I’m not generally one to post a lot of religious information, mostly because I’m really not religious. I follow a Buddhist personality, but that’s about it.
However, my husband and I found this article on the Jehovah’s Witnesses website a couple of weeks ago about when a spouse has a chronic illness. Some of the language is ableist in nature I think. Obviously, there is also a little more religion than I would personally love to see, but what can you expect?
Here are some of the main points, though, that I found pertinent to our ongoing discussion of self-love, self-care, relationships, sex, and sexuality with chronic illness:
MARRIAGE can be a challenge, but when one mate becomes chronically ill while the other remains healthy, complications can multiply. * Are you caring for an infirm mate? If so, do any of the following questions worry you: ‘How will I cope if my mate’s health declines even further? How long can I continue to take care of my mate and also do all the cooking, cleaning, and secular work? Why do I feel guilty for being the healthy one?’
On the other hand, if you are the ailing spouse, you might wonder: ‘How can I respect myself when I’m unable to carry my load of responsibility? Does my mate resent me for being sick? Is our happiness as a couple over?’
Sadly, some marriages have not survived the strain caused by a chronic illness. Yet, this does not mean that your marriage is doomed to failure.
Many couples survive and even thrive despite the presence of a chronic ailment. Consider, for example, Yoshiaki and Kazuko. A spinal injury rendered Yoshiaki unable to make even the slightest movement without assistance. Kazuko explains: “My husband needs assistance with everything. As a result of caring for him, my neck, shoulders, and arms ache, and I am an outpatient at an orthopedic hospital. I often feel that caregiving is overwhelming.” Despite the difficulties, however, Kazuko says: “Our bond as a couple has become stronger.”
Rather than assume that you know the best way to show consideration for your spouse, why not ask him or her what would be most appreciated? Nancy, mentioned at the outset, eventually told her husband how she was affected by not knowing the family’s financial status. Now her husband endeavors to be more communicative in this regard.
TRY THIS: List ways that you feel your mate can make your present situation a little easier, and have your spouse do the same. Then switch lists. Each of you should select one or two suggestions that can realistically be implemented.
Together you might take regular breaks from serious medical concerns. Can you still enjoy some of the things you shared before illness struck? If not, what new activities can you try? It could be something as simple as reading to each other or as challenging as learning a new language. Having a life together outside the illness will strengthen your “one flesh” bond—and increase your happiness.
TRY THIS: List on paper the obstacles you face in taking care of your mate. Then make a list of steps you might take to overcome these or to cope with them more effectively. Instead of overanalyzing them, ask yourself, ‘What is the simplest, most obvious way to improve the situation?’
I’ll admit that their use of the word ‘mate’ is odd. I get why they chose that, though.
It’s important during our relationships that we all take care of ourselves, whether you’re monogamous, polyamorous, asexual, or a cis-gendered heterosexual white dude. Self-care and self-love are integral to how we interact with each other. These things color our relationships, how we communicate and interact with others.
I used to get really grumpy when I was hurting. I mean, I still do, but it’s different you know? I used to get incredibly combative and would brood.
Taking my emotions out on others – T, my sister, etc – did not lessen my pain. It did make me feel more like I deserved the pain, however.
It took me a while to realize how this affected my relationships. It took even longer to try to correct that.
The Spoon Theory has really helped. T and I have some code words we use as well, like Bingo Fuel. Bingo Fuel is simply the point where you’ve run out of enough fuel that you must turn back to ensure that you can get to base. T and I use this when we hike or snowshoe so that we can keep track of my energy/pain levels when we’re being active.
That still depends on me to evaluate constantly and communicate that need… which doesn’t always mean that I do this. The idea is a good one, though.
What about you? What are ways you’ve utilized to communicate illness issues better?