How to Cope with Chronic Illness in a Marriage

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Loving elderly couple sleeping in bed sick husband
The vows “in sickness and in health” take on new meaning when your spouse is diagnosed with a chronic illness — a medical condition that may last the rest of their life. This uninvited third party in the relationship may cause both partners to feel loneliness and frustration. But there are ways to make sure your spouse’s care does not sicken your marriage.
Keep the marriage first
When your partner is faced with an illness, both lives are affected by the profound changes. Reflect on your life together, recognize the strengths you have as a couple and realize it is okay to question why this is happening to you. Take time for your relationship because keeping the marriage strong helps both of you cope better with the illness. Make intimacy a priority, even it simply means quietly holding hands.
Reduce stress together 
Couples who tackle the illness together are often less stressed and less worried. Learn as much as you can about the chronic illness and treatment options so you will know what to expect.  It is essential to handle the situation together as opposed to simply being the caregiver and the patient.
For couples dealing with an illness, it is crucial to keep the lines of communication open. Not communicating can lead to resentment and distance. Talk about the illness while being considerate of each other’s needs and feelings. Stay open and honest about your feelings as well as your fears.
Get Help
While fighting a chronic illness, both the caregiver and patient will require help from others. Recognize when you are emotionally drained and talk about it with family, friends or a therapist. Support groups are also available online, in-person and over-the-phone. Some of them include:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

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