How Chronic Illness Impacted My Marriage

Crossing the threshold in my husband’s arms on our wedding day might’ve been the first of many thresholds in our marriage, but the others haven’t always been as fun or whimsical—like when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness.

When I was only 30 I began to manifest the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, even though I simply thought I was suffering from carpel tunnel, TMJ, sore ankles and an occasional swollen knee. 😉

I could reason away the swollen knee because of an old knee injury from my teens, but the rest seemed oddly and frustratingly coincidental.

chronic illness
As for how this disease impacted me, I was a young mom in those days, which meant I was already exhausted and overworked. Add swollen and painful joints to the mix and you have the makings of one whopper of a “marriage mess.” At least, that’s the way it worked (or didn’t work) for us.

I remember that back in the day, I felt sort of invincible in my life, and now this disease was stealing that youthful illusion from me. It all made me very angry.

In fact, I denied for quite some time that I even had the disease because my RA factor was seronegative—meaning it wasn’t showing significantly in my blood—even though my RA doctor wasn’t fooled by this camouflage agent.

Of course, this disease had its ups and downs. Sometimes it was quiet and I would feel back to normal again—feeding into my sense of denial. But then there were other times when it would come roaring back into my life like I’d just awoken a sleeping and very ticked monster.

Whenever I was flaring, I really needed my hubby to pitch in and help more with the kids and the house. Unfortunately, I’ve always been really bad about asking for help. It felt like I was defective and surrendering to the power of this disease that I most certainly did.not.have!

So then I would get angry with my hubby for not guessing that I needed his help. But I think I was actually angry with the fact that I had to ask for his help in the first place.

And naturally, I wasn’t the only one who struggled with denial when it came to my disease. There were times when it was hard for my husband and kids to accept that the wife and mother they’d always known as strong, available and fairly easy-going, wasn’t quite all those things anymore—far from it!

In fact, during those early years, I often felt depressed every time I flared. So then my husband not only had a wife struggling with a chronic illness, but who was also emotionally distant and discouraged to boot.

Add in the financial costs of medical care, as well as fewer opportunities (or desire) to connect intimately and it all felt very overwhelming and alienating to a young couple.

Honestly, I’d like to say that the only thing that got us through that time was our deep love for each other, but that would hardly be true. It was our faith in Goddrawing upon His love for us—that kept us moving closer to Him and to each other.

As I look back on those hard early days, I must say that the very things that served to pull us apart were what God used to draw us back together into a tighter bond than ever before.

Would I wish the challenges of a chronic illness on another young couple so that they could “grow closer” together?

Certainly not!

But if that’s where you find yourself, then lean into the Lord—with or without your mate—and you’ll experience the mysterious blessings that come with a deeper dependence upon God.

 

What chronic illness has plagued your marriage and life?

 

How have you learned to cope and find hope in the discouragement?

 

Congratulations to Nicki Schroeder who was randomly selected by Rafflecopter in the Blogiversary giveaway of a $50 Amazon card! And thanks to all of you who participated and were willing to share about Messy Marriage on Facebook! Your support in that way is greatly appreciated! 🙂

I’m still collecting any questions you may have on marriage that I, or my hubby and I, can answer in video form. So please send them to me at messymarriage@gmail.com. Thanks so much!


Linking up with these fine blogs –  Making Your Home Sing, Moments of Hope, Mondays @ Soul Survival, Word of God Speak, Spiritual Sundays, Mama Shares Monday, Sitting Among Friends, Faith ‘n Friends, Grace and Truth, Family, Friendship and Faith, Fresh Market Friday and DanceWithJesusFriday

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  • Beth, although I do not have a chronic illness, I found this post to be filled with much wisdom. The challenge with “chronic” is that one is never rid of the problem. One never knows when it will raise its ugly head. And you have pointed us all to the only One who can get us through every challenge. Grateful our hope is in Him. May He bring you days filled with health! Blessings!

