Loving a spouse or a significant other living with a chronic condition can be a challenge. My husband and I have been married nine years. We both know from personal experience the responsibilities that we face in going deeper than the surface of what it takes to make our marriage last despite the difficulties in coping with chronic conditions.
Most people think that entering in a relationship and maintaining a relationship with someone living with a chronic illness has all to do with physical pain. Many spouses and partners may have a loved one living in chronic physical pain, a serious life threatening condition, or battling mental health concerns that all have a major impact on the marriage. My husband lives with sickle cell. I admire that my husband doesn’t let that stop him in living a full and productive life. He works full time as a mental health professional, spearheads a nonprofit, and is completing his doctorate. I personally cope with battling bouts of anxiety and I’m unashamed to say I’ve battled with depression. I’m also a caregiver, mother, and a full time teacher. We share four children together in our marriage, and we are a blended family ( my son being birthed from a previous marriage). We also have a young child living with autism. We truly have some heavy dynamics as a family while still trying to maintain a strong marriage.
I won’t tell you that everyday or year has been easy. We both made sacrifices for one another in being of support to help each other cope. We both have busy lives that in taking away what we deal with physically and mentally could put a strain on any marriage. We know beyond a social media picture of a ton of “Likes” of what we deal with despite a pristine backdrop of cheesy smiles. In loving someone living with a chronic illness you learn to love deeper than the pain. You choose to not limit what you can do together, you’ re more authentic with one another, there’s a deeper level of transparency that each other can’t hide, and you choose to connect in being creative. Grace and compassion are the pillars in loving someone living with a chronic condition in making it work.
On our darkest days I’ve seen my husband endure pain that would make my soul ache. He’s not a large man in stature, but what he handles in going through a bad pain episode could make the largest most muscular man cry. He has held my hand while going on a walk while I know he was aching in having pain in every step. He brings his laptop working while in the hospital being stuck with needles for an IV. He’s shared with me how he admires how I could balance an extended hospital stay with him, keep up the home, manage with the kids giving them a since of normalcy, and work in doing what I do. I can attest on my lower days in what I cope with my husband dropping everything to come to give me a comforting hug. Yup, like all other couples we have disagreements, frustrating moments, and trying times, but maintaining a strong family is our highest priority.
Here are a few things that we do in maintaining our marriage and family in living with a chronic illness and condition that I pray will be helpful to another couple.
- Choose to see the person you fell in love with and not the condition.
- Give grace, compassion, and assurance to your partner especially on the rough days.
- Learn how to be creative, imaginative, and be willing to modify in still doing the things you both enjoy together.
- Be flexible or willing to be flexible in understanding the urgency and unpredictability of having a partner or spouse living with a chronic illness.
- Have an outlet of release to cope in all that you are going through separate from work or school so you don’t become burnt out or resentful.
- Make quality time to connect a priority on the list! ( Date night, Home Movie Night, Heart To Heart Discussion, A Stroll, and etc. Tap into each others’love language.
- Try not to neglect intimacy and if you are temporarily limited be creative in modifying. Remember there are different types of ways we can connect intimate with our partner or spouse such as holding hands, a strong embrace, massage ( back, scalp, & hand), brushing their hair, and etc.
- Advocate for one another always letting each other know that you have each other’s back, and best interests at heart.
- Don’t underestimate the power of humor in being a release in helping you both cope in the trying and hard times as a couple.
- Celebrate the good days together in making every moment count.