When you said your wedding vows, you promised, whether explicitly or implicitly, that you would care for your spouse in sickness and in health. And while the health part can be fairly simple, loving a spouse through a serious illness or injury can be an extremely demanding responsibility. Are you prepared to follow through?
5 Helpful Things You Can Do
No couple ever anticipates an illness or injury will occur in the middle of an otherwise vibrant marriage, but accidents show no favoritism.
“Trading in the traditional titles and responsibilities of husband and wife to that of patient and caregiver can take a tremendous toll on what was once a thriving marriage relationship,” one relationship expert writes. “If your spouse has become ill or disabled, there are things you can do to ensure that your love for one another stays at the forefront.”
You know your spouse best, but these tips should prove helpful in your situation:
- Assemble a Team of People
Under the current circumstances, you shouldn’t have to care for your spouse on your own. In fact, you may not be able to. Depending on the situation and limitations you have with time, money, and expertise, it’s possible that you’ll need a small team of people around you.
If, for example, your spouse has been involved in a truck accident, you’ll need an attorney to help you handle the insurance claims, settlements, and other legal/financial details.
If your spouse has a medical condition that requires the administration of a particular drug or procedure, you may need a nurse to stop in from time to time.
Whatever the case may be, it’s good to have people ready and qualified to help. From friends and family to doctors and lawyers, it can take an entire team.
Empathy may not come as naturally to you as it does to others, but you’ll need to hone these skills as you lend support to your spouse. Sometimes empathy looks like listening intently and giving your spouse time to verbalize what they’re going through. Other times it could look like hugging, kissing, and giving affirmation. You know your spouse better than anyone, so you should have a pretty good idea of what works.
- Manage Your Stress
This situation isn’t about you, but you can’t deny the indirect impact it has on your own emotions. As a caregiver, stress can be high. Left untreated, this stress can turn into anxiety and even depression. To prevent his from happening in your case, consider meeting with a therapist or counselor to help you talk through your experience.
- Don’t Do Too Much
You need to help your spouse, but finding a balance between lending a hand and being overly attentive is key.
“If the caregiving spouse does too much, he or she can become frustrated and exhausted, while the ailing spouse can become resentful – which can lead to conflict between you,” author Whitney Hopler writes. “Communicate with each other clearly about which specific tasks each of you should do.”
There’s also a time and place for letting others help. Instead of telling friends, family, and neighbors that you’re fine, let them help when they offer to bring over a meal, sit with your spouse, or help around the house. Not only will this remove some burdens from you, but it’ll also bless them.
- Make Time for Fun
If the caregiver-patient interaction becomes the entirety of your marriage, your relationship will eventually crumble. While this is certainly a major element of your new situation, don’t neglect the need to be husband and wife. If at all possible, make time for doing fun things together. Whether it’s watching a movie in bed or doing something outside of the house, little things like this keep the spark alive.
Putting it All Together
The only thing worse than living with a serious injury or illness is being married to someone who is suffering through a negative health situation. But it’s your marital responsibility to care for your spouse in both sickness and health. Step up and fulfill your role with poise, grace, and patience, because you never know when the roles could be reversed.