On this episode of DETANGLE
What can you do if your partner gets diagnosed with a chronic illness?
After retirement age, there is a higher chance that your partner will get a serious diagnosis. And now you might ask, “What can I do if something like this happens?”
Well, it depends, but communication is still one of the most important aspects.
Relationships are wonderful, and most people wish to have that happily ever after. Another thing about these close connections between people that we call relationships is that they are actually kind of challenging.
Now imagine that your loved one suffers from a chronic illness or some other debilitating condition. It can feel emotionally and physically draining to maintain a happy relationship in a scenario like this one.
Many times, when you are together with a person who suffers from a long-term condition, it can be very difficult for you to adjust your day-to-day life in order for everything to be well adapted to your spouse’s needs.
And it doesn’t mean that you don’t want to do that! We are sure that you wish the best for your loved one, but probably it is your first time doing that, and you have so much more to learn.
In this article, we are going to highlight and discuss some tips that might help you on this journey. Stay with us to find out more about how you can balance your lifestyle while taking care of your spouse.
Make sure that you are ready
Having a spouse who has a chronic illness is not easy, and not all people can commit to the challenges and responsibilities that come with it. And now it all depends on whether we are talking about your longtime partner or a potential new partner that you’ve just met.
In the first scenario, you need to know that for couples who have been together for a long time and are eventually married, the possibility of one of them getting ill is a factor that was probably already discussed. They expect this to happen at some point during their lives, and most of the time they are ready for whatever is going to come.
The second scenario is a little bit more complicated. There is a question that is going to pop up. You’ve met someone who might be the love of your life, and after you’ve dated for a while, they confess to you that they have a chronic illness that is going to get worse with the passing of time. Now, are you going to continue the relationship or give up on everything?
You have to decide if you feel like you are ready to commit to something like this. And it is a tough decision to make. One thing you should know before you get into this situation is that it is more acceptable to say no in the first place than to accept this relationship and then realize after a few weeks or months that you are not ready for it. Such behavior can only harm the other person.
Discuss and set the right boundaries
Oh, boundaries… You probably hear this very often: “You always need to set boundaries in a relationship.” or “Boundaries are one of the most important parts of a relationship.” and so on.
And you know what? Those who say things like this are not wrong. Boundaries are essential in any kind of relationship, and now that we are talking about the connection between you and your spouse, who has a serious diagnosis, boundaries can help you navigate this so much better.
You and your partner should first determine what their needs are, as well as what your needs are. Depending on their diagnosis, your partner will have a number of very specific needs for which you should take special care. Besides the health-related necessities, your partner should clearly tell you what their other needs are.
More than that, your desires are equally important as your partner’s. If you have any physical, intellectual, or emotional needs, you need to have a serious talk with your spouse about them. Maybe they are unable to meet some of them, and this is the perfect opportunity to discuss this matter and find a middle ground.
It should be important for you to have a fulfilling life. Many times the partner of someone with a long-term illness feels detached and disconnected from their loved one, but through effective communication, we can prevent that.
Spend time together
In any relationship or marriage, the time you and your spouse spend together is essentially the core of your connection. Actually, that’s what brought you together in the first place. We all enjoy spending our mornings with our partners, sipping coffee, and talking about interesting topics. or those peaceful evenings when you’re watching a movie and then sharing your opinions about it in a playful manner.
These moments are beautiful, and every relationship needs them in order to stay alive. Obviously, people are not the same, so they can enjoy a lot of different things. Each romantic relationship has its own language, and the way we spend time together with our partner depends on that.
If your partner has a chronic illness, you have to keep in mind that the time you spend taking care of them is not really the quality time we are talking about. Because you end up spending most of your time around your spouse, you might think that this is enough, but things do not actually work like this. We are also aware that there is such a thing as spending too much time together, and if this happens, it is not helping either of you two.
So, the best thing to do is to always make some space for the things that you enjoy doing together, like cooking, watching TV, going for a walk, or playing a game. This little time that is only for you and your spouse will help the relationship stay strong and healthy.
Take care of yourself
Have you ever heard about caregiver burnout? This phenomenon is more widespread than you might think and is also very sneaky. Many times, neither you nor your partner would be aware of what was going on.
Being a caregiver for your spouse can be difficult, stressful, and emotionally draining, which is why you need to take care of yourself. If you feel like you would need an extra hand, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
If you want to be able to take care of your spouse, you need to first take care of yourself. If you are also going to get sick, it will be much more complicated for you to fulfill this duty. But this doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to feel sick. That is why you need to be able to get help when push comes to shove.
Isolating yourself from family and friends; experiencing changes in appetite and sleep patterns; getting sick more frequently than usual; feeling exhausted; and noticing that no amount of sleep can help you feel better—these are all symptoms of caregiver burnout.
Be patient and support your partner
One thing is true: healing is a long and tedious process that can extend over the course of many years. It has its ups and downs, and dealing with all of this can be tiring and frustrating for both you and your spouse.
But now let’s just take a second and think about how your partner might feel in this situation. There are a lot of emotions that can be triggered by illness and the inability to function properly. One of the most common ones is helplessness. And besides being so widespread, it is also one of the most difficult feelings to deal with.
That is why your spouse needs you to be supportive and patient with them. They need to have someone by their side that can understand them and is not frustrated by their inability to do various tasks.
So, try to be empathic, always believe in your partner, and encourage them. It means more to them than you might think.
If you want to learn more about this topic, this amazing book might help you.
You should also check out: 4 Ways to Improve Communication in a Relationship