spouse is the person who stands
beside us. Whether he shows his
love by holding our hand or scrubbing
the shower stall, his unconditional
love and support is something
we try not to take for granted.
The support groups that we are
able to take advantage of do not
recognize him. Just as we need
to know that we are not alone
in our pain, he needs to know
he is not alone in his concerns,
frustrations and fears. Fee free
to print this article out and
pass it on to your loved ones
and friends. Thank you to the
men who participated.
Ken, 38, is a pastor in
San Diego, CA. Hes been
married for 18 years, and his
wife was diagnosed with fibromyalgia
16 years after their marriage.
He has two children, ages 13 &
Tim 41, is a retail store manager
and lives in Torrance, CA. He
has been married for 13½
years, and his wife was diagnosed
with interstitial cystitus 6 months
ago. They have two children, ages
11 & 6.
Bud, 66, is retired, formerly
president of a subsidiary of SBC
Corp. He and his wife of 46 years
live in Weatherford, TX. His wife
has been diagnosed with various
illnesses, including, but not
limited to: chronic renal failure
(requiring removal of one kidney),
anti-phospholipid anti-body syndrome,
lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and
fibromyalgia. They have three
46, works for a roofing/flooring
company in Eugene, OR. He has
been married for 23 years. His
wife was diagnosed with multiple
sclerosis after 6 years of marriage.
They have two children, ages 19
Rex, 46, is a church worship director/consultant
in San Diego, CA. He has been
married for 22 years and his wife
was diagnosed with MS 19 years
after they were married, although
she had been tested 10 years prior
without a conclusive diagnosis.
At that time they chose not to
have more children over their
concern for the potential impact
of the illness. They have one
son, age 17.
David, 42, works for an aerospace
company in a city in southern
California. He has been married
for 16 years, and his wife has
yet to receive a diagnosis, although
she has experienced a variety
of symptoms for over 10 years.
They have a blended family of
two children and a dependent niece,
ages, 21, 17 and 13.
Joel, 32, is a multi-media artist/musician
for Sony PlayStation in San Diego,
CA. He has been married two years,
and his wife was diagnosed with
rheumatoid arthritis six years
ago, while they were dating.
has your wife's illness affected
the personal relationship you
I get frustrated when she is angry
with me, only to eventually find
out that she is in pain and that
is why she is unable to be happy.
Her illness has tested our patience
with one another on more than
Tim: My wife and I are now
separated. I feel that this has
played an integral part in our
Bud: I do not look upon
it as having any adverse affect.
We play the cards we are dealt.
Betty has many strengths that
we can build upon. She is a loving
person and a good role model for
our children and others. She has
a strong faith in God and is an
excellent teacher of Gods
word. It would be easy to wonder
what our lives would be like if
she had not been besieged with
illness, but there would probably
have been others things to worry
about. We consider ourselves blessed
beyond measure in our relationship
with each other and with God.
Robert: We share a wonderful closeness
and a passion for the others
well being. I believe her MS has
only reaffirmed how much I care
Rex: It has forced the issue
of emotional health to the forefront.
My wife's diagnosis and increased
sense of dependence helped me
to identify my own lack of wholeness,
highlighting the need for change
in me. I began to see my personal
well being as crucial to our relationship.
David: We rarely sleep together
because she tosses and turns with
cramps in her sleep. Sexual relations
are rare and of short duration
due to the pain. We rarely attend
social events because of her pain.
Joel: It has not affected
our personal relationship to a
great extent, from my perspective.
She has not allowed her illness
to negatively affect our relationship.
I actually feel "buffered"
from the worst of it.
has it affected your communication
In her desire to not come across
as a constant complainer, she
does not effectively communicate
her discomfort to me, which only
further serves to cause a breakdown
in our communication.
Tim: In the beginning I
didn't take her seriously. Then
I realized how severe it was,
but the damage was done; we went
downhill from there.
Bud: I've learned when to
give her private space and encouragement
I know that a snappy answer or
a complaint is most often a reaction
to pain or depression.
Rex: I believe I've become a better
listener, able to resist the temptation
of "fixing" her dilemma,
which is most often a need to
express herself and really be
David: I have been frustrated
with her refusal to go to the
doctor. She has been irritated
with my nagging her to seek medical
treatment that she did not feel
would be of any benefit. Our communication
has improved during the last couple
of months as I have been seeing
a psychologist. This counseling
has enabled me to better communicate
how my wife's illness frustrates
me and affects my addiction problem.
