Don't Let a Chronic Health Condition Harm Your Marriage

Reviewed Feb 16, 2016

Close

E-mail Article

Complete form to e-mail article…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

Separate multiple recipients with a comma

Close

Sign-Up For Newsletters

Complete this form to sign-up for newsletters…

Required fields are denoted by an asterisk (*) adjacent to the label.

 

Summary

When a partner becomes disabled or chronically ill, keep your marriage healthy with:

  • patience
  • knowledge
  • love and understanding

Marriage always takes skill and hard work. When one person is permanently injured or develops a chronic health condition, it takes even more, but a good marriage is worth the effort. 

Your marriage, tested

You may have promised to be there for each other in sickness and in health, but you might not be ready for the strain and emotional wear a chronic illness or a disabling injury can have on your relationship. Psychiatrist Scott Haltzman says chronic illness will test a relationship. It will force you to rethink who you are, reorganize your daily life and reorder your priorities. 

If your partner was a runner, he might need time adjusting to a new self-image after a disabling stroke. Be patient.

If the family nurturer has developed lupus, she needs the nurturing now. Be kind.

While you adjust to the situation, keep your marriage alive by communicating. Talk, talk, talk to each other, but also listen carefully to what your partner says.

Some people are overwhelmed by a partner’s illness, and might want to flee. Men tend to be action-oriented, so it can be hard for them to picture themselves caring for another person’s physical needs, Haltzman points out. Be understanding.

On the other hand, unaffected partners can find inner resources, emotional strength, character and resourcefulness they never knew they had, until they were put to the test.

Psychiatrist Eva Ritvo advises couples facing chronic health problems to remember their values and their vows, formal or not.

Tips for couples

  • Read up on the illness or disability. The more you know, the better. Go to respected sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health.
  • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your partner. Discuss how much of your old life you can keep and what will change. Lay out the facts. Will this change your income? The way your home is set up?
  • Adjust your activities as needed. Chronic illness might keep you from doing some things you always did together. If you bowled as a couple, can the healthy person still do it? Are there new activities you could try together?
  • Be open and ready to learn new skills. Household roles may change. You may need to learn to cook or shop or take care of the car.
  • Take good care of yourself. You will need to be strong while you learn new ways.
  • Say goodbye to whatever you are giving up and hello to your new life together in a special way, suggests therapist Tina Tessina. Celebrate change and your love for each other.
  • Strive to keep the physical aspects of your love alive. Be open to change, and you will find ways to show your love, advises self-help author Elaine Fantle Shimberg.

Tips for caregivers

  • Work to maintain your own health and energy. You may find yourself exhausted at first. This is normal. It will get better.
  • Strategize with your partner for ways to make your life easier. Accept what is, and know even that will change.
  • Allow yourself to have help. Take a day off. Let someone else do a chore.
  • Find a caregiver support group, in your community or online.

Tips for the person with the illness or injury

  • Start the conversation about how the two of you can best minimize the impact of illness on your marriage.
  • Accept your physical changes. Some sadness and anxiety are normal. As your life changes, you may go through all 5 stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
  • Don’t hide behind alcohol, recreational drugs or bad behavior. Give yourself a chance to learn to tolerate the situation.
  • Acknowledge your strength and limitations. Try to function as normally as possible. Use physical therapy or other means to build muscle strength.
  • Avoid negative language, even in jest, says therapist Dorothea Hover-Kramer.
  • Involve your caregiver in medical decisions.
  • Care for the caregiver. Give your partner time to be alone or pursue some outside activity.
  • Be patient with yourself as you go from one situation to another.
  • Seek out and accept support from family, friends and clergy. Look for advice from recognized disease-specific organizations, such as the Arthritis Foundation or American Lung Association.
  • Show appreciation. Make a point of focusing on things you’re happy for, every day.

Resources

Your local hospital for local support groups

American Lung Association
(800) LUNG-USA (800-586-4872)
www.lungusa.org/

Arthritis Foundation
(800) 283-7800
www.arthritis.org/

Cancer Support Community
www.cancersupportcommunity.org/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
TTY: (888) 232-6348
http://cdc.gov/

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
http://health.nih.gov/

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Scott Haltzman, MD, clinical assistant professor, Brown University Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, author of "The Secrets of Happy Families", "The Secrets of Happily Married Men" and "The Secrets of Happily Married Women"; Dorothea Hover-Kramer, EdD, RN, CNS, psychotherapist and author of 7 books on energy therapy; Eva Ritvo, MD, vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, expert on family therapy and lead author of the "Concise Guide to Marriage and Family Therapy"; Elaine Fantle Shimberg, author of 22 books, including "Strokes: What Families Should Know" and "Coping with COPD"; Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of "Money, Sex and Kids" and 8 other books about building strong marriages.