    • Thank you for your encouragement, Joanne! And you’re right about never knowing. It seems that life continues to throw me curves and each one God has used to draw me close to Him. Praying you never have to experience chronic disease, though I do hope you continue to experience God’s nearness, my friend! 😉

  • This will strongly resonate and minister deeply to those who have had to journey through what seems to be an endless valley. Beth, thank you for allowing God to redeem the painful places in your life. Untold women and men have benefitted from your willingness to revisit those tender seasons.

    Sabbath blessings, friend …

    • I do hope so, Linda. I’ve never really talked in any depth about how it’s impacted my marriage. After six years at MM, I suppose it’s about time! And it is hard to accept that “endless” journey, especially at first when you’re young and fear what the ravages of the disease will do to you. I imagined all sorts of horrible outcomes that never have materialized in my life, thank the Lord! I’m encouraged by your words today (well, every day!), Linda. I’m not in a very good place emotionally and I’m sure it’s due to the continued pain of my shingles. I’d appreciate prayers that my clear head and calm heart would return, my friend! Thanks for being such an encourager in my life!

  • Chronic illness leaves no corner untouched. You are so right that a marriage can grow closer IF the couple depend on their mutual faith in God to continue walking together. Your willingness to bare your soul in this way will help SO many. God bless you. <3 Heart Hugs, Shelly

    • You’re so right, Shelly. There are so many ways that it infected my attitude, my parenting and my marriage. And yes, a marriage can grow closer if you both are turning to the Lord, but that was so hard to do when the pain was at its height. We’re old pros at turning to the Lord now, but back then–phew!–not so much! Thanks for your encouragement, my newfound friend!

  • What a great story that shares such hope! Really enjoyed reading this!

    • Thanks so much, Keri! I appreciate you encouraging me and joining the conversation!

  • Thanks for sharing how God redeemed this tough time, Beth. I don’t have any one major chronic illness, but I have several small ones, and they can really add up to a pile of discouragement on some days. 🙁 Yesterday was one of those days. It took Jeff awhile to know how to handle me, ha. But thankfully God always shows up and leads the way.

    • I bet they do add up in a hurry! I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad day recently, but I’m glad that your hubby is figuring out how to handle you when those times come. Thank the Lord for His help in guiding us all when those dark and confusing days hit! Thanks so much for your kind and supportive friendship, Lisa! Your are one of my favorite bloggy friends!

  • Erica

    Thanks for sharing Beth. I have been struggling with anxiety attacks this past year and I agree, it is so easy for me to make it a problem in my marriage when I don’t ask for the help I need to prevent or control them.

    • I had no idea, Erica! I’m so glad that you found this post to be something that you could relate to–though I don’t like that it means having anxiety attacks. I’ve had some of those as well over the years. We should talk sometime! I do hope you learn, like I’m learning, to ask for help when you need it most. Vulnerability draws you closer to your hubby. I’m here to testify!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Beth, I’m sorry for being so late to the conversation. My internet connexion went weird, and I couldn’t bring up the site.

    What hard things you had to go through, and how wonderful that you were able to realize – though it was hard sometimes – that God wanted to work with you to bring good from the misery.

    I’m tempted to say that illness has increased the distance in my marriage, but that isn’t really accurate; it’s my response to illness that has done that. I may be lying on the floor and writing in pain (which happens nearly every day), but when asked what she can do for me, the usual answer I give to Barbara is, “I’m good to go.”

    And in a sense, I am; this is my challenge, and I find an odd fulfillment is surviving every day. War was the only thing I was ever good at, and this is the culmination of that metier.

    The sad thing is that it leaves my wife on the outside, looking in. In “The last lecture”, Randy Pausch wrote about the times he and his wife held each other and cried; I could NEVER do that. I’ll crack a joke if I can think of one, or use my other mantra…”Could be worse. I could be slow, soft, and ugly.”

    This is what I have to do to meet each day, but it’s a terrible burden to impose on someone who loves me. I can’t change without being grotesquely false, but I can at least recognize the harm I have done, and continue to do.

