Monday, June 15, 2009


I read a statistic recently that stated the divorce rate is 75% where a chronic illness is present in either the husband or wife. This statistic originates from the National Health Interview Survey and is found all over the internet and beyond. Frankly, those results scare the hell out of me! Clearly, when "in sickness and in health" turns into just sickness, the stress on the marriage is enormous.

Of course, when we marry, we are bleary eyed and naive and never think about things like that. We will always be blissfully in love and nothing will ever change that...then in roars chronic illness. At that point, the chronic nature of the illness rewrites the script of your relationship. Roles change and plans for the future fall by the wayside. Every aspect of your marriage is effected: work and finances, chores, social life and sex are all different. Nothing looks the way it started out and the stress upon the marriage becomes overwhelming.

I met my husband while on vacation in Jamaica, several months after the suicide of my 1st husband. The last thing I was looking for was a relationship. But...I fell hard and fast, I was so madly in love and knew immediately that I had just met the man of my dreams, the person that I would spend many happy years with. There were several wonderful years, and then everything changed. Don't get me wrong, my husband still loves me dearly, as I do him, however, the stress on our marriage can no longer be hidden. We never fought, not ever, and people would jokingly state that our marriage made them "sick" as we were always lovingly gazing at each other and never would a cruel word leave our lips.

My husband states that he understands, and always bends over backward to try and help me with absolutely everything. The problem is however, his entire focus is me and doing all that he can for me, all the time. This approach has simply just worn him ragged, he is beyond exhausted in every way and I feel guilty...very guilty. I tell him very often that he should leave and find someone else to spend his life with, someone healthy. My intent is not a cruel one, simply that I love him and want him to live a normal life, one without all this extra stress and heartache. He gets very angry when I say that. I simply just feel that he did not "sign on for this" and being stuck with a sick wife is just not fair.

My husband has been coping fairly well, up until recently that is. Now, his stress level has peaked to the point where we are at risk for ending up as part of that 75% divorce rate statistic. He has tried to do it all, taking up the slack for me and he simply can not do it anymore. There needs to be better coping strategies put in place so that he can continue to cope and I can find a way to not feel so guilty for the extra stress put upon him. I have searched long and hard for methods to cope and have found a couple of things so far. This article and this one.

Above and beyond that--I think perhaps couples counselling may be helpful too. I have a hard time accepting and coping myself, but for my husband, he needs just as much, if not more support than I do. Here's to all the loving caregivers out there that do their very best to be supportive spouses to their ill partners!



nursebc1974 said...

I got sick 2 months after marrying my husband. I always tell him he got ripped off... but you know something, the man has never once complained. I believe (through being taught by my hubby) that some people feel their purpose in life is to be supportive to someone else and we are given the people we need right when we need them. I understand your thought and feelings too, as I've felt them myself. It IS unfair, fortunately for me he doesn't see it the same way. I guess we make up for it in other ways that makes them stay and keep loving us without another thought. ;-)
*hugs* Great story J

Neon Rose said...

I met my SO after I had gotten sick, so he knew about the In sickness part before we got together.. He also tried to do everything for me & is always trying to think of things that would make things easier on me.. But unfortunately, that stresses him out & he's getting sick.. (he's Dx'd with Type II diabetes last yr)

I so empathize with your guilt.. he does all this for me, yet I can't do a heck of alot, comparatively speaking, for him.. I find that frustrating.

Anonymous said...

interesting thoughts on a tough subject. Marriage is definitely a two way street and it sounds like you must be worth the effort for him! I have a spouse with cancer so I understand the "other" side of me it's hard to be supportive 24/7 but at the end of the day what it boils down to is that I love him and I want to know that I was the best partner to him that I could have really is that simple. Thankfully my husband is doing well right now...but I am a nurse so I know that things can change quickly. I try my hardest to make the best of the time I have with him.

Kelly D said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. While neither my husband or I have a chronic illness, we have gone through couples counseling during our infertility (and premature birth of our daughters). It was so amazingly helpful. It is a great place to start. Your husband might find some resources for how to cope.

It sounds like you have a great marriage and that it is worth saving. Best of luck!

lost butterfly said...

Thank you so much everyone for the kind comments. It seems I am not alone in my situation. It is beyond wonderful to have a caring spouse especially when one has a chronic illness. Chronic illness is terribly stressful on the marriage but I suppose that is what it is all about, standing by each other through good times and bad. Thanks again for the great comments.


Lisa said...

I followed your link from Twitter and then started reading... loved what I saw. Then saw the II Week button! Thank you! I am Lisa, the founder of II Week and I'm hoping you'll consider allowing me to post the post on marriage on our II Week web site as a guest blogger. I also saw you are trying to increase your writing exposure. If you have anything you'd like to submit, like an article to or as a guest post, etc. I'd be interested. Thanks so much! To submit your blog there are a few other things we need, so just cut and paste it here

Thanks so much!

Anonymous said...

You know, it does take a huge toll on a marriage. Huge. We tried couples therapy, and that was sort of helpful, but what we realized is more helpful is if we both go to individual counseling to work through things that are bothering us.

Cassandra said...

Aunt Jeannette,
I know my Uncle loves you very very much - and I don't think he would ever just up an leave you.
On the fact about your relationship "makes people sick" - you guys are so perfect for each other that everyone else is just jealous. Every one can see how much you both mean to each other and how much you both love each other. I would hate to think that you don't want him by your side any longer and that he wouldn't wand the same thing. I know times are tough - but I also know that your love is incredibly strong and I've always wished to have love like that. I know you guys will pull through.

Love you both very very much.
xoxo - Cass

Anonymous said...

I'm not an expert, not a caregiver, and have not been injured on the job. That being said, I think first and foremost of importance would definitely be some counseling, both couples and individual. I understand guilt and how it can bring you to the absolute bottom. I have also learned through the years how to release the guilt and forgive, even myself. This seems to be the first step in a positive forward direction. The second would be acceptance of your situation. If there is no way to change it, (medically), you do need to accept it, learn from it, and move forward with a positive outlook. Again, counseling will help address this as well. If you can find a way to get rid of the guilt and make a choice to accept, your life will surely change for the better in many ways. I hope you are not offended, as that is not my intention. My purest intention is given with love and hope for a brighter tomorrow. You obviously have a very strong, loving marriage, and it's definitely worth not giving up but finding a way for you both to cope better and allow the marriage to grow even stronger. Best of luck to you. I look forward to following your blog.

Jeannette said...

Cassandra-Thank you for such a sweet comment-you are a beautiful and kind young lady! Greg and I will be ok-it is just tough right now with all the stress and the increased responsibility put upon him. Things will work themselves out, they always do.

Thanks again sweetie,
Love always-JeannetteXX00

Jeannette said...

dear Anonymous-Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I truly appreciate it and hope you will visit often! I am doing every thing I can to reach acceptance..tough sometimes though.
Thanks again,

Barbara K. said...

I have been the sick one and my SO has been a heroic caretaker. I always thought I'd rather be the sick one suffering than the well one watching helplessly. It's great that you have such empathy for your SO. I also think that illness can force open profound ways of communicating and being together that well couples might never find. I wish you both peace.

I blog about couples and illness - you might find some useful post and comments on my site.