Can You Love Me Anyway?
Can you love me anyway?
(Fighting to Stay Married While Your Spouse Fights to Stay Alive)
“It’s okay if you don’t understand if you don’t get it, but can you love me anyway?” ~the spouse who is ill
Marriage is hard. You knew that already, right? Actually, all of what I’m about to say is probably nothing new for you. Sometimes we need reminders. Reminders that challenge, encourage or inspire us to keep moving forward.
However you look at it, the typical marriage (is there such a thing?) takes confounding amounts of effort and energy. Marriage is even harder when you factor in atypical circumstances such as a chronic illness. As a bystander who has observed and is currently observing couples who are simultaneously trying to stay married and alive, I have felt strongly compelled to encourage you, the spouse of the ill, to love well.
If you are the spouse of someone who is chronically ill, I see you. I ache for you. Whether your spouse has Lyme, Cancer, Dementia, Diabetes or Depression, if you are loving them well, you are likely wearing yourself thin. I’ve seen this happen up close and personal. Please take care of yourself. We’ve all heard of the oxygen mask concept, right? You can’t be effective in helping someone else if you do not love yourself well first. Eat healthier, rest when you can instead of doing that other thing; spend time refreshing your mind and spirit. This will look different for everyone so there’s no right or wrong way to go about caring for you. Chances are, if you give it half a thought, you already know what you need to do.
Sometimes your spouse will empty the dishwasher and seem fine. Sometimes you will go on a date and they seem fine. Sometimes they’ll saunter through the house as if nothing hurts. It’s those days that make it easy to forget they’re sick because admit it, you want so badly to forget that they are sick. This is hard. I encourage you to realize that just because they’re not lying sick in a hospital bed, although they probably have been at times or will be at some point, it doesn’t mean they aren’t sick. They’re just having a good day or a good 10 minutes. The good days should be cherished and accepted as what they are – a good day. Fight through the bad days together and pray for more good days. Treasure the good days when they come, don’t mourn them when they’ve gone. The hard truth of it is that this could be their last good day or their last bad day. I know you know this because I know you’re living it. And it’s hard. And I’m sorry. And I wish it wasn’t. But life is life and nothing about it is guaranteed. There’s something in every single breath that exudes hope. God is not finished yet. He’s got something good up His sleeve. Hold onto hope.
Do you remember those vows you took? Keep them. Husband, wife, don’t do anything you’ll regret. It wasn’t your spouse’s choice to get sick but it was your choice to marry him/her. I know it’s hard for you. I can see how you could easily say, “this isn’t what I signed up for” or “this isn’t fair”. It’s not fair but it is what you signed up for. You signed up for “in sickness or in health”. Friend, keep your vows. Renew your commitment to stay. Daily if you need to. Be a promise keeper. There is so much more courage in staying than leaving. There’s a really good chance your spouse thinks you might leave. And she/he wouldn’t blame you if you did. But don’t. On top of not leaving, reassure them constantly that you won’t. As with anyone who is feeling vulnerable, your spouse longs to hear, “I’m right here. I’m with you. I’m not going anywhere.”
Please don’t make your spouse feel guilty about treatment times and medical bills. I get that medicine, treatments and counseling are out of this world expensive and time-consuming. Maybe you can’t do it all but whatever you can do should be guilt free. I assure you that your spouse feels guilty enough on their own. If you can’t do it all, ask for help. Can’t afford it? Ask for help. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of pulling out the stops to get your spouse well. Wouldn’t you like the peace of mind in knowing that you did everything you could possibly do? If you need help, chances are there’s someone out there that God has readied for the task. That’s Kingdom Economics 101. Missed that class in college, huh?? My guess is you’ll be asked to pay it forward someday and you’ll be happy to because you know how much the help of others blessed you. It all comes out in the wash (as my mom always says). There’s no room for guilt or pride in marriage.
When is the last time you both laughed? Do you even remember what it feels like? You’re both fighting so hard. Laughter truly is such good medicine – for the body and for the soul. Laugh. What used to make you laugh? Life drags us down and we forget how good it is to laugh. Give it a try. I bet you won’t be sorry you did.
Don’t try to make sense of this. Pain, hardships, illness… it rarely makes sense to us. It’s not our job to make sense of it. That’s God’s job. It’s not fair but we were never promised fair (John 16:33). Let God shake this one out His way. “Man makes his plans, God guides his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) Remember, your spouse didn’t ask for this illness either.
Consider what you might need to change to love your spouse well today. Can you love them anyway?
I’m in your corner cheering you on,
“… He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles. … If we are afflicted with such trouble and pain, then know it is so that you might ultimately experience comfort and salvation. If we experience comfort, it is to encourage you so that you can hold up while you endure the same sufferings we all share. Remember that our hope for you stands firm, unshaken and unshakable. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Andrea Stunz is a wife, mom, a mother in law and a ridiculously proud grandmother. Andrea is a Christ-following pilgrim. She loves stories, living them, hearing them, sharing them and capturing them through the camera lens as often as possible. She finds hope for life in Colossians 1:17. You can connect with Andrea on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter and find more of her writings at www.emptyplatefullheart.com.