How do you nurture marriage when one spouse is sick? How do you act when you are the sick spouse?
When we take our vows and promise to stick together in “sickness or health”, we usually aren’t keen to experience the sickness part.
A few months ago, I hurt my knee and later my back, and it’s been a long road to recovery. I’ve been relying on my husband to do more around the house and in our life.
The season of unwell has reminded me the fundamentals of a good relationship. Kindness. Service. Patience. Clear communication.
If you are going through a season of sickness or illness, I hope my lessons help you.
Six things my season of unwell has reminded me
1. A good marriage is worth the work
I had chicken pox on my wedding day. Through our nine years of marriage, we’ve gone through seasons of ailment. But this is a whole new frontier.
I’ve watched my husband serve and give every day, without complaining. It’s not easy, juggling his plate and mine but he has served without making it a big deal, even though it is.
When we are newlyweds, we worry, even fuss about many things. When my husband and I were navigating our newlywed-overwhelm, our mentors used to tell us “be patient, give each other time.”
And we wondered if they really understood our problems. Now I see what they meant, and I preach it to all the newlyweds who will listen.
Things change in marriage as spouses learn and grow. People don’t stay the same when they hold on to God and each other.
Even when the relationship dynamics are awful, if we stay connected to God and a community and commit to small steps of growth, we change.
As a new bride I worried my husband would never learn to speak my love language (acts of service). I feared we’d never communicate well.
But this season has reminded me how much things change in marriage, given time and effort. My husband does most of the things I used to cry about. We both grew.
If your husband is not there yet, don’t freak out and make rash decisions. Give him and yourself time. Hold on to God. Find good mentors. Do your part. Educate yourself.
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2. You have to be clear in your communication
It’s not until you need someone’s help – can’t function without it – that you realize how fuzzy dialogue gets.
I’ve needed my husband in countless ways, and I’ve discovered, to my shock, he doesn’t live inside my head; he doesn’t know what I need, exactly when I need it and how I need it.
Most things are obvious, like making meals, grocery runs, dishes, clearing the table after dinner, making my favorite tea.
But some things aren’t obvious, like when to get me a cup of water, which brand of raisins to buy and from which store, why I am gloomy and tickling isn’t the answer.
I’ve been learning not just to communicate, but to do so in a way that he understands. Which brings us to #3
3. You cannot have enough kindness and patience
It can be incredibly frustrating when one spouse is carrying all the slack, and the other person still sees everything else that needs to get done.
It’s not enough to talk; I am learning to be kind. I actually thought I am good in the kindness department until I had to explain things I’ve never had to describe before.
When you have to live your life through someone else, it becomes pretty clear, pretty fast, that they are not you.
A long time ago a friend who had a long-term injury told me that in her years of relying on others, she had learned that people get tired, lose patience and don’t know how to do everything.
People want to help, but they are not machines. My husband is easy and kind. But he’s human. A dude-of-dudes who thrives on respect.
So I am learning to tone down my got-to-get-this-done-yesterday attitude. I am learning to ask, instead of tell.
4. An opportunity to rely on God
Last week I lay in bed wondering if I want God to heal me. And I immediately recoiled because of course, I want to heal.
However, this season has shown me the many ways I don’t depend on God; how much I stress and over extend myself. I am still trying to figure this part out – how one can be desperate for healing but afraid healing will sour a good thing.
5. An opportunity to rely on others
I try not to be a burden to others and I used to think it’s a wonderful thing, a gift in fact.
But my eyes have been opened, and I see my crave for self-sufficiency for what it is – pride, fear of rejection, “I don’t want to owe anyone anything” kind of thinking.
So more than physical healing, I need some soul-surgery. It’s painful, and I am the sort of character who likes to leap off the operation table. I am glad I have Father who is scandalous and persistent in His love.
6. You can’t do it all
This has been one of the hardest things to learn.
As I type this, I am seeing all the things that need to get done around the house. All the ways I have fallen behind in life. The 2018 goals I haven’t gotten around to writing down, let alone checking off.
All the places I can’t go and things I can’t do. And it’s absolutely terrifying. A few weeks ago it was. Now I am learning to let go. Because #4 happened.
I am being reminded that nothing catches God surprise. In fact, if you ask me, I’ll tell you He planned this. I needed to slow down – actually come to a screeching halt – so I can make a few adjustments in my life.
I am glad for this season, even when it makes me weep.
If you are going through a trial, physical or otherwise, here are verses of Scripture to hold on to. (NLT version)
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
And these are the six things I am learning from this season. Have you experienced a season of sickness or faith being stretched? How are you “fighting the good fight”?