When one spouse doesn’t feel well, the other usually jumps in and takes up the slack until the spouse feels better. But what happens if “feels better” never happens?
A person who lives with a chronic illness can spend a lot of time not being able to do the things he or she used to do. This also means that the spouse spends a lot of time taking up the slack and also not being able to do the things he or she used to do. This can lead to resentment and cause serious issues in the marriage. It’s important that both partners realize what is happening and take a proactive approach in making sure things don’t devolve to a point of no return. Ill Spouse – Accept that there are things you won’t be able to do
It’s rough accepting that your life is forever changed, but in order to move forward that’s exactly what you need to do. If your illness means you can’t work, move, or do things the way you used to, figure out what you can do, even if you have to modify how you do it. Doing something in a different way beats doing nothing. You’ll feel better and your spouse will appreciate your efforts. Spouse of the Ill Partner – Accept that there are things your spouse can no longer do
Your spouse didn’t ask for this illness any more than you did, so being resentful of him or her for being ill is useless and unfair. It’s understandable that you feel helpless and maybe a little cheated, but it's safe to guess your feelings pale in comparison to those of your spouse. Your role now is to take up the slack and be supportive. Help your spouse figure out new ways to do things. He or she will feel more independent and you just might regain some of yours. If you both used to work together, start walking together. If you used to play tennis, figure out a new sport you can share together. You’re still a team, even if the game has changed. You both need to roll with it and find a way to make it work. Ill Spouse – Be honest about how you’re feeling
Don’t pretend you’re okay when you aren’t. If you’re afraid of hurting or disappointing your spouse, ask yourself this: which would be worse? Pretending you’re okay to do something and possibly injuring yourself even more or admitting you’re not up to it and saving your strength so that you can be up to it later? If you lie to your spouse (and saying you’re fine when you aren’t IS lying) you’re just going to hurt him or her more. Worse, your spouse might not feel like you trust them. In other words, you will achieve the exact opposite of what you’re going for. Just be honest - they’ll understand. Spouse of Ill Partner – Learn to recognize when your spouse isn’t being completely honest
Your partner is going to try to pull the wool over your eyes and tell you he or she feels fine when he or she really doesn’t. It cannot be stressed enough how dangerous this can be for your spouse, so learn the signs and stop him or her in their tracks. Not wanting to disappoint you will lead to lies about how he or she feels. Be gentle but firm. Make sure your spouse knows you’re onto them and don’t let them do anything that might cause further illness or harm.
To the both of you – Hang in there and figure things out
Neither of you signed up for this and yet both of you did exactly that. Remember those lines in your wedding vows, “better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and in health?” Well here’s the sickness.
You promised you’d be there for each other. If you took your vows seriously and you meant them – this is when the rubber meets the road.
• Talk to each other.
• Tell each other how you feel.
• Communication is key.
As long as you both keep talking and finding ways to make your new relationship work, your marriage will become stronger. In addition, if the ill spouse is fortunate enough to recover, you’ll both be able to look back on the situation as a rough patch that you managed to work through together as partners. Isn’t partnership what marriage is all about?
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