Educate yourself about your condition. Learn how to live with your chronic illness. At first it might seem like it is controlling you, but the more you learn and can do for yourself, the more normal and in control you will feel.
Recognize your limits and learn to say no.
Build fun into your life. Plan some activities for both of you to participate in together.
Effective communication is vital for the long-term health of your marriage
Focus your physical and emotional resources on those things that matter most.
Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 (New Living Translation)
You cannot always change your environment, but you can change your attitude. The day after a heavy rain, you can look down and see puddles and mud, or look up and see a beautiful sky. It’s a change of perspective.
A key element to a healthy, strong marriage is the attitude you both have about your marriage. The attitude that you and your spouse choose to have, on a daily basis, will greatly influence the life you enjoy together. Negative attitudes can create a tremendous weight on your marriage, while a consistently positive attitude can help uplift your marriage – putting everything in its real perspective.
Your attitude – how you think about your spouse and what you think about your spouse – is powerful because it determines your feelings and actions. It’s easy to be negative in marriage, which makes it even more necessary that you focus on your spouse’s good qualities and express thanks with positive words.
If you are expecting and anticipating that your spouse is going to be complaining, that is what you are going to hear. Since you are expecting it, it will be what stands out most when your spouse speaks to you. If you expect your spouse to be dissatisfied with you, then you are going to prepare an appropriate (or inappropriate) response in advance, even when that might not have been your intention.
When you think negative thoughts or expect negative responses, you develop a negative attitude. Attitude is what you get after you develop a style of thinking (positive or negative) and then practice it so well that it seems like you don’t even have to think it out before you respond. Having an attitude is like pre-thinking your next response.
A positive attitude requires a clear action plan that addresses your thoughts and words. Here are three affirmations that you can use to build a better attitude about your marriage:
I will not be a complainer!
I will speak to myself with encouraging words! I will speak aloud things that God says are true, regardless of how I feel.
Every time I think of my spouse, I will pray, “Lord, thank you for giving my husband/wife as your awesome gift. Help me to see the great value of your gift to me!”
Let’s talk: How has your attitude about yourself and/or your spouse played either a positive or a negative role in your marriage? Please leave a comment below.
I’ve been reading, again, a book that stirred, invigorated, and challenged me several years ago. Dr. Larry Crabb’s Shattered Dreams is a wise, hopeful, honest, and realistic examination of life’s difficulties and tragedies – our shattered dreams.
Dealing with a chronic illness marriage or any other loss in your life can be a genuine test of what really matters to you, what lurks in your soul and mind, the dreams you have or had. Dr. Crabb writes that “shattered dreams are never random. They are a piece in a larger puzzle, a chapter in a larger story.”
From the narrative of Naomi in the Bible’s book of Ruth, Dr. Crabb has learned six lessons – hard ones, wonderful ones, lessons that must be learned if we are to fulfill our true destiny. Necessary lessons if we are to grow into people with peace and power and unspeakable joy no matter what our circumstances. I share them here for your consideration. I recommend you get the book for more insights on these lessons.
Lesson #1 – Shattered dreams are necessary for spiritual growth.
Lesson #2 – Something wonderful survives everything terrible, and it surfaces most clearly when we hurt.
Lesson #3 – Some dreams important to us will shatter, and the realization that God could have fulfilled that dream pushes us into a terrible battle with Him.
Lesson #4 – Only an experience of deep pain develops our capacity for recognizing and enjoying true life.
Lesson #5 – Not many Christians drink deeply from the well of living water. As a result, our worship, our community, and our witness are weak.
Lesson #6 – No matter what happens in life, a wonderful dream is available, always, that if pursued will generate an unfamiliar, radically new internal experience. That experience, strange at first, will eventually be recognized as joy.
As I re-read Shattered Dreams, my sense of what really matters, what I truly long for, my dreams for this life, are being upended. I’m being forced to honestly and radically trust God as He redirects my focus, my loves, and my dreams.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
I heard Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, tell about the way he learned to make the principle of servanthood practical in his marriage. As he struggled through a difficult time, he discovered that he lacked an attitude of servanthood. As he puts it, “I had made demands of my wife. I had expected her to make me happy.” His marriage began to change when he asked his wife these questions:
How can I help you?
