, some are really good. Some days are bad . . . and others even worse. You never know how you’re going to feel from day to day, or even hour to hour.
Being married to a person with a chronic illness is not much fun. It’s really taking the “in sickness and health” vow to the extreme. I’m not trying to compare my chronic illnesses, which are minor in the grand scheme of things, to a spouse who has lived through ALS or cancer with their husband or wife, but there are days I feel like my husband got the raw end of the deal.
Did he really mean to sign up for this?
Is he sure he wants to stick around and deal with this the rest of our lives?
He assures me he did and that he’s not going any where, but I still can’t help but wonder what his life must be like from day to day. Never knowing what “condition” I will be in by the time he comes home from work. Never knowing whether or not this is the moment I’ll have to go to the hospital. It’s not easy being married to me. These few reminders can help anyone going through difficult times.
- PRAY. Pray for your spouse and for your marriage. A chronic illness is something that will stretch the limits of your patience and test the boundaries of your love. It isn’t easy and it won’t just “go away,” so you need to pray. Pray for your spouse as they maneuver the difficulties of the illness, and pray that you will know just how to love them through it all.
- Communication is KEY. This goes for marriage in general, but especially when the spouse has a chronic illness. Their level of activity can vary greatly from day to day. Their level of comfort in those activities will vary greatly as well. Talk about EVERYTHING. This is the most important thing I can tell you. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary. But running from problems because they’re hard to talk about will only strain your relationship and tear you apart.
- It’s not their fault. Although you may tell yourself this, know that it’s not because of anything they did. They didn’t wish this illness on themselves and wouldn’t wish it on their worst enemy. It stinks. Know that they want to feel better. They want to be involved. They want to be active; they just can’t some days.
- Don’t be offended. Some days will just be more than they can handle, and the best thing they can do is say no. They still love you and want more than anything to be with you, their family and friends – but sometimes it is better they stay home and rest. Don’t take it personally; it isn’t you – really.
- Don’t pressure them. Your wanting them to feel better won’t make them better. And just because they want to feel better won’t make it happen, either. If they say they’re not up for a day trip, don’t make them feel bad for not going. If they say they can’t take the trip, don’t make them feel worse for the change in plans. They are already beating themselves up about it. Know that when they feel better, they will make it happen.
- Be patient. There will be days, and sometimes weeks (or months), when they will feel sick or just completely out of energy. They will continue to try and keep up for someone else’s sake or to keep up appearances or whatever other reason they can think of, but they will eventually hit a wall. And when they do, they will go down hard. Be patient with them as they recover. Be patient with them as they find a “new normal” with this illness and balancing their other “duties” as wife and/or mom, or husband and/or dad. It isn’t easy for them to admit defeat.
- Don’t ignore their issue. As with anything else, ignoring their issues will not make them disappear. In fact, ignoring them will likely lead to them shutting down and/or depression. And that is a scary, slippery slope. They likely suffer from bouts of depression when flare-ups occur anyway, so don’t ignore them when they happen.
Do you or your spouse live with a chronic illness? What ways have you found to love them through the difficult times?