Summary

When a partner becomes disabled or chronically ill, keep your marriage healthy with:

  • patience
  • knowledge
  • love and understanding

Marriage always takes skill and hard work. When one person is permanently injured or develops a chronic health condition, it takes even more, but a good marriage is worth the effort. 

Your marriage, tested

You may have promised to be there for each other in sickness and in health, but you might not be ready for the strain and emotional wear a chronic illness or a disabling injury can have on your relationship. Psychiatrist Scott Haltzman says chronic illness will test a relationship. It will force you to rethink who you are, reorganize your daily life and reorder your priorities. 

If your partner was a runner, he might need time adjusting to a new self-image after a disabling stroke. Be patient.

If the family nurturer has developed lupus, she needs the nurturing now. Be kind.

While you adjust to the situation, keep your marriage alive by communicating. Talk, talk, talk to each other, but also listen carefully to what your partner says.

Some people are overwhelmed by a partner’s illness, and might want to flee. Men tend to be action-oriented, so it can be hard for them to picture themselves caring for another person’s physical needs, Haltzman points out. Be understanding.

On the other hand, unaffected partners can find inner resources, emotional strength, character and resourcefulness they never knew they had, until they were put to the test.

Psychiatrist Eva Ritvo advises couples facing chronic health problems to remember their values and their vows, formal or not.

Tips for couples

  • Read up on the illness or disability. The more you know, the better. Go to respected sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health.
  • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your partner. Discuss how much of your old life you can keep and what will change. Lay out the facts. Will this change your income? The way your home is set up?
  • Adjust your activities as needed. Chronic illness might keep you from doing some things you always did together. If you bowled as a couple, can the healthy person still do it? Are there new activities you could try together?
  • Be open and ready to learn new skills. Household roles may change. You may need to learn to cook or shop or take care of the car.
  • Take good care of yourself. You will need to be strong while you learn new ways.
  • Say goodbye to whatever you are giving up and hello to your new life together in a special way, suggests therapist Tina Tessina. Celebrate change and your love for each other.
  • Strive to keep the physical aspects of your love alive. Be open to change, and you will find ways to show your love, advises self-help author Elaine Fantle Shimberg.

Tips for caregivers

  • Work to maintain your own health and energy. You may find yourself exhausted at first. This is normal. It will get better.
  • Strategize with your partner for ways to make your life easier. Accept what is, and know even that will change.
  • Allow yourself to have help. Take a day off. Let someone else do a chore.
  • Find a caregiver support group, in your community or online.

Tips for the person with the illness or injury

  • Start the conversation about how the two of you can best minimize the impact of illness on your marriage.
  • Accept your physical changes. Some sadness and anxiety are normal. As your life changes, you may go through all 5 stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
  • Don’t hide behind alcohol, recreational drugs or bad behavior. Give yourself a chance to learn to tolerate the situation.
  • Acknowledge your strength and limitations. Try to function as normally as possible. Use physical therapy or other means to build muscle strength.
  • Avoid negative language, even in jest, says therapist Dorothea Hover-Kramer.
  • Involve your caregiver in medical decisions.
  • Care for the caregiver. Give your partner time to be alone or pursue some outside activity.
  • Be patient with yourself as you go from one situation to another.
  • Seek out and accept support from family, friends and clergy. Look for advice from recognized disease-specific organizations, such as the Arthritis Foundation or American Lung Association.
  • Show appreciation. Make a point of focusing on things you’re happy for, every day.

Resources

Your local hospital for local support groups

American Lung Association
(800) LUNG-USA (800-586-4872)
www.lungusa.org/

Arthritis Foundation
(800) 283-7800
www.arthritis.org/

Cancer Support Community
www.cancersupportcommunity.org/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
TTY: (888) 232-6348
http://cdc.gov/

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
http://health.nih.gov/

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Scott Haltzman, MD, clinical assistant professor, Brown University Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, author of "The Secrets of Happy Families", "The Secrets of Happily Married Men" and "The Secrets of Happily Married Women"; Dorothea Hover-Kramer, EdD, RN, CNS, psychotherapist and author of 7 books on energy therapy; Eva Ritvo, MD, vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, expert on family therapy and lead author of the "Concise Guide to Marriage and Family Therapy"; Elaine Fantle Shimberg, author of 22 books, including "Strokes: What Families Should Know" and "Coping with COPD"; Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of "Money, Sex and Kids" and 8 other books about building strong marriages.

