10 Practical Ways to Nourish a Marriage While Living with a Chronic Illness
I’ve been a sick bride for the majority of my married life. Just one month after our wedding day, I got the call from the doctor telling me they needed to run more tests. 6 months later I was having surgery to remove precancerous cells from my cervix. It wasn’t long after that when my body took on one more issue after another. This wasn’t my plan for life- to have the vitality snuffed out of me when I just began my journey of being a wife.
It’s so easy for me to take for granted the lifestyle of being married with a chronic illness because it’s pretty much all I know. But this is not everyone’s situation. When chronic illness hits a marriage, generally, it’s when the husband and wife are older, and they’ve been grounded in their marriage for many years. Of course, this is not always the case. Whether you’re young or old, dealing with failing health is always a blow to your lifestyle and your relationships. Somehow, you have to figure out how to adapt as a married couple when your quality of life is no longer what it once was.
For both spouses, chronic illness will put stress on any marriage.
The healthy spouse may carry more of the household responsibilities, the task of taking care of their sick spouse, and add to that, their own loneliness and frustration based on their current marital situation.
The sick spouse might carry more physical pain, guilt because of their limitations, and depression because their health situation looks hopeless.
Either way you look at it, marriage and chronic illness is no picnic!
Maybe you can relate to this?
I firmly believe chronic health issues are on the rise. When you learn that the foods we eat aren’t nearly as nutrient-dense as they once were and the amount of toxins we’re putting into our bodies are on the rise, it’s no wonder we’re dealing with so many health problems!
Being that I’ve had so many women contact me about their health issues, I thought I’d put together some practical ways to help you have a thriving marriage in spite of your circumstances.
10 Practical Ways to Nourish a Marriage While Living with a Chronic Illness
1. Be committed to the things that actually matter.
I had to learn how to prioritize my life real well based on my health issues. It’s amazing how quickly one will realize the importance of an event or gathering. I always asked myself if I said, ‘yes’ to this one thing, how would it impact my priorities. Would it help it or hinder it?
My top 4 priorities are below; maybe this list is something that will help you?
- Draw closer to Jesus.
- Draw closer to your husband.
- Draw closer to your children.
- With the physical strength you do have, use your spiritual gifts to bring God glory. This pursuit will help you to take your eyes off of you and your circumstances and place them on the Lord. This mindset will help you to thrive in life.
2. Seek to be a wife of integrity.
I have tried to be a wife of my word regardless of what my body was going through. I didn’t want to say yes to outside things or people and then have my husband get my leftovers all because I overtaxed my body.
3. Plan your meals.
I’m a planner, but when you’re hit with chronic illness, sometimes plans fail. I have found that when I take the time to make sure meals are laid out, and a trip to the grocery store is scheduled, things run more smoothly in our household. This simple act blesses my husband as he sees I take the effort to minister to him (especially since he knows I hate to cook!)
4. Keep a routine.
When my sons were little, we had a pretty tight routine. On the days that were hard for me, I tried to push through as best I could to get just the smallest tasks done. On the days that were extremely difficult for me that left me in bed, my husband and sons were accustomed to our routine. They were able to pick up where I left off.
5. Embrace grace.
You never know when you’re going to have a bad day, so one of the things I’ve learned to say in my home is this:
“It’s a plan, not a promise.”
The mantra below helped me to deal with the guilt because I couldn’t do some of the simplest things for my family…
“It’s not the best, but it’s the best I can do.”
6. Continue to date your spouse in spite of your limitations.
Gone are the days of when we were dating and doing physical activities with one another. I no longer ride a bike or hike with him like I did years ago. Instead, we’ve found other ways to connect. Many times we’ll go for a walk (just a little bit of sunshine and movement will do wonders for a sick body), or we’ll have a lunch date where we talk about our hopes, dreams, fears, or just life in general.
7. Find a shared interest.
When you’re living with limitations, you have a choice- wallow in what you can’t do or find something you can do! I believe with my whole heart that the Lord used my physical limitations as a means for me to write for Him here on this blog. Because of this, my husband and I do this ministry together; it’s a shared interest. We also connect as I draw close to him when I show interest in his business.
8. Fight to remain physically intimate.
Physical intimacy can be difficult for a chronically ill spouse. I know! You can read this post here to find out more. Whether you’re too tired or you’re in too much physical pain, seek to plan your times of intimacy or be creative in the bedroom with your limitations. Physical intimacy, in some form, needs to take place for the two of you to connect on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Do whatever it takes to keep the sexual intimacy alive in your marriage.