How can I make your life easier?
How can I be a better husband to you?
Their marriage changed when he let her teach him how he could serve her. It did not happen overnight, because the pain had been there too long, but change did occur.
Today, consider asking your spouse one of these questions. Then, do it with a loving heart.
Let’s talk: How has a servant’s heart made a difference in your marriage? Please leave a comment below.
This is a guest post from Helena Madsen of Chronic Marriage (www.chronicmarriage.com), a website dedicated to helping couples with chronic illness build extraordinary marriages. I have followed her postings for about a year now and found them to be inspiring and practical. The original posting was titled, Stepping into My Husband’s Shoes.
Have you ever imagined what it would be like to step into your spouse’s shoes and view your marriage from his or her perspective?
I’ve often wondered just how patient and understanding I’d be if I were the healthy spouse and my husband lived with muscular dystrophy.
This week I bravely decided to interview Jeff to hear his take on what it’s been like being married to me for the last ten years. I also wanted to give him the opportunity to speak from the caregiver’s perspective on what works and what doesn’t work so well in a chronic marriage.
When we first met and I told you I had muscular dystrophy, what were your initial thoughts?
I was certainly familiar with the term muscular dystrophy but I didn’t understand what it meant to be honest. Because I was attracted to you, I had a curiosity to find out more. The disease definitely didn’t diminish my interest in you. I remember thinking that whatever this disease is, I’m not afraid of it. The way I’m going to tackle it is to find out more about it.
Once we married, what surprised you or caught you off guard about living with someone with chronic illness?
Well, early on in our marriage, your symptoms weren’t real obvious but after a couple of years, I started to see limitations e.g. you couldn’t run, climb stairs well, etc. We had to start monitoring what we did physically. As the disease has progressed, we’ve had to change the way we approach things. In some ways, it’s actually been a blessing. I’ve always been someone who rushes through life, always on the go, and moving on to the next thing quickly. Muscular dystrophy has made me slow down in a good way.
One of the things I’ve learned about the disease is that we have to be very intentional about the choices we make. For example, if we’re going out, I always call ahead to make sure the building is accessible and easy for you to get in and out of. I don’t want our experiences to be diminished because of accessibility issues. I’ve also signed up to the fact that we can’t be everything to everyone. We can’t live the jet set life and that’s fine with me because I like the simplicity and groundedness that a slower pace brings to our lives.
What have been the biggest challenges for you?
The biggest challenge for me has been seeing your disease progress and trying to stay one step ahead of it. For example, two years ago, I saw a clear need for you to start using a power wheelchair in order to increase your mobility. You and I didn’t see eye to eye on that and it was a struggle for me. I wasn’t necessarily factoring in your feelings or what kind of emotional decision it might have been for you at the time. For me, it was more of an objective decision about what was best for you. My attitude was if it will ensure your safety then why not do it? I know that caused some friction between us.
In your opinion, what has helped us weather some of the storms and challenges?
I think communication has been the biggest thing. I think we’re open and honest about what’s working and what’s not. I think you set good boundaries with me. I tend to be a very social person and I like to include you in a lot of activities. When you laid down a boundary at first, I viewed it as a threat. For example, if we were going out with friends and you didn’t want to go because you were tired or worried about accessibility issues, it was hard for me to understand. But now that we’ve opened up the communication channels and are honest with each other, I realize it’s not a personal rejection. I think giving each other permission to do things independently of each other is also helpful.
What advice would you give to a caretaker spouse like yourself?
First and foremost is to keep the lines of communication open. For the caregiver, it’s just as important for you to express what you’re feeling. Just because you’re the caregiver doesn’t mean you have to stuff your feelings deep down inside and not share them. You shouldn’t view them as unimportant or that you’d be burdening your spouse. You’re not being selfish if you share what’s bothering you.