My counseling has been a definite
help to our communication.
I feel hesitant to complain if
I have aches and pains, seeing
them as minor in contrast to her
pain and limitations. It's easy
to feel "guilty" about
complaining, however, she has
a caring enough attitude that
it is not a problem.
has her illness impacted your
Her illness has caused her to
not always have that bright, bubbly
personality that we took for granted.
She is less patient with all of
us and so we find ourselves working
around her at times.
Our children don't understand
why Mom is so short-tempered and
why she seems to be in bed so
much. They would like more time
with her, but I have them with
me; more often to give her some
Most impact has been positive
in that it taught our children
compassion and equipped them for
handling situations in their own
lives that were not as expected.
It required us to develop skills
such as cooking and house cleaning
so that the family routines were
not as impacted during periods
Her illness has compounded the
issues we have as parents of a
teenager. Each of us has lost
things to the disease. Some of
these losses are obvious; some
are more subtle. They may be identified
and addressed if we find the energy
and grace to dialogue with mutual
understanding in mind.
My wife is a homemaker. Her illness
has affected her ability to do
homemaking tasks. It also makes
her unable to attend family social
events or our son's little league
or school basketball games.
There are things that she needs
help with; doors sometimes, tight
jars, etc. The limitations do
not affect a noticeable burden
coping skills has your family
used to adapt to your wife's changing
condition and role as a wife and
Sometimes we work around her and
other times we will try to accommodate
her, but often with the wrong
motives of just trying to appease
her so that shell be happy.
We both take extra time to listen
to our childrens questions
and we are being more patient.
Also I spend more quality time
with them. Hugs go far when life
Bud: The children and I
learned how to fulfill traditional
Mom responsibilities. She learned
to do accounting and other traditional
Robert: We help each other
more with household chores.
Rex: Knowing that her physical
reserves are limited and may affect
other reserves (e.g., mental,
emotional, relational), we try
to make room for short respites,
such as a simple meal out or a
drive to the ocean. In caring
for each other this way, we find
it much easier to cope.
David: Our thirteen-year-old
son and seventeen-year-old niece
are self sufficient about cooking
for themselves and ironing their
own clothes. Our niece takes responsibility
for cleaning the bathrooms and
dishes when my wife is ill. Our
son is willing to help around
the house. I do the shopping,
laundry, and other household chores
when my wife is sick.
Joel: If Im not sure whether
she wants help with something
or not, I ask first.
are your greatest concerns regarding
your family's futures, in regard
to our wife's condition?
First, that she will continue
to deteriorate and be unable to
enjoy doing active things with
the family. Secondly, that her
pain will further decrease her
patience and eventually drive
a wedge between her and the rest
of the family.
Tim: My greatest concern
is that we never find a cure or
adequate relief for my wife. I
don't want our children to grow
up and miss out on the fun they
once had with their loving mom.
I have no real concerns except
for when she hurts or cannot do
the things that she would like
to do. We have been blessed with
our children and our life together.
While we still wrestle with changing
roles and ways of relating in
our work together, we also feel
the uncertainty of future losses
from her illness. This creates
anxiety over decisions regarding
jobs and living situations that
will support our limitations.
greatest concern is her pain.
I feel helpless to do anything.
I am concerned that her pain and
medical problem will become more
Her ability to care for children
regarding physical demands.
or what has been your greatest
sense of support during the difficult
I first go to the Lord and seek
His counsel and direction. Secondly,
what she has learned through counseling
courses, books and other resources
have created opportunities for
us to discuss her illness and
I have gone on-line to read all
I can and to participate in on-line
discussions. Others with IC have
been a great source of comfort.
Hearing from them has helped me
to get a better understanding
of what my wife goes through each
and every day. They have been
very attentive to my concerns.
faith in God, knowing that He
is in control and that we will
have a home in heaven. I can do
all things through Christ who
The knowledge of knowing what
we could do in equipping ourselves,
medically speaking. Knowing our
options for treatment.
Rex: Our friendship and values
have sustained us through the
hard times. We have always enjoyed
being together because we have
so many common goals and like
to be part of each other's fulfillment
of these goals.
David: God has been my greatest
Faith in God is first and foremost,
especially her faith. Because
of that, she herself has provided
a sense of support by her faith.
