Monday, November 15, 2010

Question of the Week: How has chronic illness impacted your marriage?

Rome visit, June 2008 - 57Image by Ed Yourdon via Flickr
Yesterday I had a heart-to-heart with my hubby about some things that were bothering me. While the details of the conversation are going to stay between me and my hubby, I will say that I found it took a lot of courage on my part to start the conversation. Which got me thinking about why that was...

One of the hardest parts about being disabled is how much more I rely on my hubby to help me, which is both a blessing and a burden. I've written before about how my hubby wants the old Selena back. It seems that my "new normal" is an issue that is being worked out by both of us individually and between us in our marriage. After six years, my disability's true impact on our life together can no longer be dismissed, denied or downplayed.

What can I say, reality bites ...
and we are now getting to the business of dealing with it.

For my part, being so much more dependent on my husband makes me feel more vulnerable. It now feels scary to contemplate not having his love and support, which makes broaching big, heavy subjects akin to taking a huge risk; a risk that I might loose his support, even momentarily, and be left to face my burgeoning needs all on my own.

I hate that I even think this...

Before chronic illness I never gave a second thought to speaking up and getting into it over something that was important to me. Now I hesitate, partly because fighting takes so much out of me and partly because the ground I now stand on doesn't feel quite level anymore. I'm feeling off-balance in my relationship and feeling like I have more to lose now. I imagine my hubby might be feeling off-balance and feeling heavier under the weight of his new responsibilities.

Chronic illness has definitely made me more of a "taker" and less of a "giver" in our relationship.

Despite my perceived vulnerability, I am confident that we will work this out--eventually. For even when we fight, scream, throw our hands up and (temporarily) throw in the towel, we continue to be blessed with the ability to find our way back to each other. Which makes me a very fortunate spouse, since statistics show that for people living with chronic illness, up to 75% of their marriages end in divorce.

Chronic illness can make staying married or staying together a whole lot harder.


So this week I want to know: how has chronic illness impacted your marriage or long-term relationship? How do you and your partner cope? Please share with us your thoughts and ideas about this topic either here in a comment or at the Oh My Aches and Pains! Facebook page.

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4 comments

Helena said...

Hi Selena! Boy can I relate to your feelings of vulnerability and dependency. I believe that is something most of us with chronic illness struggle with. It's so easy to feel off-balance in the marriage when you can't contribute as you used to. I do know that when conflict arises between me and my husband, it's usually because I'm not using my voice in some way. I remind myself that I am still the same person and I know my husband respects me for putting it all out there even if it feels scary. Chronic illness has brought out our vulnerability and honesty in ways I don't think would have happened had I been healthy. For that, I'm grateful!

Young Wife said...

Chronic illness has completely changed my marriage. It's kept us from having children. It has affected our careers. I really don't believe our marriage would survive chronic illness if it wasn't for our Christian faith. That, and the incredible support of our families keeps us going.

phylor said...

I was already dealing with several chronic illness issues when I met the person who is now my husband. He has only known a "sick" me in one form or another for the last 28 years.
There are more/different tensions now that I have more disabling pain that previously. For example,I haven't worked in 6 years (partly due to pain/illness and partly due to caregiver role for mother)and our health insurance (necessary due to my medications) costs more than our rent. My husband can get frustrated when I'm too tired to do stuff or helpless when I am in rough shape. He believes me that I'm in pain, tired, etc. There has never been that kind of question.
Hubby is very self-sufficient and can function well on his own (I had to be away taking care of my mother for months at a time). We have always split the housework, and he mostly cooks his own meals (he likes the way he makes things).
In some ways, I think that the pain has kept us together rather than driven us apart. I'm not sure how to explain this, but I guess because our relationship has always included illnesses, we weather each new health storm as best we can.
Great post Selena, and question!

Kim said...

I will start by saying, my husband and I have been togeher since highschool. So after 10 years of being with someone for half of your life, you think you know them well. Enter chronic illness and your whole world gets turned upside down!
When I first found out I was sick, I kind of put my marraige on hold. I was dealing with so much. Finding out I would need a new liver. While I was pregnant. Not knowing if either one of us would make it. I isolated myself.
And my husband went from happily awaiting a new blessing in the family to dealing with the possibility of losing us both. Then came the bills. And thats what hurt the most. Being the supporter, it was to much to handle and he was beyond overwhelmed. He distanced himself from us.
It took almost losing eachother to remember just how much we mean to eachother. In sickness and in health!
And while I do constantly feel like a burden to him, in his own way he is sure to remind me that I am not. Sometimes its hard for me because he isnt the kind to express his feelings, but having to face this with me has opened up our relationship on a whole new level. The worst is over now. Now that we have a better understanding of how we both handle under pressure, I have faith together we can get though anything.