Most people deal with some level of stress or burden in their life. The source of stress varies, as does its impact. Illness, pain, and disability can add an unexpected dimension to a marriage. For example, when one spouse has arthritis, depending on their level of physical limitation, the healthy spouse may need to adjust their role and assume responsibilities that usually fall to the unhealthy spouse. At times the healthy spouse may need to assume the role of caregiver. When this happens, it is not something that either wants, but it becomes their new reality and it takes patience.
How does a marriage survive the additional pressure of illness? How do spouses happily adjust to their new roles? In order to be happy in marriage despite arthritis, here are 10 things you should never forget.
1 - Never Take Your Spouse or Partner for Granted
While there is a certain level of obligation that goes with the committment of marriage, you should never take your spouse for granted. The sacrifices and adjustments that are made in a marriage, because illness has entered into it, should be made and accepted with love. Your spouse should never feel that the things they do for you are expected. Show your gratitude and appreciation often.
2 - Remember to Use These Simple Words
When we are very young, we are taught to say "Thank you" and "I'm sorry". The words, while simple, are very meaningful. When you offer thanks, your spouse will know you appreciate what they do for you. It's also important for you to apologize when things don't go perfectly. If you are feeling poorly, you may snap at your spouse. As soon as you catch yourself, say that you are sorry. These small expressions help to keep your marriage on an even keel.
3 - Allow Your Spouse to Express Their Frustration
When one spouse has a chronic illness, such as arthritis, both spouses are affected. The illness may physically impact one spouse, but the full impact is far-reaching and impacts both. Your spouse should be allowed to express their frustration, anger, or sadness, too.
4 - Have a Date Night Once a Week
You both deal with the consequences of your illness each day. Give yourselves something to look forward to by building a date night into your routine. You can go out or you can stay in, but choose what you do based on what will re-energize both of you. Your date night is actually mutual "me time", allowing you to relax together, de-stress together, and focus on nothing other than yourselves as a couple.
5 - Make Sure You Do Special Things for the Healthy Spouse
Marriage never stops being a two-way street. Even though you are saddled with arthritis, you still must be considerate of your spouse. You know how good you feel when your spouse does special little things for you? You need to reciprocate and make your spouse feel special as well.
6 - Don't Become "The Patient"
Not every conversation you have with your spouse needs to be about medical matters. If you allow the sole focus to be on your medical situation, you will intentionally or unintentionally limit your interactions. You're not just a patient -- you are a spouse, perhaps a parent, a son or daughter, a friend and more. Don't let chronic illness narrow your world. Stay involved in your spouse's world, your kid's world, your friend's world, current events, sports, or whatever else interests you.
7 - Your Spouse Should Not Become Your Nurse
You may need help getting out of a chair, walking to the bathroom, bathing, dressing, and more. You must never forget, though, that your spouse helps you and cares for you because they love you. Your spouse is not a paid employee and certainly not a nurse. If you start to think of your spouse as your nurse, the dynamic which makes a marriage work becomes tainted.
8 - Don't View Arthritis as the Intruder in Your Marriage
Don't build resentment because you have arthritis. Don't become consumed by thoughts of how different life would be without arthritis. Accept that it is part of your life. Don't hate it or blame it. If you blame the disease for having a negative impact on your life, you will become contrary, gloomy, pessimistic, and as a consequence, your marriage will suffer.
9 - Let Go of Your Guilt
As you wrap your mind around how much your disease has affected your marriage and your family, you may blame yourself and feel guilty at times. As long as you are compliant with your treatment plan and living a healthy lifestyle, you should not feel guilty. Focus on the things you can control and let go of the rest.
10 - Don't Let Yourself Go
It seems I am stating the obvious with this last tip. You should keep up with good grooming and hygiene. It's easy to let yourself go when you don't feel well. But you don't live alone -- you are half of a married couple. Be the person your spouse chose to marry. Don't allow illness to change you into someone you really don't want to be.