Chronic Illness is bound to make an impact in your relationship.
But how do you not let your chronic illness ruin your relationship?
What are the signs your partner isn’t happy with all the being with a spoonie entails?
Interesting factoid: Did you know that there are studies that show that marriages where one spouse has a chronic illness are more likely to fail if the spouses are young? And spouses who are caregivers are six times more likely to be depressed than spouses who do not need to be caregivers.
So how do you save your relationship from chronic illness crumbling? Let’s talk about it.
How Does Chronic Illness Strain Relationships
First, I want to congratulate you for living with an illness and starting the process of thriving with an illness or as I like to say “living your illest life”.
Whether your focus is getting off medication or making it through the day without crying in a ball, the struggle is real in managing your chronic illness while keeping your relationship intact.
Having a chronic illness while maintaining a healthy relationship can be tough. It’s not unusual to feel a strain or to perceive distance from your partner.
Sometimes the strain come in the form of complaining that they have to do everything. They’ll say they take care of you, the house, you’re not “fun” anymore… Does any of this sound familiar?
But sometimes that strain comes from within. WE project how we feel about ourselves and our illnesses unto our loved ones.
You can fight this though.
By working on loving yourself fully you are more able to allow someone else to love you. By stepping outside of the stigma of “illness” and developing a chronic illness warrior mindset you are ready to fight for everything that is important to you.
Knowing that having a chronic illness can put pressure on your relationship means that you’re halfway to making sure it doesn’t ruin your relationship.
When you know better, you do better as the saying goes. Because you’re aware, you can begin to make a conscious effort to repair. (Hey that rhymed!)
Is a Chronic Illness Diagnosis a Non Negotiable in Relationships?
Chances are likely that at some point after you were diagnosed, you began feeling a sense of doom in your relationship.
Or maybe you found your partner post diagnosis and are waiting for the “other shoe to drop” because you believe this person is too good to be true.
I’ve talked about this before. How I thought I’d be chronically single after my diagnosis because no one would ever love me or find me desirable.
This can happen even when you’ve told them upfront everything about your illness – the good back and ugly. And even though everything seemed like it was fine, it’s not.
This didn’t come “out of nowhere”. Your partner needs time to process what you’re saying and time to understand the impact of being in a relationship with a spoonie.
Depending on your illness and the demands, I’d say after a while (6months to a year), your person should have acclimated to the new reality.
If they’re struggling, you may need to throw your relationship a life saver.
Your illness doesn’t have to ruin your relationship if you know what signs to look for.
Signs Your Partner is Struggling with Your Illness
Are you seeing signs that your partner isn’t doing well processing your diagnosis and all that it entails?
It’s hard to find balance and not fall apart when your illness is a giant bull in a china shop. If you’re struggling with coming to terms with this reality, imagine how your partner could feel.
Complaining is natural. We all do it.
It usually begins when your significant other realizes that your illness is now the main focal point of both of your lives. It may feel like all you ever talk about is how you’re feeling, or a new study or treatment you’re researching or venting about living with an illness.
They may start complaining about how much your diagnosis has taken away from them. But don’t take it too personally. It’s not you that they don’t like.
They don’t like how much YOUR illness impacts THEIR life.
Your partner is being asked to focus on something they hadn’t bargained for and it’s getting in the way of their vision for their perfect relationship.
You spending time focusing on our health and doing what needs to be done to take care of yourself means they may have to sacrifice in one way or another, be it time, effort, money, patience etc.
In turn, that leaves your partner to pick up the slack in the relationship. They have to adapt to new responsibilities they are now required to undertake. If they drop the ball on a task, it may feel like they are disappointing you.
It’s honestly a lot of pressure when you think about it.
Silence says a lot.
While not intentional, having a chronic illness can make you a bit “self-ish” for lack of a better term. You have to be honestly, if you want to get your health on track.
However, being in a relationship with a person with a chronic illness can sometimes be one-sided. Your partner may feel like their feelings aren’t considered at all AND that they can’t even talk to you about it – or anything for that matter.
Here’s an example: Let’s say your partner is feeling under the weather but they decide not to talk about their feelings or their ailments because it can be compared to your illnesses – so they suffer in silence.
Over time, bottling up these emotions and feelings causes resentment and burnout from the relationship.
Depending on the original dynamics of your relationship, there may even be power or attention struggles.
Power struggles are when your partner uses manipulation tactics to get the attention of the relationship back on them. So maybe out of nowhere they’re hit with some “emergent” need of their own that requires you to focus on them instead of your health.
I’m not a relationship coach, but I believe that you can maintain balance between your illness needs and your relationship.
5 Ways to Balance Your Illness and Your Relationship
Let’s talk about balancing your love life with your illness. It is possible to maintain healthy relationships with a chronic illness.
Here are a few realistic ways to find balance.
1. Active Listening
When one partner feels that they are unheard, unvalued or invisible in the relationship, it can be detrimental.
Talk about and acknowledge each other’s needs. I find that we (humans) suck at active listening. We just wait til it’s our turn to speak rather than listening, processing and acknowledging.
Your partner needs to know that even though your chronic illness is a major focus of yours, you still want to know how they are doing, feeling, thinking etc.
2. Quell Fears
You may be feeling powerless in the face of your illness. This sometimes comes out as being bossy or argumentative. But this is a cover up for fear, misery and loss.
If you’re feeling powerless, imagine how your partner feels not being able to heal you or take this pain from you. They have to stand by and watch.
Maybe the two of you have not talked enough about the logistics of your illness and all that it entails. Go back to active listening and have a real conversation about your concerns of how chronic illness is impacting your relationship or life in general.
3. State Your Needs
Your partner may not know what you need or how to help you. Guide them. Tell them what you need and be clear.
You also need to have your partner state what their needs are. Not just as it pertains to their needs from you when dealing with your illness but their needs from you as a partner in a relationship.
More cuddles? More words of affirmation? To be included in more doctor appointments? Some planned ME time once a week?
You both need to believe that you can actually raise your concerns and needs bout your relationship. It will definitely be painful or uncomfortable rather but valuable.
4. Value Each Other
Who doesn’t like a little ego boost from their betrothed every once in a while?
When things become routine, they aren’t seen as “special” anymore. It’s just the status quo. But what happens when that is taken away or no longer there. How big of a gap would that leave?
While we may be very thankful, sometimes we don’t articulate it. It can come across as being taken for granted.
Let each other know how much they are valued and appreciated for what they do and their role in the relationship.
Please realize that even in the greatest of relationships there are problems. Everyone screams about #couplegoals or #relationshipgoals but they all stand their trials and tribulations.
The thing is, problems and issues come and go.
It may be about money or family or work. In your case it’s mostly about health (which impacts other areas as well).
Accept that even without a chronic illness your relationship was going to face trying times at some point.
It doesn’t make either of you a bad person or failure because the relationship is rocky. It just means that you’re both trying to work out what a relationship with chronic illness means.
Do not harp on the negative aspects of the relationship. The last thing you need is to stress yourself out. Find joy and gratitude in the smaller things and let those accumulate in your love bank.
Perspective is always key.
Relationships with an Illness Can Be Hard
Being able to put yourself first is sometimes necessary with a chronic illness but this has to be something you can agree on and come to terms with in your relationship.
Your partner could be a great source of support if you let them in on your journey. You can’t achieve optimum wellness all by yourself. You need accountability and lots of encouragement along the way.
Don’t let your chronic illness ruin your relationship. Keep communication open and build towards your illest love life.
How will you not let your illness ruin your relationship? Let me know in the comments below.