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Spouse with chronic illness

Does your spouse have chronic illness? If yes, then read on to discover five amazing ways you can support your partner.

In fact, this is exactly what Marcus did (and continues to do) to support Ash with her chronic illness, Hashimotos.

But first here’s a little backstory. 

How we discovered the chronic illness.

When Ash and I got married in 2010, little did we know that 5 years later she would be diagnosed with a chronic illness called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease.

An autoimmune disease simply means her immune system is mistakenly attacking itself, which also makes it harder for her to fight against other infections and viruses. This chronic illness in particular targets her thyroid, the organ that controls so much in the body.

After her diagnosis, we finally had answers to all the symptoms she had been experiencing since before we got married.

She felt limited by this disease and all the changes that came with it. I had to step up and be her cheerleader because we were a team. In addition, I used this diagnosis as an opportunity to support her, connect, and strengthen our relationship.

So if you have a chronically ill partner who has an autoimmune disease, below are 5 things you can do starting today.

5 Ways support a spouse with chronic illness

1. Educate yourself about the illness.

Your first (and in my humble opinion) most important goal is to understand the disease. Because, without educating yourself, you won’t be able to understand your partner’s struggles very well.

And the best person to educate you is your spouse, as well as doing your own research (don’t put it all on them).

Ask them about the causes, symptoms, side effects, how they feel, and anything they want you to know about it. If you don’t understand, be patient and ask them questions that will make it easier for you to get clarity.

In addition, educate yourself by visiting reputable websites, Facebook groups, online forums, trainings and events that are specific to the chronic illness your spouse has. For us, speaking with a functional doctor or naturopath made all the difference.

I learned a lot by asking my wife questions about her autoimmune disease (she’s a researcher by nature) and doing research online.

I also joined Facebook groups to look through their resources and posts so I could expand my knowledge about Hashimotos, and how it affects people. It took me a while, but over time, I got a better understanding of the disease.

By educating yourself, you will be in a better position to support and communicate with your spouse about the disease. You will know the medications they take and what each does for them, so when they ask you to get them from the cupboard, you can get the right one without making several trips.

When my wife says her back hurts even though she hasn’t been doing anything strenuous, I know it’s probably because she ate something that her body dislikes, is intolerant or allergic to (as that is one of her symptoms).

As a side effect of her health issues, we’ve discovered several food allergies and intolerances. I wouldn’t have known this without educating myself about her autoimmune disease. It has changed the way our whole family eats.

If you have a chronically ill partner, here are 5 things you can do to support them, starting today.Click To Tweet

2. Embrace your spouse’s health and lifestyle changes.

Everyone with a chronic illness knows that to get it under control means changing something in your lifestyle.

It could be the food they eat, medication and supplements they take, what kind of job they can do, the places they can visit, who they can spend time with, and managing stress levels, or all the above.

So be ready to support your spouse as they go through these changes.

You are a team. Whatever affects your spouse affects you, too. So use this as a chance to grow closer together.

For example, after a couple of years, I switched my diet to make it easier for my wife and me to meal plan. Putting her autoimmune disease into remission meant she had to stop eating grains, sugar, dairy, and processed foods.

We talked about it and agreed to change our meals, so instead of cooking two fresh meals for dinner every day, we only cooked a meal we could both eat.

3. Be the emotional support your partner needs, especially during the tough times.

Accept that your partner’s autoimmune disease will always be a part of their life and your relationship.

Furthermore, try not to resent your partner for having this illness. Show them with your words and actions that you care about their wellbeing.

Your spouse needs your love and empathy for the times when everything seems hopeless for them.

As a husband to an amazing wife who has three autoimmune diseases, I find it challenging to understand why I can’t help her during the days her illness is worse.

To be honest, I sometimes feel powerless. However, I don’t let that stop me from being empathetic and just being there for her.

Sometimes that means I’m the kind voice of reason to ensure she doesn’t overdo things, as stress can easily make things worse. Other times, it means advocating for her with healthcare professionals.

Or it means doing most of the house chores, and taking care of our kids while she sleeps in. And sometimes, it means just listening to her, holding her hand, and saying, “I’m sorry this sucks so much.”

4. Accompany your spouse to their appointments if you can.

In my experience, your partner will have many visits to health professionals. Go with them, as your presence during these visits will further enhance your understanding of their illness.

Because you can listen in, ask questions, and get more clarity about their illness. Even better, you will see and appreciate the effort your spouse is putting into improving their health.

5. Celebrate all the wins your spouse make’s in their health journey.

As your wife or husband works to integrate this chronic illness into your daily life, celebrate every single progress they make.

It might not seem like a “big” achievement to you, but it’s the little successes that together will boost their confidence. What’s more, it will strengthen your marriage and help you connect on a deeper level.

For example, we were both so elated when Ash got her autoimmune disease, Hashimotos, into remission. And like most achievements, we celebrated it together as a couple. 

Final thoughts

Look, supporting a spouse who has chronic illness is not easy. But if you work together and seek to understand, empathize, and support them, that can be the most important and fulfilling thing you do to grow closer as a couple and create the lasting healthy marriage you both desire. 

Instead of focusing on this illness, focus on the amazing human being you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with. They are not their diagnoses. 

Enjoy your marital journey and use the health challenges life has thrown at you two to create memories you will both cherish forever.

Celebrate the good days and be patient on the hard days.

Your turn

If your spouse has chronic illness, how are you supporting them?

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5 Ways to Support a Spouse With Chronic Illness