How to Navigate Sickness in Marriage

Till Sickness Do Us Part?

May 2, 2016 | Posted in: Chronic illness and relationships, chronic illness; support, Marriage, Relationships

On a balmy June evening, with the sand beneath us, the waves behind us and the sun bathing us in its golden light, my husband and I committed our lives to one another. “For richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, as long as we both shall live” we giddily declared our love for one another. Which wasn’t near as frightening as it should have been because, you see, our love was bigger than all of those things and “love conquers all.”

Till Sickness Do Us Part?

But then the storm hit.

I’d always known I was some sort of sick—sick more often and more severely than others. What I didn’t know was why. I also knew my infections were picking up speed, gaining momentum at an alarming rate. I told myself it was fine. I was tired, stressed from all that wedding planning. I did not tell myself the truth —-that rare disease and chronic illness would soon weave themselves into the very fiber of my marriage, that the “in sickness and in health” portion of our vows would be tested on a regular basis.

Till Sickness Do Us Part?

Maybe the support beams of your relationship have been forced to withstand high winds and rains as well. Maybe it’s been far harder and less glamorous than you imagined it would be. Welcome to the club. Maybe this is all new to you, and you’re wondering how far your marriage can bend around your disease without breaking.

Here are three tips for making relationships work in spite of rare disease and chronic illness:

1) Be Honest. It isn’t always easy for me to hear about how hard my illness is on my husband. But, knowing the truth about how much he’s giving up to care for me helps me appreciate him all the more. Honest communication lets me know when my husband has too much on his plate, and it’s time to ask for help or make a change. (i.e. is it time to hire a housekeeper?) Vomiting out all of my emotions about life in the day to day allows me to feel connected to my husband. Knowing I can share my “ugliest” emotions and still be met with love and support is important to me. Honesty keeps us connecting while preventing resentment built on details not shared.

2) Invest in One Another. This can be simple and tailored to what your body will allow. Watch a favorite television show together; eat a meal together, call and check-in midday just because. Have a real conversation when your body allows. Every once in a while my husband and I get a babysitter and go on a “hot date” (anytime I put on earrings my husband says it’s a hot date) to the movie theater. The movies are indoors, cool, dark and allow me to sit, making it an ideal outing for my body. It’s relaxing and easy. This might look completely different for you and your partner. Whatever it looks like, don’t forget to make investing in one another a priority.

3) Find the Humor. Laughter breaks the tension. It reminds us that we’re on the same team. It lightens the load and pulls back the curtains of darkness. My husband and I make “your mom” jokes at inappropriate times. (Is there an appropriate time? I’m not sure.) I once texted him in the middle of a particularly difficult day to tell him I loved him. He responded with, “I love your Mom.” I laughed so hard tears ran down my face. Sure, you and your partner will laugh about things that are actually funny, but it’s not a prerequisite. What matters is in spite of the pain, you’re finding ways to enjoy life together.

Yes, the storms of sickness can be fierce. But your love is fiercer. Click To Tweet

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20 Comments

  1. Robbi
    May 2, 2016

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    Love this. I think these are actually good ideas for all marriages. It is so sad how our society has made marriage all about the fuzzy feeling sort of love, not the lasting for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health kind of love. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Stacey Philpot
    May 2, 2016

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    Yes, Robbi! So true. Those fuzzy feelings account for such a small part of marriage, but the commitment is what takes us across the finish line.

  3. Wallace
    May 2, 2016

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    Wow, very powerful. “Through sickness and health.” Hope you’re feeling better. Thanks for the great Strategies.

  4. Kelly S
    May 2, 2016

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    Great advice for any marriage, friend! Can I just gush over your wedding photos a minute? I mean, that smile of utter love and contentment on your face–precious!