Summary

When a partner becomes disabled or chronically ill, keep your marriage healthy with:

  • patience
  • knowledge
  • love and understanding

Marriage always takes skill and hard work. When one person is permanently injured or develops a chronic health condition, it takes even more, but a good marriage is worth the effort. 

Your marriage, tested

You may have promised to be there for each other in sickness and in health, but you might not be ready for the strain and emotional wear a chronic illness or a disabling injury can have on your relationship. Psychiatrist Scott Haltzman says chronic illness will test a relationship. It will force you to rethink who you are, reorganize your daily life and reorder your priorities. 

If your partner was a runner, he might need time adjusting to a new self-image after a disabling stroke. Be patient.

If the family nurturer has developed lupus, she needs the nurturing now. Be kind.

While you adjust to the situation, keep your marriage alive by communicating. Talk, talk, talk to each other, but also listen carefully to what your partner says.

Some people are overwhelmed by a partner’s illness, and might want to flee. Men tend to be action-oriented, so it can be hard for them to picture themselves caring for another person’s physical needs, Haltzman points out. Be understanding.

On the other hand, unaffected partners can find inner resources, emotional strength, character and resourcefulness they never knew they had, until they were put to the test.

Psychiatrist Eva Ritvo advises couples facing chronic health problems to remember their values and their vows, formal or not.

Tips for couples

  • Read up on the illness or disability. The more you know, the better. Go to respected sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health.
  • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your partner. Discuss how much of your old life you can keep and what will change. Lay out the facts. Will this change your income? The way your home is set up?
  • Adjust your activities as needed. Chronic illness might keep you from doing some things you always did together. If you bowled as a couple, can the healthy person still do it? Are there new activities you could try together?
  • Be open and ready to learn new skills. Household roles may change. You may need to learn to cook or shop or take care of the car.
  • Take good care of yourself. You will need to be strong while you learn new ways.
  • Say goodbye to whatever you are giving up and hello to your new life together in a special way, suggests therapist Tina Tessina. Celebrate change and your love for each other.
  • Strive to keep the physical aspects of your love alive. Be open to change, and you will find ways to show your love, advises self-help author Elaine Fantle Shimberg.

Tips for caregivers

  • Work to maintain your own health and energy. You may find yourself exhausted at first. This is normal. It will get better.
  • Strategize with your partner for ways to make your life easier. Accept what is, and know even that will change.
  • Allow yourself to have help. Take a day off. Let someone else do a chore.
  • Find a caregiver support group, in your community or online.

Tips for the person with the illness or injury

  • Start the conversation about how the two of you can best minimize the impact of illness on your marriage.
  • Accept your physical changes. Some sadness and anxiety are normal. As your life changes, you may go through all 5 stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
  • Don’t hide behind alcohol, recreational drugs or bad behavior. Give yourself a chance to learn to tolerate the situation.
  • Acknowledge your strength and limitations. Try to function as normally as possible. Use physical therapy or other means to build muscle strength.
  • Avoid negative language, even in jest, says therapist Dorothea Hover-Kramer.
  • Involve your caregiver in medical decisions.
  • Care for the caregiver. Give your partner time to be alone or pursue some outside activity.
  • Be patient with yourself as you go from one situation to another.
  • Seek out and accept support from family, friends and clergy. Look for advice from recognized disease-specific organizations, such as the Arthritis Foundation or American Lung Association.
  • Show appreciation. Make a point of focusing on things you’re happy for, every day.

Resources

Your local hospital for local support groups

American Lung Association
(800) LUNG-USA (800-586-4872)
www.lungusa.org/

Arthritis Foundation
(800) 283-7800
www.arthritis.org/

Cancer Support Community
www.cancersupportcommunity.org/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
TTY: (888) 232-6348
http://cdc.gov/

National Institutes of Health (NIH)
http://health.nih.gov/

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Scott Haltzman, MD, clinical assistant professor, Brown University Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, author of "The Secrets of Happy Families", "The Secrets of Happily Married Men" and "The Secrets of Happily Married Women"; Dorothea Hover-Kramer, EdD, RN, CNS, psychotherapist and author of 7 books on energy therapy; Eva Ritvo, MD, vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, expert on family therapy and lead author of the "Concise Guide to Marriage and Family Therapy"; Elaine Fantle Shimberg, author of 22 books, including "Strokes: What Families Should Know" and "Coping with COPD"; Tina B. Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist and author of "Money, Sex and Kids" and 8 other books about building strong marriages.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

Close

  • Useful Tools

    Select a tool below

© 2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.