Last year at this time, I was struggling with my health. It was hard to feel like myself at work, at home, and there was no “at play” in my life then. Physically, I was dealing with unexplained vertigo, hearing loss, and disequilibrium. While not actually painful, it made me nauseous, irritable, and was accompanied by deep feelings of fear and depression. (If you’ve read my book, you may remember some of this story.)
One day, I was trying to explain to my husband Cris how sorry I was that I couldn’t be the wife he married and the wife who had enjoyed nearly two decades of togetherness. Of course, I was crying and it both hurt and made me mad to be in this situation.
And my best friend, companion, and husband just looked at me and said, “I’m not going to ‘unlove’ you because you’re sick.” His words still brings tears to my eyes as I write this. I can’t tell you if he thought about those words much before he said them. I can tell you that his words lifted my soul in that moment and chased some of the fear away.
Now imagine you’re a person with chronic illness or chronic pain. You might not really have to imagine – this could be you already since over 100 million people in the U.S. have experienced chronic pain. And according to one study in 2013, nearly half of all Americans have at least one chronic illness. This means many of you have felt what I was feeling that day last winter.
Has my health improved since then? Well, yes and no. Have I cried more tears? Definitely. Have I had some priceless moments of joy and happiness? Absolutely. And every SINGLE day I think of that one precious phrase, “I’m not going to unlove you.”
I realize this is a unique and amazing gift from my spouse. And so are all those nights when he’s not only cooked dinner but also done the dishes – all because I needed to get off my feet and rest. It’s not uncommon for a spouse to feel burdened by the challenge of their partner’s chronic pain. Many relationships and marriages struggle and even fail because of it.
Do Cris and I have the secret to a happy marriage despite chronic pain or illness? Well that bin of magic fairy dust was empty at the store this month, so I have no fail-safe secret. I will however, give you my top three strategies for enriching your loving relationship even when you have chronic pain or illness.
- Choose to be happy and find happiness in all the little ways you can. Each of those little choices add up to a big difference in how you approach each day. And research shows that optimism and a sense of hope (which go hand-in-hand with happiness), play a big part in improving your health. What makes you happy will be completely individual—maybe it’s a child’s laughter, a bright sunny day, or some yellow roses. It could be the comfort of a warm meal shared with someone. Or bubbles in the bathtub. You choose!
- Let them know how much it means to you! Don’t forget the “thank you” moments, even if you think you’ve already said it a few times today or this week. Do what you can when you can. When you have a good day, use some of your energy to do something nice for your partner even if it’s just emptying the dishwasher. But most of all thank them more than you think necessary.
- Hug your partner every single day—more than once! Being heart-to-heart in a hug is healing for you both. It improves blood pressure, lifts your mood, and generates pain-relieving endorphins too. It reminds you both that you’re the most important people in each other’s lives, no matter what pain and health challenges your family is dealing with.
Love them because they love you. Face the challenges together, hand in hand, heart to heart.
Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!