    • Stacey Philpot
      May 3, 2016

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      I mean, I think the photos are pretty amazing, but I’m also a little biased. 🙂

  5. Stacy Lee Flury
    May 2, 2016

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    What has made my marriage stronger is because of illness of my husband ( two strokes, Lyme’s disease for the 3rd time and severe eczema). It has stretched our faith in God and in each other. Illness is the test of love of how much you are willing to sacrifice for the one you love so much, just like Jesus sacrificed his life for us on the cross. Praying and giving encouragement is the best healer of all. And of course, the devotion and love towards your spouse.

    • Stacey Philpot
      May 7, 2016

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      Yes, Stacy Lee Flury. You have nailed it. I think we romanticize love and underestimate how frequently love and sacrifice go hand and hand.

  6. Sarah Philpott
    May 3, 2016

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    Very powerful, Stacy. I can’t imagine how hard it is to navigate a marriage during chronic illness.

    • Stacey Philpot
      May 3, 2016

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      It looks a lot different than the “normal” marriage, for sure.

  7. Marie
    May 3, 2016

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    Such beauty and love in your photos! I pray your marriage and you grow stronger!

  8. Kayla Fioravanti
    May 3, 2016

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    Great advise in sickness and in health.

  9. Mihaela Echols
    May 3, 2016

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    I love how posited you are about what others may find very hard.

  10. Amy
    May 4, 2016

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    What great advice for any marriage. Especially a marriage with little kids too! That’s the life stage we are in, and finding the humor, and making sure we are making time for one another certainly makes the biggest difference. And when we fail to listen to each other, we fail to truly connect and things fall apart.

    • Stacey Philpot
      May 7, 2016

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      Isn’t amazing how powerful simple things like humor and really listening can be? But they’re so easily crowded out in the day to day demands of life. Wishing you many laughs and meaningful conversations today!

  11. Heather DeGeorge
    May 6, 2016

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    I. am. dying. at your husband’s text response. And I needed that smile. My husband’s sickness set in 6 months after we were married and it’s been almost 17 very. hard. years. I cannot thank you enough for making me feel like I’m not alone “out there”. I hope that your sickness is resolving or at least manageable. <3

    • Stacey Philpot
      May 7, 2016

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      Thanks for loving so faithfully, Heather DeGeorge.

      And he’s a pretty funny guy.

      You are so NOT ALONE. We’re all in this together.

  12. Melinda
    May 9, 2016

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    There are some pearls in here! I love the practical tips for all of us to honor our spouse in every season.

    Your pursuit of love makes me want to love better. Thank you so much for this gift.

  13. Ree
    May 23, 2016

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    Wow! Amazing I found this. I’ve been searching for a website with informative information with chronic illness / marriage topics. I too suffered from interstitial cystitis and a prolapse of course after birthing four beautiful babies. We had been married four years when I underwent a surgical treatment that I thought would solve all my/ our problems. The product, polypropylene pelvic mesh. As soon as I woke up from surgery, I knew something was horribly wrong. My right leg was numb from my pelvis to my knee cap. Too make a long story shorter. I/ we have suffered tremendously. I will never ever be the same. Ever. It has changed me. It changed him, and our family dynamics, and our four children as well. Six years later, we are still married, because he really must love me! We are ready to celebrate our twelvefth anniversary on Thursday!!! The struggle is real. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions, doctor appointments, revision surgeries to remove as much as the mesh that was inserted inside me, chronic infections, and now glorious menopause. Yea, it’s been hell. Really. We are always trying to make eachother a priority. We pray together too. So many, marriages do not survive when a spouse is sick. I’m thankful he has endured, better or worse, and sickness and in health and let’s not forget richer or poorer, because that too comes from a household with a chronically ill person.
    So, thank you. Thank you, sincerely, for your intimate truthful account and great informative advice into what you’ve found that works for you. I’m actually looking forward to sharing this with my friends who I belong to a wonderful support group of women who are just like me. I’m sure this will be a helpful resource for them as well. Thank you again. Bless you and your husband and your marriage. He should be very proud of you! Indeed.

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