9. Avoid toxic relationships.
I have learned over the years that I don’t have the physical, emotional, and mental strength to put up with a toxic relationship. There is enough toxicity in my body that I don’t need to invite more toxicity into my life. Walking away from the toxic drama allows me to focus on nourishing my marriage, my family life, and my body. Personally, I think Satan uses toxic relationships as a means to distract us from our priorities. Be discerning about who you hang out with! Some people can suck the life right out of you and then the next thing you know, you’ve got nothing to give to your husband.
10. Work on bettering your health.
Quite frankly, I would’ve been one happy camper if I was able to avoid the restrictive and disgusting diets, doctors’ appts. and supplements, but, I wanted my health back. I wanted to bless my husband and be a wife of strength rather than a debilitated wife.
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. Proverbs 31:17 (NIV)
God is the Great Physician, and I KNOW He can heal anyone anytime He’d like. He can completely heal your body if He chooses to. Be diligent and determined to seek out ways to better your health. I am on the road to having my health restored, but it’s been a long and difficult journey. I have read countless books on health and seen countless doctors, and in the process, I have become my own health advocate. (In all my years of seeking relief to my health problems, I have found that essential oils have helped me the most. You can find more about them here.)
Just because a spouse has physical limitations, this doesn’t mean we can’t have a thriving marriage!
I’ve written more on this topic in my ebook, In Sickness and In Health: Dealing with Chronic Illness in Marriage. Get it for free when you subscribe.
Live a poured out life for Christ,
What a blessing it was to find this in my inbox today. Cannot tell you how much I needed this
I feel like I can breathe now that I know someone understands my feelings about all of this!
I never figured out how to be this Proverbs 31 wife when I struggled with so many illnesses.
I am in rears right now. A huge weight is off my shoulders now that I know I can be what I
need to be without all the guilt of being perfect in Gods and everyone’s eyes. I am still learning,
still figuring out how to prioritize things. But thanks to you, I have a better idea. I would also
like to contact you about maybe using this post on my new blog. I hadn’t yet figured out what I
wanted to write about for my first post. But I think this would be perfect. And I want to make sure
you get all the credit for the idea. Thank you so much from my heart. I am truly thankful for your
openness and honesty about this subject.
Hi Beth, what a blessing to hear that what I’ve shared has blessed you and you no longer feel alone. God is always with you! Keep your eyes on Him!
Thank you so much for this post! I too live with chronic illness. It is so hard some days. My husband tries to understand, but sometimes he doesn’t. Illness has been hard on our family. My husband and I even separated a few years ago and chronic illness and stress probably played a big role in that. Praise God our marriage is restored! I am working towards getting healthy and I pray my family will strive to live a healthy lifestyle also.
Love hearing how your marriage has been restored, Lynn! Continue to cling to the Lord in the midst of those hard days!
Thank you for this post! I developed a chronic illness shortly before being engaged to my husband (we have been married now just over a year). We are still trying to figure things out, but I do spend a lot of time feeling lost and overwhelmed and also guilty. My husband is very active, and I have a hard time getting over the feeling that I’m holding him back. Recently my health has been on a bit of an uptick, which has been a blessing. This list really helps to clarify goals and small steps for me to focus on on a daily basis.
What a great post! I have been dealing with a chronic illness for 9+ months now and have had to leave my job. The suddenness of us becoming a one income family was quite a shock and not something we were quite ready for. I spend my time and strength I have on running our home smoothly and making wise financial choices. I am also learning how to be a true keeper-at-home and just work to glorify God and my family.
God has Blessed me with today! He knows that I will find support, direction and comfort from your website. Thank you for encouraging me to continue His plan with my marriage, family, health and testimony! @DragonflyAdvoca and http://www.DragonflyAdvocacy.org have been in the works for a few years already and I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store for me!
I just want to thank you- I am doing a research paper on how chronic illness (specifically Fibromylgia and Chronic Fatigue) affects a marriage. Part of my interest in this subject is hugely fueled because that is what I have been facing for the majority of my life and want to know if God calls me into a marriage what my spouse and I say and do.
I not only appreciate your honesty about the subject, but the Godly perspective you share! Thank you for reminding me to fight and choose joy.
So glad to hear what I’ve shared has helped you, Rachel!
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