Your Child's Chronic Illness Shouldn't Spell The End Of Your Marriage

If your child has been diagnosed with a chronic illness, your marriage can be feeling the strain. Medical bills, hospital time and treatments, and feelings of depression, anxiety, anger and guilt can be difficult to overcome. If you're facing marital challenges as you are fighting for a miracle, you need to take special care to keep your relationship on stable ground. 

The Challenge

During the initial diagnosis, the common emotional trauma and anxiety might cause you draw closer together, but this closeness doesn't always last. Soon, reality sets in, and one parent will likely spend time dealing with the mundane needs of the family, such as working, getting other children to and from school, and taking care of bills and errands. The other will be the one who sits in the hospital for long days and nights, talks with countless doctors, drives to see the specialists, and provides emotional support for a fearful child. Both tasks are exhausting for spouses, and a sense of detachment can occur, leading to resentment that each has to bear his or her burden alone. 

The Solutions

To prevent this from occurring, it is best for spouses to reevaluate and set aside time to spend together, and to divide child care and home responsibilities evenly. This will take more organization and planning, but it prevents the resentment that comes from being divided in administering to the needs of the family. Try to:

  • take shifts at the hospital, to be together for doctor meetings and major surgeries, and to include your other children in the get-well journey. The more the whole family is involved, the less there is a chance of feeling divided from your spouse during medical crises. 
  • be understanding of changes. Less sleep, more anxiety, and heavier grief can mean changes in personality that you didn't anticipate. If your spouse was care-free and fun-loving, cut them some slack if they become silent and withdrawn. The grieving process can take months. Be sure to ask your spouse what they need and don't be afraid to communicate what you need, even if it is just some time alone or time to vent. Seeking counseling during treatment is a good way to explore this new side of your emotional profile and that of your spouse.
  • rely on a professional for emotional support. You are both going through an equally challenging and emotional period. Your spouse, unlike other times in your marriage, may not be emotionally present enough to be a rock for you. Try joining a group support forum, speaking with a marriage therapist, or finding solace with a church leader. Attend these meetings together if you can. If you go alone to one-on-one sessions, try to be sure it is with a professional who will maintain their distance. You don't want to become emotionally attached to someone who is not your spouse, as this can also weaken your marriage.

Helping your child through a chronic illness is only half the battle; with the right preparation and early intervention, your marriage can not only survive, but be strengthened during this time.