The other day we found ourselves without any kids in the house for a while. That NEVER happens! So we decided to have a little impromptu lunch date at one of our favorite spots. It was wonderful!
Having cancer or a chronic illness can really put a strain on your relationships. Your partner and your family go through this nightmare with you and they can be just as scared and stressed out as you are. While you are dealing with an ongoing illness and pain you are also dealing with your regular, daily tasks and stresses as well-job, finances, children, etc. Not only are your family relationships strained but relationships with your friends may be affected too. Receiving a diagnosis of a life changing disease really shakes up your entire life. And it changes you.
It can be very easy to let your relationship with your spouse or partner be affected the most. Maintaining a happy, healthy marriage is a lot of work even without having to endure a burden such as cancer. Other things, especially your children, can require most of your focus and energy. Your roles have probably shifted a bit and your spouse is probably doing a lot of the things that you used to take care of. Plus a lot of times they are now also taking on a new role, that of caregiver. It’s hard to still have time for just you and your partner when you have so many other distractions going on in your life. I know for us, it is especially hard to plan an actual date night because we find we are using babysitters so often to watch our young children when I have all of my scans and doctor appointments.
To be honest, a lot of times at the end of the day I’m so tired and drained that I don’t have a lot left to give to my hubby. He takes the brunt of my venting and frustrations. He puts up with my attitude and grouchiness when I am having a high pain day. He takes on a lot around here when I am struck down by sickness or pain. I truly am so blessed to have him and I know that I don’t thank him enough for all he does for me and for our family.
So when life is super crazy, super busy, super stressful and we are going through hard times in our lives, how can we stay connected with our spouses? Because going through the hard stuff can break us or it can make us stronger. Chad and I have been determined from day one that our trials will not break us, we can get through anything and we will do it TOGETHER. I am not a marriage counselor or an expert on relationships, and we have definitely had our struggles over the last 14 years of marriage, but I have some suggestions that we use that work for us:
- Communicate. It’s so important to keep talking to each other. Chad and I both react to things very differently and it’s important we both remember that. He likes to talk things out and deal with things head on while I tend to keep things bottled up inside. It’s helped us in our marriage to respect these differences though. He knows that sometimes I just need a little space and time to process my emotions. And I know that I can’t avoid all of the hard conversations and we will need to talk things out too. We both know that we can be honest with each other and we will work out things together, hopefully avoiding any hurt or anger. I have been working hard lately at using kind words more too, especially with Chad and with our girls. It makes such a big difference in the whole vibe of our home!
- Time. Spend time together. Our time is so valuable, but spending time with our partner is invaluable. Chad and I were best friends when we got married and it’s vital to the success of our marriage that we stay best friends. I feel it’s so important to still date your spouse even after you are married too. Like I mentioned before, we don’t get many date nights right now. But we do make the most of what time we do get. We have a lot of alone time together driving to doctor appointments and in waiting rooms. That’s kinda depressing, I know. But we try to spend that time wisely and talk about things we don’t want to talk about in front of the girls, discuss decisions that need to be made or get some planning done. We also might sneak a few minutes to grab a drink at the hospital cafe and enjoy having some alone time together. A lot of times we decide to talk about anything else except medical stuff…because medical talk can give you a migraine. We also spend our nights together after the girls go to bed. We’ll usually watch a movie or turn on a TV show to watch. Get creative with your date ideas, these aren’t fancy dates, but it’s time spent together which is the goal.
- Pray. I’m not sure if you are religious or not, but we are and so our faith is the center of our marriage. Praying together is such a humbling experience. Take turns praying. It will bring you closer together as a couple to hear the concerns of your spouse and to feel the love that they have for you while they pray. It’s a unifying experience to share all that you are thankful for and to feel the love of God surround you individually, as a couple and as a family. I must admit that we need to be better at this. It’s a lame excuse, but it’s hard for us to actually take the time to do it. We both get up at different times in the morning, the day gets busy and then at night I usually fall asleep on the couch and then sleepwalk to our bed at some point. It works best for us if we put the girls to bed and then pray together before doing anything else for the night. I also think it’s important to remember that nobody is perfect, no marriage is perfect, but as long as we keep trying and keep putting in the effort to maintain a marriage centered around the gospel we will be blessed.
- Serve. Serve your spouse. Let your spouse serve you. Serve others together. It might seem like a daunting task to serve your spouse when you yourself are sick, weak and exhausted. But just try to think of little things that you can do for them to show them that you care and appreciate them. Seriously, it can be something as simple as getting them a glass of water or listening to them talk about their day, but putting in the effort to do nice things for each other can help lift both of you up. And I never want Chad to feel like just a caregiver. He is still my companion in this crazy life. I’ve mentioned this before in other posts, but I’m pretty stubborn and independent (hey, it’s true) and so it’s hard for me to let other people help me. Letting Chad help me and do things for me though shows him that I trust him and I need him. It shows him that he is important to me and that I value what he brings to our marriage. Your relationship will be strengthened if you acknowledge that you need each other and that you are in this journey through life together. It might seem strange that serving others can bring you and your spouse closer together, but it definitely does. When you are working together on something with a shared goal in mind you will be spending time together and that not only blesses you but your service blesses the people who you are serving as well.
- Intimacy. I’m not going to delve too much into this but it’s so important. And this doesn’t even specifically mean sex, but be intimate with each other. Hold hands, kiss often, snuggle, have little moments being close to each other. This one is hard for me too. Touch is not my love language and especially if I am having a lot of pain or not feeling well then the last thing I want is to be touched. I have to remember though that touch is a love language for others in my home and it’s necessary to help us stay connected. It’s also good for your children to see you be affectionate with your spouse, it shows them that their parents love each other and gives them a positive example of what marriage should be.
I came across an article online called “What Happily Married Couples Do” by Douglas Brinley. He writes about 10 ideas for enriching your marriage and I found them all to be great little tidbits of advice to help strengthen relationships. It was published in the January 2012 issue of the Ensign (LDS Church) Magazine, click here to read it.
The ideas I mention above may seem pretty obvious. But, I’m telling you, sometimes it’s the most basic things that we let slide first. And the basics are so important. They are the foundation upon which we have built our relationship. If we neglect them then everything else will be so much more challenging and feel more chaotic. Especially when the trials of life come and we are overwhelmed by them. Don’t let the hard times separate you from those you love. Maintaining your relationships is vital in helping you to get through the storms of life.
What tips do you have for keeping your relationships strong during the hard times? I would love to hear them!
*If you would like to read a little more about our love story and how we dealt with my cancer diagnosis click here.
*To read starting from the beginning of my cancer journey click here.