This is a guest post by contributing writer, Stephanie Pawlowski
When your spouse is facing chronic pain or illness, it can be a difficult and draining time for you and your family. Everything looks fine on the outside, and it’s hard to understand why your life together seems to have changed so much. Maybe the things you used to do together aren’t enjoyed any longer, maybe your spouse is constantly tired and napping all the time and (what seems like) skipping out on responsibilities, or maybe you are wondering how in the world can I understand what is going on inside them when they look ‘normal’ on the outside?
You are not alone. It is estimated that more than 133 million people in the U.S. have a chronic illness; this boils down to almost 1 in every 3 people. And these illnesses are affecting relationships, families, and the lives of many caregivers.
If your spouse is facing chronic pain/illness, here are 4 ways to support him or her:
- Have an attitude of acceptance. Hey, this stinks for the both of you. Just because pain or fatigue doesn’t have a set cause or clear solution doesn’t mean it’s not there. Accepting this stage in your lives changes your perspective regarding the valley your loved one is walking through and will prove to be beneficial for both you and them.
- Offer a hand, a hug, and a shoulder to cry on without being asked. Sometimes just hearing some simple loving words like, “I’m sorry you’re hurting”, “Can I get you some tea and rub your feet?”, or “Would you like some company at the doctor?” can make the whole world brighter and less hopeless. Your loved may be enduring their own personal stress about how they are going to get through this, but the journey can be so much easier when they know you are there with them and that you will walk this difficult road together.
- Keep an open mind…about treatment options, dietary changes, and even redefining quality time, family nights, & date nights. Just because life has to look a little different right now doesn’t mean it can’t still be great. Consider staycation family date nights, where you rent a movie with popcorn, play your favorite old board games, or try out a new cooperative video game. Even surfing the web for crazy news stories together or battling it out in “Words with Friends” can make a boring evening much more fun.
- Be understanding about limitations. Sometimes your spouse can’t finish the dishes or has to back out of the weekend plans again. Or sometimes, their limitations extend to bed rest and going out on disability. Trust me, they don’t like it any more than you do, but they need to know you have their back. Think about bringing home dinner one night a week (or more), or if it’s in your budget, hire a maid to help out with the deep cleaning once a month. Marriage is a partnership, and it’s important to remember that when one person can’t carry their load, the other partner needs to pull back & help out for a season.
Remember that this is just a season, and stress at home can certainly exacerbate pain or cause a flareup. The most important thing is that you are both in this together, to love and support each other through it all. Supporting your spouse facing chronic pain or illness could be the greatest act of love you can show them.
For better or worse, in sickness and in health. And as always, a little grace goes a long way…
How have you and your spouse or partner navigated the ups and downs caused by chronic illness or pain? We would love to know!