Steps You Can Take to Keep Your Marriage Strong
Recently, I read an article that stated nearly half of all Americans live with chronic illness of some sort. Astonishingly, over 75% of marriages that are affected by chronic illness end in divorce. Spouses who are caregivers are 6 times more likely to suffer from depression.
These statistics were from 2008 and when I read this I was shocked, but then I wasn’t. Maybe it’s because I blog about chronic illness. I meet so many people who suffer from chronic illness in some fashion. Maybe it’s because in the homeschool community both online and in real life I meet Moms who are sick with Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, thyroid conditions, and Lyme disease, just to name a few. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived with chronic illness for over 10 years and I know just how difficult it can be in a marriage.
With such a high divorce rate among those with chronic illness, how in the world can we have hope for our marriages to stay the course and stay together?
I became very sick 10 years ago with what seemed to be a mystery illness. Doctors misdiagnosed me with various illnesses and conditions for 2 years before I finally got a diagnosis of Lyme disease and co-infections. This isn’t uncommon since Lyme disease is often called the great imitator.
I know that my illness has been difficult for my husband even though he was later diagnosed with Lyme. His fatigue and forgetfulness wore on me quite a bit because I needed him to be strong and to take care of what I couldn’t. We didn’t find out that he had Lyme disease until several years after my diagnosis.
Chronic illness in marriage can leave you feeling trapped, lonely, and isolated but there are steps you can take.Chronic illness in marriage can leave you feeling trapped, lonely, and isolated but there are… Click To Tweet
Our marriage was really put through the test as our 4 children were also diagnosed, the medical bills mounted up, and then one of our daughters rocked our world with ODD, OCD, anxiety, rage, and PANDAS-like symptoms.
I’m not a marriage expert even though we made it through the other side and still love each other. We walked through those difficult years one day at a time clinging to God for strength and direction. I’m not going to lie, it was very difficult and our marriage was put to the test.
As I thought about this marriage series, I knew I had to write about marriage with chronic illness. Here are a few important steps to keep your marriage strong.
Seek and Trust God
My first recommendation for anyone who is struggling on a daily basis it to seek and trust God. If you haven’t trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, this is a really great time to do it. [How Can I Be Saved?] You may find yourself struggling to trust Him at all since you’re suffering. Many people feel that they should never struggle or suffer as a Christian, but this is not what scripture suggests.
There are no other seasons in life that can help you to know God in a more intimate way than when you are struggling.There are no other seasons in life that can help you to know God in a more intimate way than… Click To Tweet
Your greatest strength and comfort can only truly come from God so surrender your fears, frustrations, and doubts on Him and trust Him for everything you need.
Be Ready to Accept Help
No one can walk through a chronic illness alone but often it’s hard to find the help needed. When someone does offer you may not be prepared to explain your needs. Be prepared by thinking of ways you could use help so that if someone does offer you’ll be able to tell them what your needs are. Caregivers especially need to accept help when they’re exhausted or frustrated. Sometimes help comes in the form of hired help, like a maid or ordering grocery delivery. However you find it, be willing to accept your limitations and make allowances for that.
Find a Support Group
A support group can be a lifeline for your marriage. It is encouraging to have time with others who understand what you’re going through. Usually, those in a support group have been in similar situations or are in the same circumstance you are in. Even if they can’t help you in physical ways, their understanding can be very helpful.
Seek Wise Counsel
Counseling can be super helpful to a couple who is struggling to communicate or to understand each other, especially when one spouse is sick all the time. It’s difficult to understand how someone can feel good one day but can’t get out of bed the next. Oftentimes an illness doesn’t show on the outside which causes onlookers to question the legitimacy of another’s condition. When this happens in a marriage bitterness can take root and cause division in the marriage.Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed. Proverbs 15:22 #counsel… Click To Tweet
The financial requirements of someone with a chronic illness is also a great source of tension between a couple. A counselor can identify those areas and mediate in order to help you better understand and communicate. Counselors can also help provide you with coping skills during the stressful work of caregiving.
A trained marriage counselor can most certainly benefit your marriage in this situation by identifying those areas that are straining your relationship and providing skills to help you work through your differences. Counselors provide a perspective you may not have thought of and offer you skills to better understand and communicate. Counselors can also help provide you with coping skills during the stressful work of caregiving.
Make Intimacy and Communication a Priority
Intimacy is vital in a healthy marriage, especially in a marriage where one spouse has a chronic illness; intimacy needs to be intentionally nurtured. Intimacy is most certainly emotional, physical and spiritual. Physical intimacy is such a vital part of the marriage relationship but during times of physical pain, it can often be impossible. Even simple touch and hugging can be very painful for those with Fibromyalgia and Lyme disease. Physical disconnection can leave you feeling emotionally disconnected and so during these times the emotional and spiritual aspects of intimacy must be cultivated and given the most attention. It’s important for both spouses to understand that neglecting this aspect of marriage has a negative impact on both of them, not just the partner who is healthy.
Communication is the first priority in any relationship and healthy communication will lead to greater intimacy.
When There Is No Support
The reality is, sometimes you won’t have support. Sometimes, your spouse won’t understand or be as helpful as you would like. During the weekday, while my husband was at work, I didn’t have the support that I needed. Sometimes, my husband had to go on a business trip and I was left with the children while all of us were very sick.
It’s not always possible to have help from others and so we just did the best we could. Most of the time that meant I had to push myself to be up out of bed, taking care of the children and myself. I eliminated the unnecessary things from my schedule and tried to stay within the boundaries of what I was physically capable of.
“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
My husband and I discussed the stressors and the difficulties and we worked together to make sure the things that really needed immediate attention were taken care. Working as a team is crucial when outside help is not possible.
Refuse to be a victim
This is such an important point. Your mind and how you think has a greater impact on your health than you may believe. Refuse to have a victim mentality which will only create depression and defeat in your mind. Being a victim keeps you sick and prevents you from rising above your circumstances and doing what you can to heal and get better. Having a victim mentality will put a strain on your marriage and most certainly will create division between you and your spouse.
Every great struggle leads to a greater success story, especially when you seek and trust God! View your illness as an opportunity to learn more about your body, nutrition, and healing. Use this time to draw closer to God and to your husband. Communicate clearly and be understanding of the difficulties for both you and your husband.
While you don’t have a choice to walk away from your chronic illness, you do have a choice in how you perceive it and live with it.While you don't have a choice to walk away from your chronic illness, you do have a choice in… Click To Tweet
What have you found helpful to keep your marriage strong during chronic illness?