Multiple sclerosis can come between a husband and wife just as easily as it can bring them closer together. Both parties must come to grips with overwhelming changes in marital roles.
It is vital to keep the husband and wife relationship above MS. My last post explored how the patient/spouse can encourage marital harmony. Here are five ways that the caregiver/spouse can strengthen the marriage.
Your life has changed dramatically through no fault of your own. It’s only natural that you resent the added responsibilities and financial concerns, but don’t forget that your spouse is experiencing similar feelings. Just as you’ve needed time to adjust to life as a caregiver, she has had to adjust to life with a chronic illness and, in some cases, a loss of independence. It’s okay to resent MS, as long as you don’t resent the person with MS.
You’ve got your share of problems, and you know that stress will aggravate MS. The temptation to shield your loved one from stress is great, but could lead to a lack of communication and feelings of isolation. It is far better to bring issues out into the open so that both partners understand and contribute to possible solutions. Your spouse is still an adult... with all that goes along with it. Remember that you are still partners, and resist the urge to over protect.
Being a caregiver/spouse is treading a fine line in a marriage. Don’t get so carried away with your responsibilities that you fail to see your spouse as a multi-dimensional human being with a complex array of feelings that have nothing at all to do with MS. Don’t forget to explore other topics.
Even if she doesn’t mention it, assume there is a level of MS trouble going on. It could be fatigue, depression, or pain that she hasn’t mentioned. Understand that she may be silently fighting MS while doing her level best to hide it. Remind yourself that she is living with a chronic illness that knows no cure. Imagine how you would feel if you lost even a fraction of your independence.
You’ve got a lot on your plate and sometimes is feels as though she is just not doing her part. Look a little closer. She may be pushing herself harder than you realize. Notice the extra effort on her part and let her know how much you appreciate it. A heartfelt “thank you” goes a long way.
MS, beast that it is, has no boundaries. Nothing is sacred, not even romance. This is a battle you can’t afford to lose. Show her that she is as appealing as ever! Grand gestures are not necessary; romance can be found in the smallest acts... hugs and kisses when least expected, a stroke of the hair, a whispered, “I love you.” It will come back to you in abundance.