Chronic illness such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and others can cause stress and strain on any relationship.
The truth is that the partner who is suffering from the condition doesn’t feel like the person they were before they developed the condition.
On the other hand, the other partner may not feel like they are equipped to handle the situation.
The strain can challenge even the best understanding of the words “in sickness and in health.”
Some studies have revealed that relationships in which one partner has a chronic illness is much more likely to fail if the two are very young.
In addition, partners who must be caregivers are much more likely to experience depression than those who do not.
Even in the best/strongest of relationships, a chronic illness can be extremely challenging.
However, but with plenty of commitment and patience, there are ways the strain can be dealt with.
Communication is key
No matter what the issues are, relationships are going to suffer when there is no communication between the two partners- especially when there is no obvious or easy solution. The lack of communication leads to a lack of intimacy and feelings of distance.
Taking the time to find ways to speak openly about the challenges of a chronic illness is the very first step in effectively solving the problems and helping to strengthen your relationship.
On the other hand, the right level of communication is the key to strength. You don’t want to be consumed with the problem, but you don’t want to avoid it either.
Ease stress and anxiety
Sure, it is perfectly normal to experience feelings of sadness and even anxiety when you have a chronic illness.
Plus, add to the fact that many of the chronic illnesses are unpredictable, and you have an increase in stress and anxiety.
One of the best ways to handle stress and anxiety is to figure out what is triggering it and find out ways that you can address it.
Following are some tips to help relieve your (and your partner’s) stress and anxiety:
- Learn more about your condition and how you can reach out to available resources.
- Pay attention to for signs of depression- sadness is normal, clinical depression is not.
- Consider going to counseling- either together or separately
- Acknowledge the changes in your relationship- things are going to be different and you’re both going through it.
Be honest about what you need
Many times, individuals with a chronic illness are going to give off mixed messages.
After all, when they are feeling good, they are going to want to do things on their own- but then when they are feeling bad and others don’t help them out, they become resentful.
So, if you are the individual with the illness, be honest and direct with your partner about what you need when you need it- remember that your partner is not a mind reader.
There’s no doubt about it, a chronic illness is going to shift the balance in a relationship. The more responsibilities that one must take on, the greater this imbalance is going to be.
If you’re the one who needs care, you will feel much less like a partner and more like you are a patient.
On the other hand, if you are the one giving the care, you may end up feeling resentful or overwhelmed. This shift can end up creating a sense of loss and threatening self-esteem.
Pay attention to the health of the caregiver
The partner who is the caregiver must also take time to pay attention to his or her own emotional and physical health. If you don’t, you could end up with caregiver burnout.
This is a significant risk and is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Withdrawal from social interactions
- Changes in sleep
- Feelings of helplessness/hopelessness
- Changes in weight and appetite
- Feelings of wanting to hurt self or person being cared for
- Emotional/physical exhaustion
- Lowered immune system
If you are the partner who is the caregiver and you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you must seek help for yourself as soon as possible and get help in taking care of your partner.
Take time out for social interactions
When suffering from or caring for someone suffering from a chronic illness, you can end up isolating yourself. However, you must keep in mind that having strong relationships can help you to avoid depression.
The problem is that when there is a chronic illness, the person with the illness may be unable to visit other people’s homes because they are in a wheelchair- or you may avoid interactions because you’re afraid of being rejected by others.
In addition, it may be an illness in which the flare-ups are unpredictable, so it can be difficult to make plans and follow through.
Keep in mind that if you are the one who is the caregiver, it is okay to socialize alone and not feel guilty about it. After all, you must keep your own identity too.
In addition, keep a list of things that must be done when planning social interactions so that you can be ready when asked.
Talk about financial strains
When it comes to a chronic illness, finances can be a major problem. You may lose income because the illness keeps you from working.
You will most likely have an increase in medical expenses or remodeling costs if you have to make your home wheelchair-accessible. The caregiver may not be able to leave a job they don’t like due to insurance coverage.
Therefore, if one of you is diagnosed with a chronic illness, you will want to take the time to work with a financial planner who has expertise in this field.
In addition, look into ways that you can cut your prescription costs as well as medical expenses related to physician visits or hospitalizations.
Value each other
While a chronic illness can be extremely challenging, it can also make a relationship stronger too. After all, you are a team- it’s hard, but you must keep the big picture in mind. Try to take the time to do one kind thing for your partner each day.
When you are in a relationship and one of you is diagnosed with a chronic illness, keep these things in mind and you’ll be more likely to get through it.