Also, both of our parents and
what ways do you affirm your wife's
value and worth when she is feeling
less than her potential?
I wish I could say I do a great
job at this, but I would be lying.
I always seek to focus on the
value she brings to the family
because of who she is, not because
of what she does.
Tim: When I do see my wife,
I let her know that she is a strong
person and that she will beat
this disease. Also, that the children,
as well as myself love and support
Bud: By talking about the
positives in our lives and just
paying a little special attention
to my wife.
I always tell her how important
she is and support her in her
job and all that is meaningful
to her. Sometimes I tell her with
Rex: I try to help her remember
that her real strengths cannot
be diminished by illness. While
she is a gifted communicator,
who has to watch her outward abilities
gradually wan, her passion and
her gift to communicate are not
being hampered. It is more of
an igniting of her life message
than an extinguishing of it.
David: I will kiss her and
hold her and tell her that I love
her. I will tell her that I wished
that I could do something to make
her well, but I cannot.
Joel: I try to emphasize
how important the everyday things
that she takes on are. I affirm
her talents in her endeavors.
I try to show her that I find
her attractive and physically
are your greatest frustrations
in coping with your wife's illness?
Her unwillingness to talk about
how she is feeling at the moment,
how the illness affects her psychologically,
and my lack of understanding of
that dimension of her illness.
Tim: Not being able to help
when she is in pain. I hate to
see her in such agony.
Bud: My inability to remove
Robert: The greatest frustration
comes when she isnt feeling
like herself and I have done all
that I can do to help and it still
isnt always enough.
Joel: That I often cant
do anything to directly alleviate
the pain and damage the illness
causes. When people think they
know how she should treat and
deal with her illness. When illness
can limit physical intimacy.
do you cope with these frustrations?
Sometimes I pray for patience.
Sometimes I ignore the frustrations.
Sometimes I get angry. Sometimes
I convince her to talk about what
is going on inside of her. Other
times I determine it is best to
walk away from the situation for
Tim: It's hard, but I tell
myself that I am not a doctor
and that I need to be as supportive
as I can. I can do whatever she
needs to help.
Bud: Talk about it and pray.
Robert: I retreat someplace, off
by myself and pray or just focus
on what I can do to improve on
one thing or another. It helps
put things into perspective.
Rex: I try to talk them out with
her. Sometimes I slip them into
conversation with other people
who are coping with chronic illness
and their caregivers. If my reasoning
is healthy, sharing my feelings
in the presence of others gives
credence to my feelings and encourage
them to express theirs.
David: I cope through daily prayer,
scripture reading, and the grace
that God gives his Church through
the sacraments. The daily Mass
is particularly beneficial in
coping with my frustrations. To
receive the actual Body and Blood
of Christ on a daily basis is
a tremendous source of supernatural
grace. I am also seeing a psychologist
and a psychiatrist about the effect
that my wife's illness has on
my behavioral problem.
Joel: I have a lot of faith
in her decisions regarding treatment,
and I recognize that her doctors
are good, caring and qualified.
We both maintain confidence in
her treatment decisions. We have
faith that God is always working
things out His way for His purpose,
which we trust.
do you miss most about life before
the illness entered into it?
Her happiness, joy and excitement
Her smile; her optimistic outlook
on life in general
My youth...but that would have
been gone anyway.
Really, not much. This is most
likely because she has her health,
with some limitations, but she
is able to live a normal life
(except when fatigue sets in).
I miss a measure of spontaneity
and variety that we had with better
health. Many things have lost
their appeal because, for instance,
we can't guarantee the weather
or that the energy we have will
reach all the way to where we
want to go and back again. Chronic
illness has limited our options,
especially in recreation and leisure.
A healthy sex life.
The spontaneity of being able
to go do things and not be concerned
about walking distances and physical
activity or staying out late.
We cant be as carefree when
physically intimate. I have to
be careful not to hurt her.
you share these feelings with
your wife? Why or why not?
No, not often. I dont see
the purpose of reminding her of
the person she once was when she
can no longer be that person.
Tim: No. There are days
when I can talk with my wife,
but there are more days when I
can tell shed rather I wasn't
Yes. She could tell anyway.
We can talk about almost anything.
I don't share my feelings as well
as I try to enter into hers. I
am probably wimping out here,
but I view my losses in the shadow
of her losses. Hers are
more prominent, more substantial.
I want her to know she's worth
the losses I endure.
