Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When Illness Warps Your Relationship

Sadly, it's not uncommon for the illness to wrap the couple relationship around its nasty finger.  Illness, especially if pain and exhaustion are present, can consume way too much of your life force.

The ill partner can become focused on the illness, at the expense of relationships with partner, children, and friends.  The well partner can become more and more remote as s/he tries to hold onto normalcy.  And both partners can wind up blaming each other - for everything.

Underneath these scenarios run such deep fear and anger that often the couple avoids these feelings,  and in doing so, the partners grow more distant from each other's emotional centers.  It is natural to want to suppress such hurtful emotions - but they do tend to seep out, and often in subversive ways.  How many of us have screamed at a jar lid that won't come off, or at a medication with side effects, or at a partner for not making it all better (even though both of you are trying as hard as you can)?

What can you do?  No easy answers here - because our situations are just not easy.  Use your best judgment about trying any of the suggestions below:

  • You can try directing your anger and fear at the illness, instead of at each other.  Talk to the illness, privately or in each other's presence.  Tell it how much you hate it or fear it.  The illness is the true target.
  • Sit silently, side-by-side, and summon your compassion for each other and your appreciation of the qualities you each possess.  Give yourselves a 5 minute quiet break from the noise of illness, doctors, worries.  In that quiet, remember what brought you together in the first place.
  • You can try individual or couples therapy.

I'd like to ask you to try one thing.  That is -- be as compassionate and gentle as you can with yourself.  You are doing the best you can, every day.  If the illness has overtaken most of the kindness around you - it may sound cliche, but do try to be understanding and validating of yourself.  That too can become subversive and spread.

Let me know how illness has seeped into your relationship, and what you've tried to maintain your balance, as individuals and as a couple.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Much truth in that last bit of advice. I think often the anger and lack of compassion we show our partner is what we are really feeling inside. We feel like we have to direct it somewhere and that too often ends up being at the person closest to us - because they are there. We have to find better outlets.