When You Say I Do – Taking Wedding Vows Seriously | Chronic Illness and Marriage
When You Say I Do – Taking Wedding Vows Seriously | Chronic Illness and Marriage – With my 13 year Anniversary fast approaching I started wondering how others react when their loved one becomes chronically ill. Do they stay by their side knowing it will not be easy? Or do they leave because this is not what they “signed up for”? It just makes me think of our wedding vows “I, (name), take you (name), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part”….When you Say I Do.
Sure we get up in front of our family and friends and recite this and celebrate the love we have for each other, but do we ever stop and truly think about what this may mean? Most don’t until we are faced with this, “in sickness and health” we do not ever imagine one of us becoming so sick we will need to be not only their husband/wife, but also their caretaker.
The stress of taking care of this person who was once healthy and independent can cause some grief or feelings of life is just unfair. Not to mention if this person was once working and helping with the finances. This for “richer/poorer” comes in to play real fast when it’s one income that may not be enough to cover the bills and obligations you two once had. “For better or worse” this certain vow reminds me of the mood swings that can come with a chronic pain disease or chronic illness. Some days we can be okay and some days look out…the pain is too much and we will probably snap at you even though you truly did nothing wrong.
There is also a sense of guilt the sufferer has, do they want to see their loved one having to do all this for them? Absolutely not, they never asked for this! They would love to be healthy again, probably more than anyone understands. Does our loved one deserve these up and down mood swings? Probably not, but unfortunately it’s all part of grieving our old lives and just not able to cope with this never-ending pain.
I often wonder if it would be easier to just separate so that our loved ones would not have to go through this too, but then I think back to these simple words spoken in front of all of our family and friends. We made a commitment and for what ever reason this was placed in our lives, and we will see it through.
When talking to others who also have encountered such a drastic life change, I found many who say it either brought them closer than ever or their partner could not handle it and left. Some leaving after 15+ years of marriage. According to the American Psychological Association showed divorce rates are 40% to 50% without some prominent illness. I decided to research what the rates were for a couple that had their partner who became disabled.
With this type of stress in their relationship would they be better or worse? The rates honestly surprised me, I had lots of different data some too old to really give me an accurate reading on this question. I just hoped more couples had remembered these vows and stuck with it, but if one person tries and the other person doesn’t this marriage will be set up for disaster, leaving the disabled partner to fight this alone.
A couple that experiences a sudden disability in one partner are now considered “High Risk” for a divorce. They also have found in this review that divorce rates were anywhere between 8-48%. So why is it some couples can grow closer through this experience while others find it to be too much?
There are four key steps to keep your relationship alive:
The first is to “Separate the Person From the Pain“. This can be difficult with medication, moods, and feeling horrible. The main thing is to always remember my spouse did not choose this.
The second is to “Keep Living Even While Hurting“. This one is a hard thing to do when you experience a chronic pain condition or any condition that brings you to a halt. Maybe it just means to find the good in each day.
The third is “Love Even While Hurting“. I never stopped loving my spouse, I just may not have always shown it in all the ways I did before. I have learned to stop and remember it’s not his fault I’m this way, and he doesn’t deserve me getting snippy with him and he is just trying to help.
The fourth and final key step says to “See the Heart Not the Chart“. If your spouse goes to appointments with you, or even keeps track of your medications, It is very easy for them to start seeing you as a patient of theirs. I believe this is simply saying to stop and just seize the moment, look into their eyes remember the reasons you fell in love and remember their heart. Share the good memories you two have together and celebrate the little victories in each day.
I have also learned to say thank you to my husband for everything he does, just so he knows how much I truly appreciate him. I have learned we need to be each others rock, to lean on one another “in good times and in bad”. To understand it’s okay that my husband can have a bad day too or may be tired and hurting himself. The bills, the kids needing things, all the normal stresses of life with a limited income can come crashing down on us and it’s very easy to come unglued on each other and even blame one another. We just have to remember we are in this together for “better or worse” and remember the vows we spoke when we say I do.
I would like to hear how your disability has affected your marriage for good or for bad and why do you think it went this way? What have you found helpful for keeping your marriage alive after?
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