When you live with a Chronic illness, your spouse/partner does too. Did you ever think of it that way? As isolating as your conditions may make you feel, you aren’t in this alone. Likewise, you are living with their health issues too. Because, by age 50, having a Chronic condition is pretty common. In fact, CDC research data shows about 75% of males age 55+ have at least one. As for females, it jumps to 80% of that same age group. This adds a whole new meaning to his, mine & our. Let’s talk about that …
Any Chronic illness, whether it’s yours or his/hers, has the ability to change a relationship. Those bad days, that you sometimes get, place more demands on your loved one. And their bad days do the same to you. It can take its toll. Studies have shown that relationships in which one spouse has a chronic illness are more likely to fail, if the spouses are young. Hmmm. Perhaps, age has more advantages than an AARP card? But these same studies also tell us that spouses who are caregivers are six times more likely to suffer from depression than spouses who aren’t caregivers. Being older and wiser, as the cliche goes, spares us nothing in this department. So, how exactly can we juggle our Chronic illnesses and a marriage/relationship?
There is no easy fix. But with patience and communication, you and your spouse/partner can live with the added stress and pressures brought about by Chronic illnesses. Consider these simple steps:
- Communicate. Any relationship suffers when communication breaks down. The loss leads to feelings of distance, confusion, frustration, even a lack of intimacy.
- Watch Those Stressful Emotions. Anxiety can lead to additional problems, i.e. depression. If you need help, then talk to a therapist. This can be done separately, or as a couple. But it will allow you to better manage your health, their health and your relationship.
- Be Clear About Your Needs. None of us are mind-readers. So, talk. Convey your needs to your spouse/partner about everything. Encourage them to do the same. Affection isn’t a dirty word. Creativity doesn’t end, at age 30. Neither does intimacy.
- Take Care Of The Caregiver. It’s easy to be so focused on your partner that you neglect your own health & conditions. It’s also unsafe and can lead to additional problems, i.e. depression, lack of sleep, weight loss, irritability, physical exhaustion, possibly feelings of suicide.
- Stay Connected To Others. Sometimes, a Chronic illness can be isolating. And your spouse/partner has to keep things going for both of you. Friends can help. Relatives, too. Support Groups are another option.
- Keep An Eye On Finances. Money can be a strain on any relationship. If one of you must take a Leave of Absence, it can effect your household finances quickly. You and your spouse/partner may even want to work with a financial planner, to feel better prepared for such a circumstance.
- Gift Each Other. And, no, I’m not necessarily talking about spending money here. Think of gifting, in the broader sense. Say something nice to each other, every day. Compliments are like building blocks for a relationship. Don’t forget to share a hug, or a tender kiss. Maybe, try sexting? Make his favorite dinner (or dessert). Splurge occasionally … bring some flowers home for her. Treat one another to a massage, in the evening. Little things can and do mean a lot. When I was pregnant, many moons ago, my husband would give me pedicures. Some things are priceless (especially when you can no longer see your feet)!
My husband and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary, a couple of months ago. We aren’t the college kids who exchanged vows. We’re older. Wiser. Slower. More confident. Sometimes, grumpier. And our health is definitely more of an issue than it used to be. But in many ways, despite our Chronic illnesses, we have become better versions of our younger selves. Imagine that! This was made possible through team-work. We have shared, suffered and conquered it all … together! He has always brought out the very best in me. Still does. And I think, he’d say that I have done the same for him. One thing is for certain, it’s never been dull!
Don’t let your Chronic illness/es rob you of living, or loving! Life is too precious for that!
*Photo by Renate Vanaga on Unsplash