We all become ill from time to time and fortunately for most of us it is short lived. If either partner becomes seriously ill there will undoubtedly be an impact on the relationship; in some cases it can bring a couple closer in facing the adversity together, for others the stress will drive them apart. The reaction of the well partner in response to a serious illness or sudden disability of a partner is usually only a reflection of the previous health of the relationship. It is rare for couples who are madly in love to reject or fail to care for their partner in a crisis.

Serious Illness

Illness can be draining on a relationship, especially if it goes on for some time. A sudden illness can dramatically change the dynamic of your relationships, especially if you feel uncomfortable in the role of carer. Illness can raise a whole raft of emotions from anger to resentment, grief and regret.

There are things you can do to be supportive to your partner during times of illness and ensure that your relationship remains strong during this difficult time.

  • Be supportive. We all get ill and we all hope that the person closest to us will help during those times. Don't turn your back on your partner, hopefully if your turn comes you too will have a nurse you can depend on.
  • Patience. Part of being a supportive partner is having enough patience with the situation that you don't take out your own frustration on the person who is ill. They haven't become ill on purpose and the last thing they need is to continually hear how bad you feel about the situation. If you are struggling with the demands of caring for someone who is sick then talk to friends and family.
  • Take care of yourself. You won't do yourself any favours if you are ill too, so ensure that you take the time to look after your health. If this means getting someone else to help, then do it. If you are a long term carer then ensure you get plenty of sleep, exercise and regular breaks.
  • Talk. Just because your partner is ill that doesn't mean you should stop communicating, behave abnormally or try to protect them from day to day life. Involve them in family decisions and don't presume that they won't want to know.
  • Time. If your partner is ill then they aren't at their best and getting better can take time. Understand and accept this. Appreciate that most illnesses are transient and things will get better within a time frame. If your partner is terminally or chronically ill there are organisations to help you.
  • Independence. You should care for your sick partner but don't smother them, this is especially true if they are the one who is used to being in the caring role. Talk to them regularly about how they feel and whether they need more or less support from you.