    And this will be meat for an upcoming post on my blog…

    https://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2016/10/your-dying-spouse-220-your-best.html

    • No worries, Andrew. I don’t expect you to make it every single time, though I am always encouraged when you do. I get what your feeling and saying about trying to manage the disease on your own. I feel guilty whenever I rely on my hubby to help. Besides, early in my childhood, I learned to comfort and fend for myself. It’s hard to let my husband join me in that effort now. I do know that even though you may keep your wife at arms length at times, you also welcome her into your heart through your brave words on your blog. Sometimes letting our spouses into our hearts is more figurative than literal, but it makes a literal and true difference either way. Thanks for your honesty here, my friend. It’s always great to hear your thoughts on what I’ve written.

  • I was also 30 when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, just had my third and final baby. I couldn’t understand the WHY’s of it all and probably don’t to this day. I understand everything you spoke of here! I was angry that my once vibrant, busy self could all of a sudden barely get out of bed on some days. Twenty five years later, things are no better but boy, oh boy, has the Lord taught me plenty. I wasn’t always a willing student but I pray I can help someone else who is struggling. Chronic pain is so unwelcome, you “look fine” and only those that have the diseases truly understand your every day battles. Praying for you today that God will strengthen you in your body and your spirit because we need you!! ♥

    • Really?? I had no idea, Nannette. I would think that Fibromyalgia and CFS is even harder to accept and deal with than RA because there would sometimes be physical signs that I was “flaring” like a swollen knee, etc. Your mind can play games with you, making you feel as if you’re a fraud when you know that somethings wrong. I am so glad that you’ve learned many blessed lessons through your pain and disease. God is so good about redeeming those kinds of problems in our lives. I will pray for you in that physical struggle, my friend. You are now officially added to my prayer list! Hugs to you!

  • Julie Loos

    Thanks for sharing Beth! I went through a period of bad health and it really affected my marriage. I shared a lot of the same sentiments as you did. I was frustrated and scared, and took it out on others. God had to really work in me, to allow others to help and accept that in certain seasons we need more help than other seasons.
    Julie

    • Yes, I think physical issues are probably among some of the top reasons for trouble in marriage, Julie. It’s probably an often unexplored area of challenge. I certainly have avoided it here, but see that many can relate on many levels. And yes, you are so right about those “seasons” that call for greater support. We must accept that about ourselves and not try to pretend that everything is find when we’re really struggling on the inside.

  • woo hoo! Thanks for the Amazon giftcard. So excited that I won. And I’m glad I stopped by today and read your post about RA. You are a brave soul who has faced so much hardship with the ability to let God use that for HIS GLORY! So encouraged by your braveness to speak up. Love that you share the “spiritual gift” of authenticity my sister in Christ. Hope you are feeling a little better this week. xoxo

    • It’s in the mail, my friend! And I am so grateful for your encouragement to me, Nicki! I know that you know a thing or two about physical issues creating monumental challenges in a marriage and life. Thank you for saying that about what I’m doing. I truly want this blog to always be about giving God the glory and helping others to find their way as well. Sometimes I do better at that than other times. 😉 And yes, authenticity will always be where I try to land, though it’s truly not my spiritual gift. It’s more like the “thorn” that God won’t remove! ha! But I will embrace that thorn and share what’s really going on, no matter how ugly it sounds. Thanks for your sweet friendship!

  • Hi Beth,
    Thank you for sharing this part of your story. I nodded my head “yes” over and over and over again! I’ve always had a lot of health issues. Our second date consisted of my husband sitting at my side in an emergency room as I passed another kidney stone! Ha! At least he knew what he was getting into, right? But, I, like you, have always pushed beyond any illnesses and would get to the other side and go like crazy until the next health crisis. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago when I ended up in so much pain I was unable to do life the way I always had. It was/is tough on our marriage. It’s been tough for me to ask for help without feeling guilty. Yet, God has used this last year to grow us closer than ever. His strength truly is perfect in our weaknesses! Beth, you are a messenger of hope, my friend! Thank you for sharing that passion with me!
    Blessings and smiles,
    Lori

  • My Daily Rock

    Four years ago, I had a sudden brain injury without the injury. It happened out of the blue and has been such a struggle for me and my family. It’s been scary and hard and I feel broken much of the time. The best place I can find myself is deep in the scriptures every single day. It brings peace and some days I can even forget.