Coming this May, I will have been married for 19 years. My wife, Maryse, is my best friend. She is my greatest support, my biggest fan, a great encouragement, and source of strength in my life. I am not sure when she made the commitment, “for better or for worse”, she fully understood the promise she was making. Yet through the good and the bad, in sickness and health, she has never failed me. I love her so much, and can’t imagine having anyone else in my life.
A successful, loving relationship can be one of the strongest supports to live and thrive will dealing with chronic illness. But to have a healthy marriage or relationship takes work, and when there is sickness involved, even more work. Relationships don’t just happen overnight, and they don’t simply remain strong without conscious effort from the people involved. This is common sense, but in the case where one member of the relationship is chronically ill, this becomes magnified. Deliberate action, understanding, and attention is critical to sustaining and even growing a strong relationship.
Below I outline 9 deliberate things I have discovered are needed for a successful relationship while living with chronic illness, in my case, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Two points about this list.
-These are not listed in order of importance.
-These apply to both individuals in the relationship, the person who is chronically ill and the person who is well. Both must work on the relationship and do these things to make it work.
Acceptance – Accept one another just the way you are. With many of the reality shows, there has come an unrealistic idea of what people can expect in relationships. He should be built, handsome and have tons of money. She should look like the supermodel. These are neither healthy nor realistic expectations. It is one thing to want your spouse to be healthy and strong; it’s another thing to want them to be something they are not. Don’t compare them to others, this is not fair. Accept each other for the person you each are.
Patience – Learn to be patient with each other. Give each other time to grow. Give each other space to learn. If you have been diagnosed with an illness be patient with your spouse, allow them to time to adjust and learn about what you are going through. If your spouse is the one who is sick, be patient with them; they are going through things, physically and emotionally that may be difficult to understand.
Commitment from Both – It takes a whole, committed effort from both parties. Some people suggest a relationship or marriage is a 50/50 split regarding effort. That is totally wrong. What happens when one spouse can only put in 35 percent? Something somewhere will be missing. If each person tries to put in 100 percent all the time, then on days when one person is struggling or unable to give everything, the relationship will remain strong because the other spouse makes up for the lack. Don't just give 50 percent, give 100 percent.