We can never predict what will happen in our future together as a couple. For many, they’ve come against a prolonged illness. If one spouse is facing an illness like this, there are many ways the other can show support.
Listen to this touching story from one of our radio listeners:
“I wanted to tell you about my father and my mother. Mom had come down with breast cancer when she was in her late thirties. She was a very beautiful woman, very tall and statuesque with an hourglass figure, so it was very devastating to her. She felt less attractive, less feminine and less desirable. And my father—who in general is not very good at expressing these types of things, he’s kind of at a loss as to what to do—went out of his way to go and buy her satin sheets for the bed, which she had always wanted. And then he went to about ten different boutiques for women and shopped for nighties that would de-emphasize the loss of her breast and still make her feel very attractive and sexy. That went a long way toward Mother’s psychological and emotional healing.”
The effect of a long-term illness on a marriage is significant. One person has the illness, but both of you are suffering. There’s loss of income, loss of intimacy, and loss of so much else. This where persevering love comes in. This is where that vow you may have spoken, “In sickness or in health,” must be acted upon. Those words sounded easy when you exchanged vows and cake. But do you have what it takes when you face the losses that come with a prolonged sickness? This is where your character is tested. This is where you become more Christlike as you minister to your suffering spouse.
Let’s break this down into three areas with a strategy for each.
- The physical aspect. How can you accommodate your spouse in your home? What can you do to make it easier for him or her to get around? Will you need additional assistance? If this is difficult financially, where can you go for assistance? Seek to make your home as comfortable and workable as possible for whatever situation your spouse is facing.
- The emotional aspect. You’re going to try to be strong for your spouse, helping him or her to hang in there emotionally. That will mean that you are constantly giving. You need a strategy that allows you to get away once in awhile in order to recharge your own emotional batteries. Maybe lunch with a friend, or continuing with your bowling league, or whatever. Don’t feel guilty about that. You need it.
- The spiritual aspect. Spiritually, it will probably take everything you’ve got and more to get through this stage of life. It’s a deep passage. Many times it feels like the “valley of the shadow of death.” You need strong leadership from your pastor, from your church, from a core group of people who are praying for both of you.
Take these three areas—physical, emotional, spiritual—and brainstorm with your family how toget strategies in place. Also, get advice from your doctor, experts, and counselors who specialize in these areas.
For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!