Yes. She knows about my problem
and my prescription.
I dont share these feelings
because they are not strong feelings.
Our dating lifestyle was never
physical demandingall is
certainly not lost. I appreciate
what we can do.
you think of a way that her illness
has had a positive influence on
certain parts of your relationship
We take very little for granted
I don't take things for granted.
I realized that I wasn't doing
a lot of the little things that
make a relationship work., such
as listening and just being there
to hold and nurture. I have more
conversations with our children
and take the time to listen to
Bud: It has taught us to
rely on each other and on God.
Robert: Oh yes! Our faith
is stronger. Each day is a gift.
Little things mean much more.
Rex: Focus is the single greatest
benefit we are receiving through
the challenge of chronic illness.
Most people will struggle with
a lack of focus all their lives
because they think they have the
time and energy to do almost everything,
not just what is important. Our/her
limited reserves have afforded
us some valuable choices as to
what we will give ourselves.
David: It has helped me become
Joel: I appreciate things she
does for me/us even more, knowing
that its harder for her
than for a healthy person. Her
condition keeps us dependent on
God and our faith in Him. Things
we consider top priorities. Her
illness has opened a door for
her career, and the personal satisfaction
of working towards a goal and
accomplishment has enriched both
you have a faith, explain how
it makes a difference in coping
with the difficulties of a family
member having an illness.
The Bible assures us that God
has our best interests in mind
as his goal. We cling to Him in
faith of that belief and pray
for whatever healing or relief
He would will to give.
God is my refuge when it seems
too much to bear. He is my source
of patience when I cant
muster anymore on my own.
Tim: I have never been very
religious in the past, but I do
take every opportunity to say
as many prayers during the day
for my wife, children and myself.
I do not believe it would be possible
for me to cope without faith in
God and his goodness. I know that
as good as life is on earth we
have a better promise of a life
with God and His family.
Faith gives you the hope that
each day will be a little better.
Our faith helps us keep perspective
on what we consider temporal,
namely, life as we experience
it in this earthly shell. We see
this life as terminal, so we don't
place our hopes in things that
may keep these bodies going a
few more miles. We keep our hope
in God, the Creator and Sustainer
of this life, and in what we believe
He says about the unseen, eternal
things to come.
Jesus is not in heaven whining
about how his bride does not meet
his needs. He loves without whining
and without regards to the health
of his bride. If I am to "love
my wife as Christ loved the Church"
then I must not whine about my
wife--in her illness--not meeting
my needs. That is not Christian
manhood. The struggles of marriage
help me through grace to grow
in His image. That is why a marriage
with a sick wife can be a blessing.
God can use my trials to remold
me, so that I become less self
indulgent and someday I might
truthfully say, through the grace
of God, that it is "no longer
I who live, but Christ who lives
you were to counsel a man whose
wife had just been\diagnosed with
a chronic illness what would you
Dont let your wife feel
sorry for herself. Let her know
how valued she is for who she
is, not for what she can do and
not do. Discover an appropriate
mechanism for venting your frustration
and be patient with her even when
you dont understand what
Tim: Take the time to listen.
Tell her how much she means to
you, and that you will be there
to support her. Remember the "in
sickness and in health" promise.
She would stick by you if you
were the one with an agonizing
I would advise him to maintain
the relationship on strengths
such as what it teaches you about
yourself and others. It is easy
if you love the person that is
ill. You can always see love demonstrated
in a variety of ways.
I would tell him that none of
us have any guarantees about anything.
But if you have faith in God,
He will help you. Also, pick up
any and all information regarding
the illness. Really educate yourself.
Having a better understanding
of the illness is so important.
Find support immediately. Not
all support groups per se can
accomplish what you want. You
must have a place to vent outside
of your relationship with your
wife. I found mine primarily in
a weekly group with two other
men, who were healthy enough to
help bear the grief I carried
for several months. They played
a major role of encouragement
for me and my wife.
Joel: Understand that he
cant "fix it."
I would explain that there is
a grieving process because there
is a "loss." I would
suggest counseling if things are
getting too difficult. Pray and
get into a good, supportive church.
Explore resources on the net and
otherwise. Get his wife a subscription
He Will Give You Rest. Encourage
his wife to do personal research
about her illness and to try to
meet others in the same situation.
Dont settle when it comes
to doctorsbe tenacious and
find the best, a doctor who will
listen, even if it requires going
to several to find the right one.