If you’re new to this series you can read the prior posts here:
And today’s post I’m closing up this series with, how to communicate with your spouse so you can manage the day to day life of living with chronic illnesses.
Every couple, whether you’re dealing with an illness or not, needs to learn how to effectively communicate with one another so you can have more harmony in your marriage and family life.
Know your roles in the home and create a plan.
For the sick spouse: Let your spouse know what you can and can’t do around the home, in your family life, outside commitments, etc.
List out household chores. Menu planning. Laundry duties. Kids activities. All the daily things needed to run a household. Try and establish a routine as much as possible so when the hard days come, your family will know what they need to do in order for your household to function.
Being intentional about this will help you thrive as much a possible as you walk through your times of suffering.
In my life we had someone clean our home once a week to help alleviate this duty from me. Having outside help in this area certainly helped us tremendously. When I encountered my bad days, my husband would take care of the meals and laundry so we could get by until I got well enough to take over my responsibilities once again. Our life went through this cycle for many years.
For the supportive spouse: let your spouse know you’ll work to make adjustments in your life so you can help ease their burdens and responsibilities.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Be intentional about extending grace and mercy.
Because the sick spouse can’t get rid of the illness, we often feel like our life is over. This perspective makes us feel like there is no hope. The supportive spouse should be the sick spouse’s biggest encourager (whether they are ill or not!) Chronic illnesses are chronic; a life of long-suffering that wears on our nerves. Sometimes all we see and feel is darkness. For the most part we lead a very isolated life and our main means of fellowship is our spouse. When the supportive spouse extends grace and mercy to us, (rather than complaining, criticizing and condemning us), it ministers to our souls. An extension of their grace and mercy tells us they love us. It tells us they’re here for us. It tells us they’ll be by our side ‘in sickness and in health’.
For the sick spouse: make sure you do your best to extend grace and mercy to your caretaker!! Just because your spouse is not suffering physically like you are, they are still going through a trial. Be patient with them. And be thankful that they’re standing by your side!
For the supportive spouse: you are a gift from God (even if you don’t hear this from your spouse!) God sees all you do.
Encourage fellowship with others.
Both spouses need fellowship! Don’t forsake this much needed element to your spiritual well-being. Make provisions so you can spend time with others, whether you visit them or they visit you.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
Many times in my own life I would force myself to be around others just so I wouldn’t plummet into a deeper depression. But I was careful with who I chose to have fellowship with since it took so much out of me. (Fellowship is talking with a Believer about the things of the Lord, as opposed to talking about the weather or the latest fashion. Superficial topics will not minister to a hurting and weary soul.)
A supportive spouse would do well to seek out fellowship for their spouse because sometimes in the mist of our misery we can’t see straight! My husband did just that. He constantly encouraged me to spend time with women who would minister to me. In fact, he went as far as calling them and setting up a time for us to get together.
Share your heart.
When I don’t feel well or when I’m really exhausted, I don’t talk much (or really at all). It’s easy for someone to think that I’m mad at them since I’m not speaking to them! So over the years I had to learn to communicate that one small truth about myself to my friends and family.
Also, let your spouse know that day if you’re having a particularly hard time, whether it be physically, emotionally, or spiritually, that way they’ll have a better understanding of what’s ahead for them and what they can pray for.
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Eccl. 4:9,10
Just these simple tips can help ward off any potential arguments.
Rebuke them in love, if need be.
Is the sick spouse angry at God?
Are they habitually taking their anger out on their family?
Are they turning inward and becoming depressed?
Are they comforting themselves through alcohol, over medicating on pain killers, food, pornography? Rather than finding comfort by seeking the Lord?
All of these paths will lead to more harm. Rebuking them is for their spiritual and physical good. When they purposefully take a path that is contrary to the Scriptures, their life is going to get worse, not better.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16,17
Many times through my pain and despair I’d lash out and my husband. Isn’t it sad that we take out our frustrations on the one’s we love the most? My man would gently say to me, “Have you talked to your God about all of this?” It was his gentle and loving way of rebuking me and pointing me back to my Savior. You see, our spouse can’t heal our bodies, only the Lord can. But what a supportive spouse can do is encourage us to cry out to God in our desperation because our God knows our needs.
If your sick spouse does not heed the rebuke, yet they are functioning in society, at work, in the church, etc. and they come home and take out their frustrations on you and the kids, then I’d recommend a few things:
1. Ask questions before the attacks happen. Sit down with them and find out what their expectations are, their ideals, and standards they have for their marriage and family while living with their illness.
2. Do they think it’s right for them if they treat everyone else with kindness and respect, but not you and the children?
3. Ask them how you should handle them when they get in a mood that is not pleasing to the Lord?
4. How would they like you to protect your marital relationship and the relationship they have with their children when the attacks or outbursts come? Should you and the kids leave the house? Should the sick spouse just leave the room until he can get himself under control? Seek conflict resolution to these potential threats to your marriage and family before they happen.
Encourage them to give you the answers for the problem that you’re dealing with. Basically, you need their help. You need them to guide you in this area because you don’t know how to handle it and you’re looking to diffuse the conflict. Your desire is to help them and help your family thrive during this hard time. You’re not their enemy. (You might need to remind them of that!) And always make sure you ask questions in a humble and gracious way; a way in which they know you are their friend and sister in the Lord.
In my marriage, sometimes I would just let my husband know I needed to be alone or I needed to get some rest. This usually took care of the problem.
Since we all fall short, any spouse, whether they are ill or not, will need to be rebuked at some point in their lifetime.
An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:5,6 NLT
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Gal. 6:1 NLT
If a person’s heart is to please the Lord and thrive in their marriage and family life, then it’s just a matter of time before the two of you will figure out how to go through life bringing glory to the Lord through your chronic illness.
Remember that God is allowing the illness to take place in your life (whether you’re the sick spouse or the supportive spouse), therefore don’t use the illness as an excuse to sin against Him and others.
Now it’s your turn! Is there anything else you can add to this list? Please share in the comments so others can benefit from it.
Live a poured out life for Christ,
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