Life changes immediately after your spouse or partner is diagnosed with a chronic illness.

The diagnosis affects more than just them. It affects the entire family, especially you.

Sure other family and friends may be supportive, but you, as the spouse, will likely bear the brunt of the household responsibilities.

A serious, life-changing diagnosis, like cancer or heart disease, can cause a major shift in the relationship you have with your spouse or partner.

Source: Family Caregiver Alliance

Understanding Your Partner's Feelings

Being diagnosed with a serious illness is shocking.

Your spouse or partner will experience a range of feelings from sadness to fear and anxiety first-hand.

After being diagnosed with cancer, for example, your partner may even feel guilty, blaming themselves for being sick and for any emotional and financial strain they are causing on the family, the National Cancer Institute says.

As the setbacks and limitations of the illness set in, your partner's personality may begin to change. He may become more difficult as he becomes increasingly demanding, angry and easily irritated.

Though unflattering and sometimes offensive, these personality traits are normal for any person going through a serious illness.

Changes In The Relationship

During your partner's journey, you can expect your relationship to change significantly. And it's normal for you to desire the relationship you and your partner had in the past. Here are some of the most common changes:

  1. Medications and treatments for the illness may cause them extreme fatigue and cut their ability to engage in activities they normally enjoyed.
  2. If you and your partner loved to travel, vacations may need to be postponed if the illness and treatment weakens their immune system, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. Often spouses with a chronic disease are less intimate, too. Your partner may be feeling unattractive and tired, which may cause your love life to suffer, says the American College of Cardiology.
  4. A major shift in your relationship will be the change in responsibilities. You may have once depended on on your partner to pay the bills, empty the garbage or take the kids to school.
  5. Your partner may need to take time off work because of their illness, meaning there's less income.

These factors combined can put any spouse or couple in a bad mood and cause stain in the relationship.

Communicating With Your Spouse or Partner

Being a caregiver is overwhelming. While trying to cope with your feelings, you are also dealing with how your partner has changed, physically, emotionally and psychologically.

Your partner may have a string of bad days, when he's extremely difficult and critical of your cooking, cleaning and care for them.

While this is discouraging, the key to overcoming the negative vibe is communication, especially with the changes you both are going through.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology provides tips on how to communicate more effectively with your spouse or partner:

  1. Plan a time to talk without distractions
  2. Practice what you want talk about, especially if it's a tough topic
  3. Talk openly and honestly about good and bad feelings
  4. Respect your partner's point-of-view
  5. Discuss how you both cope differently
  6. Talk to your partner about what you need emotionally and listen to their needs
  7. Discuss things that are not related to their illness

These tips can be used to work through feeling about any chronic disease. The goal of talking is to understand each other and come up with solutions that can help you get through this—together.

If you or your spouse are struggling with a chronic illness, EIRMC has several services that can help—including Cancer Care, Diabetes Management, Surgery and Heart Care. While our medical experts are focused on treatment, you two can focus on each other.