In Sickness and In Health: Coping With a Spouse’s Illness
Most couples breeze through the “in sickness and in health” part of their marriage vows without much thought. The few couples who do give it some thought tend to picture themselves serving their husband or wife chicken noodle soup when he/she has the flu.
No one likes to think of the possibility of serious injury or illness so most people just avoid thinking about it and hope and pray that they never have to deal with it. For this reason, very few people have the tools to cope with a spouse’s illness.
When One Partner Gets Sick
A spouse’s illness can have a profound effect on a good marriage. For starters, it can change the personality of the sick partner and their role in the relationship. It can turn the most rational-minded person into an emotional and spontaneous person, and the most confident, take-charge person into a timid and dependent person. These changes can rock the core of the marriage and force the couple to assume roles that are quite different to what they have known their entire married life.
A spouse’s illness also comes with a sense of uncertainty. We all like to think that we are, to an extent, in control of our lives but serious illness has a way of revealing that this control is nothing but an illusion. This can turn even the most confident couple into nervous wrecks.
Coping With It
Faith and prayer are a very important part of coping with a spouse’s illness. Present God with your questions and uncertainties and ask him to reveal to you his purpose for your lives with this illness. Open yourselves up to God both individually and as a couple. Rest at his feet whenever you need to.
Another important step in coping with a spouse’s illness is letting go of guilt. It’s hard not to feel guilty when you are perfectly healthy and full of life and your spouse is in pain. However, just because you vowed to stand by your spouse “in sickness and in health” doesn’t mean that you cannot take care of yourself. The only thing that guilt will do is leave you too burnt out to care for your sick spouse. If you’re really struggling to let go of the guilt, speak to a counselor.
It is also important not to hold yourself responsible for your spouse’s emotional reactions. He or she is on an emotional rollercoaster and may be totally appreciative of you one minute and then angry and dissatisfied the next minute. Your spouse is just trying to adjust to a traumatic life change so for your own sanity, try not to take it personally.
The last and most important step is to accept all offers for help and reach out for more help if you need it. Casseroles and free babysitting from family and friends may not seem like much but it can allow you to focus on caring for your spouse. Counselors and support groups can also help you deal with the emotional roller coaster of having a sick spouse. Just because you said the words “in sickness and in health” doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone.