Three ways to support your spouse

Marriage in Chronic Illness: 3 Ways to Support Your Spouse

I wrote the following article for ProHealth and it originally appeared in their Inspirational Corner here.

In the midst of all the challenging constants in this life with chronic illness, one thing I’m sure many of us are thankful for is the consistency of a loved one’s care. My husband has been the most important part of my treatment plan. He gives so much while bearing his own heavy load as we fight this illness together.

As appreciative as I am of his selfless care, it is has been quite a process figuring out how I can best support him. Those that stand beside us truly sacrifice so much and I know their need for care is just as important as our own.

Here are a few things I’ve learned that can hopefully be a starting point for developing ways you can support your spouse (or whoever your caretaker is).


Do we know how our partner is doing? In the midst of the daily grind of living with pain, managing treatment and just getting through simple tasks it’s easy to forget that this life is hard on them, too.

Asking our partner how they are doing, as well as listening well can go miles. Their feelings and needs are important, too, and we can find ways to communicate that.

I’ve also found that communicating my needs is not just part of my self-care, but it’s also part of helping my husband. He wants to know how I’m doing. He would rather know if I’m having a hard day and can’t prepare my meals than to find me in tears over the stove (true story).

Tangibly Show Your Appreciation

As I mentioned above, so much of our conversations can center around symptoms, doctors, treatment and care. I don’t always remember to show my love and appreciation for my husband in ways that tell him “you are a rock star and I NOTICE.” But he sure deserves to know!

Search for ways within your abilities that you can show your spouse your love. How does he or she best feel loved? Is it through words? A hand-written note or an e-card telling them why they’re so awesome may be the thing that brightens their day.

Do they feel most cared for when you tangibly do something for them? Maybe you could take a task (even a small one) off their plate to show them you care. Washing a load of laundry or scheduling a payment for a bill so they don’t have to worry about it.

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Fostering healthy relationships in chronic illness: Three ways to support your spouse.

Encourage Their Self-Care

Illness can feel lonely and draining for us, but our caretakers are not exempt from this. Just as we need encouragement, friendship and soul care, our spouse needs an outlet for those things as well. If I’m honest, it hasn’t always been easy for me to support this since I spend a lot of time at home, but I began noticing the difference it made.

I could see how refreshed and lighter his spirit was when he came home from a night with the guys or meeting up with a friend. So now I make a conscious effort to support the things outside the home that nourish him and lift his spirits!

Is your caretaker taking the time they need to refuel? Encourage them to meet up with a friend or to talk with a counselor to process the challenges of caring for a spouse. Maybe they would benefit from joining a Facebook group just for caretakers where they can safely share while connecting with others who understand.

Whatever outlet you believe will give him or her a healthy dose of refreshment, encourage it!

We may think we have little to offer in the realm of caring for our spouses, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. I know we have so much love and kindness to offer!

Each of us understands the value of being heard. We have experienced how great it feels to have a helping hand. We know the importance of finding release and encouragement from a friend.

It may take some creativity and a whole lot of mindfulness, but we can find our own unique ways to give of ourselves within our limitations. To let our caretakers know: you are special to me and your needs are just as important as my own.

Marriage in Chronic Illness: Supporting your Spouse
Trevin and I on our anniversary. 

I’d love to hear from you! What would you add to the list? 

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  1. Janka says:

    My spirit has been refreshed and lightened by reading your lines Kami. And what a delighful pic of the two of you! It is been a great challenge of mine to find some composure and balance in communicating my needs and feelings without melting into stressing my position and demanding change from another when I am hurting. A sense of urgency for the pain to stop comes through strong 🙁 Wishing both of you many wonderful, meaningul and precious moments together*

    • Kami says:

      Hi Janka. Thank you for your words – I am glad to have brought some light to your day through this post. I have struggled with the battle you mentioned myself, so know you are not alone. This life of illness makes every layer of the everyday tasks and interactions more challenging doesn’t it? Baby steps is what I keep telling myself. Baby steps of change and purpose in finding better ways to navigate the hard parts of this life with illness. We can all lean on each other 🙂 Hugs to you, lovely!

      • Janka says:

        Dear Kami,
        Thank you for the kind words of support. Speaking of layers – how heavy and thick and foggy they can be! And isolating as a result, uneasy to relay to the people around. It is wonderful to know we are not alone, to know you understand. How sweet does the fruit of your blogging process taste to you in terms of relating – if I may know? Baby step, crawl, baby steps indeed… Together we stand tall! Hugs to you too Kami *

        • Kami says:

          Yes, so true – the layers of this life with illness can be very heavy and complex! I do see so much good coming out of sharing and relating to so many others on their journey. Connecting with others who understand the weight of this life and all that comes with it, brings each of us a sense of validity to our struggle. And I think that’s so important! Hugging you back <3

  2. Carrie says:

    I love this! I am blessed to have a loving, supportive husband who cuts me a LOT of slack. It is important for him to know I am grateful and to remember to give him space. Being sick all the time makes it hard to give back sometimes but it is so important for them to know how much we appreciate and love them. Thank you sharing your heart.

    • Kami says:

      I’m so glad you have him, Carrie! I agree with everything you said. While their battle is different than ours, it is VERY hard and their support is so important. Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts! It means so much. 🙂

  3. Gene says:

    Hi. My wife is chronically ill with migraines, depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia. It can be challenging and lonely at times, but she’s my beloved and best friend. I’ve educated myself quite a bit, and do take the time to consider and help discern her migraine triggers.

    As the spouse who is able to take on the role of supporter, it’s easy to focus on managing the house and providing help for our spouse. Between that and a full-time job, it can take up as much time as I let it. While doing so, it’s really easy to minimize our own needs as many times they seem trivial when I compare them what my wife is experiencing. It’s also very easy to feel guilty for having needs of my own. Typically, lists that concern the spouse of someone who is ill tell us to learn all we can about our spouse’s illness, go to doctor’s appointments, know what their needs are – essentially how to transition from partner, friend, and lover to caretaker. Usually last on the list is for us to get some counseling (presumably to accept that we’re a caretaker instead of a spouse now) and maaaaybe take a break every once in a while. I’ve stopped reading those lists for the most part. They’re just too depressing and make things seem kind of bleak.

    I like your list much better, but I still don’t like the word “caretaker.” 😉

    • Kami says:

      Hi Gene 🙂
      I’m sure that the way you are loving and caring for your wife speaks volumes to her on how much she means to you. I know your role is not an easy one and that it often gets overlooked by society. My husband gets far less “check-ins” than I. Yet you both do so much to make up for the long list of things the spouse who’s ill cannot contribute. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here and reading my post. It really means a lot!

      Oh, and I smiled on your line about the word caretaker, haha. I primarily use it to allow for the reality that some chronically Ill have a family member or friend helping them out. I didn’t want to only cover spouse in this and leave them out. If you have another term to use I’m all ears! ☺️

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