In my last few articles, I have covered three of the top four things affected in a marriage with chronic illness: communication, finances, and intimacy. This week, I hope to touch on the struggles a couple encounters when chronic illness affects how one or both of the spouses keep up with chores and other family responsibilities.
Chronic illness is something that affects everything in that person’s life – and the lives of their family members. Relationships, responsibilities, and recreational abilities are not the only things that change when illness comes on the scene. In addition to all of that, many individuals, including their spouses, must adjust and learn how to use the energy they have wisely and to work even better together in ways that meet the needs of the family while also meeting the needs of each individual, including the one who has the illness.
In starting out in this journey, I have learned just how important it is to communicate about all of this with my husband, Randy. At the beginning of our marriage, I worked, took care of the kids, and did the majority/all of the housework. When Randy would come home at night, I was very thankful for his help in cleaning the kitchen, bathing the kids, and helping me get them to bed. He was willing to chip in and help sometimes.
I carried the majority of the workload at home in addition to my jobs in and outside of the home.
There came a point that things had to change, although I was very reluctant to admit it. I was slowing down and becoming more and more unable to keep up with things around the house like I could before.
The time came that I had to admit to God and my husband that I wasn’t well enough to do it all anymore. I couldn’t keep working and trying to keep my homemaking tasks done every day. I was completely drained – and things were getting worse and worse in my physical body, and it showed in our physical home.
Talking to Randy about this and letting him know how I felt was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but in doing that, I found freedom and the blessing that comes from letting someone else help me. Even in the best of health, what I was trying to do was very, very hard.
Even though I felt like a failure as a wife, a mother, and a woman who was trying to contribute to my family, there were things that I could and had to let go from my to-do list to regain my health (i.e. working my different outside jobs).
Little by little, we started to work together to see that things could get done – - and I learned to ask for help. (Oh, so hard!) By being honest and willing to open up about my feelings about how my health problems were affecting my ability to “do it all” ALL the time, I learned what is means to work as a team with my husband every day.
Disclaimer: * We don’t always have this figured out perfectly – and – there have been times that I have had to literally ask my husband to help me. It’s a constant lesson in humility and Grace since I tend to want to do things myself and strive to do too much. I get very frustrated with my limitations sometimes. One thing I have had to remember is that my husband can’t read my mind – but – I am blessed to be married to a man who is thoughtful and does want to help me. I just need to ask. *
So, if you are in a place where you “can’t do it all” and need your husband’s help, what should you do? Well, this is what has worked for me – and I pray this can help you too:
1. Communicate with each other – - – and pray about what to do
Sounds simple, yes, but not always. I found this to be the hardest step in this process. I had a very hard time admitting that I needed help – and then I had a hard time letting Randy help me. (Oh, my pride was in the way!) Once I was able to see reality and learn how to ask for help, I found freedom in knowing that we could be a team in everything.
Praying together for wisdom and positive attitudes during this process really does set the foundation for God’s leading in divvying up the responsibilities and learning how to work together. Even on our best days, we have our humanity to contend with; we aren’t self-sacrificing, serving people at heart. We need the Lord’s help and Grace to permeate our marriage and family as we work together. It won’t come naturally but God can help us, even in this area of our lives (and He does!).
2. Look for ways that you can divide up the daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc., responsibilities and be willing to “do” for the other when you can
I am grateful for good days with my health; on those days, I can get a lot done and feel good about myself and my abilities. Then, there are days when my fibromyalgia, along with my narcolepsy, take every last amount of energy I have, along with ANY reserve in my body. On rough days, I tell Randy I am struggling. I am so grateful that he is willing to “take up the slack” and do what are “my” crucial responsibilities on those days.
In being willing to go the extra mile, when you can, each to the other, you start a chain reaction of blessing and service in your marriage and family.
There are many tools that can assist you in this step; Cozi, Flylady, and even Internet Support Groups (Yahoo email lists/Facebook Groups, etc.) have proven to be an encouragement and support to me in this “new normal” of trying to keep up with life as a person with Chronic Illness. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help and use these tools to help you too!
3. Express appreciation for the little and not so little ways that your spouse helps you
This may go without saying, but so many of us – me included – can take for granted the daily gifts we are given in our spouses. Their best efforts to serve and love and minister to us during this hard and stressful times of chronic illness should not be overlooked. I understand the drain our bodies, emotions, and minds have as a result of the constant effort it takes to be Graceful and Loving while hurting and tired. This last year has been the hardest one of my life.
I am not always the best example of a patient and positive person, and my poor husband is the one who usually gets to see the real me when it’s been a hard day. I am working very hard, however, to be mindful of my attitude and tone of voice I use when speaking to and ABOUT my husband to others. I am incredibly blessed, beyond my wildest dreams, with Randy’s faithful love, devotion, and service to me and our children.
I pray that my words, attitude, and body language convey my appreciation and love to him as long as God blesses me to be his wife. Even in my “limitations” as a homemaker, I can be a constant blessing to my husband: I pray for God’s wisdom in leading in how to do that, to the best of my ability, with His help.
May our marriages be known for their love and faithful service!
I Corinthians 13:4-7 (AMP)
4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
7 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
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