The second thing is that as a caregiver, you’ve also got to take care of yourself. If you’re not in a place where you’re caring for yourself physically, emotionally or spiritually, you’re not going to be very good at caring for your spouse in any capacity. You can’t be there 24/7 and that doesn’t mean you’re bad, weak or a failure in any way. You just need to be honest with your spouse about your physical and emotional capacity.
And maybe a third point would be to seek out a community of people to provide physical, emotional or spiritual support for you as the caregiver so that you can remain healthy.
What advice would you give to a chronically ill person regarding their healthy spouse?
The big one would be to extend empathy which is not always easy. Empathy understandably ebbs and flows depending on the day and/or situation. The tendency is to focus on you, the ill spouse because you’re the one struggling with pain and limitations. You need to feel loved and cared for by your spouse as well as assured that you won’t be abandoned because of your illness.
At the same time, it’s important for you to put yourself in the caregiver’s shoes. The caregiver’s life has been turned upside down too. The world as they knew it has changed and it’s going to take weeks, months and most likely years to get a handle on it. My advice would be to show a great deal of empathy for your spouse and try to understand how your illness is impacting them as well. Affirm them, thank them and let them know you appreciate what they’re doing for you. Tell them if a specific act of service makes you feel well loved and express your gratitude. Lastly, give them permission to take care of themselves too.
Thank you Jeff for being open and transparent and for offering wisdom to other chronic couples like ourselves!
Are there questions you’d like to ask your spouse but are afraid to? What might some of those questions be? Please leave a comment!
Years ago I found this affirmation written by someone who wasn’t ready to give up on a difficult marriage. Imagine the strength and joy of a marriage where both the husband and wife are standing strong together.
I am standing for the healing of my marriage!
I won’t give up, give in, give out, or give over till that healing takes place.
I made a vow; I said the words; I gave the pledge; I gave a ring; I took a ring; I gave myself; I trusted God; and said the words and meant the words…in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in good times and in bad; so I’m standing now, and won’t sit down, let down, slow down, calm down, fall down, look down, or be down till the breakdown is torn down!
I refuse to put my eyes on outward circumstances; or listen to prophets of doom, or buy into what’s trendy, worldly, popular, convenient, easy, quick, thrifty, or advantageous.
Nor will I settle for a cheap imitation of God’s real thing. Nor will I seek to lower God’s standard, twist God’s will, rewrite God’s Word, violate God’s covenant, or accept what God hates, namely divorce.
In a world of filth, I will stay pure.
Surrounded by lies, I will speak the truth.
Where hopelessness abounds, I will hope in God.
Where revenge is easier, I will bless instead of curse, and when the odds are stacked against me, I’ll trust in God’s faithfulness.
I’m a stander, and I won’t acquiesce, compromise, quarrel, or quit.
I have made the choice, set my face, entered the race, believed the Word, and trusted God for all the outcome.
I will allow neither the reaction of my spouse, nor the urging of my friends, nor the advice of my loved ones, nor the economic hardship, nor the prompting of the devil to make me let up, slow up, blow up, or give up till my marriage is healed up.
Let’s Discuss It: What do you think about this affirmation? (comment below)
You are probably in one or more of the following people groups:
Those who have been through a stormy time in their lives.
Those who are currently going through a stormy time in their lives.
Those who will be going through a stormy time in their lives.
Those who know someone who is going through a stormy time in their lives.
The storms of life can be like real weather storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. They can hit hard and unexpected. They can do major damage, little damage, and sometimes no damage at all. Storms can leave you feeling battered or they can make you realize and appreciate what you have. They can also leave you with memories, good and bad.
I know people that are facing storms in their lives today. Relationships are crumbling. There is increased hostility between family members. Bills are piling up causing stress and anger levels to intensify. Family life, which should be a place of safety and encouragement, becomes a place of anger and distrust.
Where is Jesus in the life of your marriage and family? Have you allowed the storms of life to push God further and further away?
In Mark 4:35-41 we can find some lessons to help us face the storms of life. In the video message below, I share what we can learn from this experience in the life of Jesus and his disciples?
Click above to view video.
Let’s talk about it: What help have you found to get through the storms in your life?
Leave comments below.