Focus on the Family

When Reality Sets In

Few things in life test wedding vows like chronic illness.

by Erin Prater

All marriages face obstacles. Most, however, aren't as pervasive as chronic illness, which can rear its ugly head on a daily basis: Your wife, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, may wake up on a Saturday too fatigued to attend the all-day BBQ festival you both had been looking forward to. Your husband's Crohn's disease severely limits where and what the two of you can eat. Your wife's asthma flairs up during sex, causing the two of you to stop prematurely. Your husband, who suffers from diabetes, slips into a hypoglycemic seizure that sends you both to the hospital on a Sunday evening.

Spouses of individuals who suffer from physically debilitating conditions often find themselves filling both the role of spouse and caretaker/nurse. Spouses of individuals who suffer from mental conditions may find themselves feeling more like a babysitter than an equal partner in the marriage.

Few things in life test wedding vows like chronic illness. If your spouse was diagnosed before you tied the knot, you may have underestimated the toll the condition would take on the marriage. Or, you were so in love you didn't care. As time progresses, it's natural to wonder if you've gotten "in over your head." If your spouse was diagnosed after your wedding day, you may find yourself thinking "If only I had known how hard this would be. Would I have still signed up for this?"

Below are do's and don't's for the patient and spouse on coping with marriage and chronic illness:

For the Patient

For the Spouse