Chronic Illness in Marriage


Photo Caption: Frustrated unhealthy senior mature man touching head, having painful feelings sitting alone at home. Unhappy middle aged retired grandfather suffering from headache disease indoors.

You promised to love and support one another in sickness and in health, but you may not have conceived of your current situation.

When your spouse is diagnosed with a chronic illness, the dynamics of your marriage can significantly change. You promised to love and support one another in sickness and in health, but you may not have conceived of your current situation. It won’t be easy. You may have periods of frustration and exhaustion, and some of your expectations will have to change. However, you can be an effective support for your spouse. Here are eight ways you can stand beside your spouse in your new reality together.

  1. Lean into Unconditional Love

    Unconditional love is your foundation. Embrace the Bible’s definition of love described in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7—love that is patient, kind, not easily angered, and enduring. Remind yourself of the commitment you made to your spouse and seek God’s help in loving them unconditionally, despite the challenges that may arise.

  2. Actively Listen

    Be a safe space for your spouse to express their feelings, fears, and frustrations. Offer empathy, understanding, and validation. Be fully present as you set aside distractions and show that you genuinely care.

  3. Embrace Grace and Patience

    Chronic illness can lead to frustration, both for your spouse and for you. When you feel exhausted and your feelings are on edge, choose to extend grace and patience. Remember that your spouse may be struggling physically, mentally, and emotionally. Lean on God’s grace so you can be a source of comfort and understanding during these really challenging times.

  4. Seek God’s Strength

    Rely on God to be your strength and your guide. Don’t neglect time for prayer as you seek His peace and wisdom. Encourage your spouse to do the same. Attend worship services and find comfort in God’s Word. Your faith is your anchor as you face many uncertainties.

  5. Adjust Your Expectations

    Chronic illness brings about significant changes in your expectations. Recognize some adjustments may be necessary, whether it’s in household responsibilities, career aspirations, or personal goals. Practice flexibility and let go of rigid expectations. God can guide you as you navigate these changes. Focus on creating a new normal to meet your spouse’s needs.

  6. Educate Yourself and Advocate

    Educate yourself about your spouse’s chronic illness. Understand the symptoms, treatments, and challenges they may face. Advocate for their needs within the medical community to make sure they receive proper care and support. Be a team that empowers and advocates for the best possible health outcomes.

  7. Take Care of Yourself

    Caring for a spouse who is chronically ill will take a lot of emotional and physical strength. However, you must also take care of yourself if you are going to care for your spouse effectively. Reach out to your friends and family for respite and support. Nurture your own mental, physical, and spiritual health because that will help you as you support your spouse along the way.

  8. Openly Communicate

    Keep open communication with your spouse. Encourage them to express their needs and concerns. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations about your spouse’s health, treatment options, or long-term plans. Both of your voices must be heard and respected as you make decisions together.

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