NAVIGATING MARRIAGE WITH ILLNESS CAN BE DARK AND LONELY.
Marriage with illness, pain, or disability can be difficult, but it can also be an opportunity to learn patience, forgiveness, and sacrifice – gifts to savor and celebrate.
MARRIAGE PRACTICAL TOOLS: GROWING TOWARD ONE ANOTHER
So, how can we encourage one another in growing towards each other and towards God, enabling the refinement of ourselves and our marriages through God’s grace?
A GOOD PLACE TO START
This prayer written by Cindee Snider Re is an excellent place to start communicating with each other and the Lord.
“Dear Lord, show us Your way today. Foster in us the humility and patience needed to be vulnerable with our spouses, especially when it is the last thing we want to do. Help break down the pride within us that all too often gets in the way of speaking the truth in love and learning to be more like You. Help us to openly share our hearts to each other just a little bit more each day, and through this, allow us to grow in our relationships with You and the ones to whom we said ‘I do.’ Amen” (from I Take You in Sickness & in Health)
We know that some of you reading this do not have your spouse’s support right now, but we pray that you can extend them grace to come alongside you in their time. In the meantime, continue growing towards God and your spouse.
One of the keys to any marriage is communication, something even more important when chronic illness is a constant companion in your marriage. Misunderstandings, mind-reading, and apathy can all settle in if we are not careful. It’s very easy for the person suffering to draw inward in their pain and fatigue. It’s common for the caregiver to bottle up how they are feeling as well. What if we shared those thoughts and feelings with one another and with God? Rather than guessing how the other person is feeling or what they are thinking, ask them to share.
We had some excellent advice early in our marriage: “Ask one another this simple question at the end of the day:
‘How did I bless you today?’”
It’s a powerful question that opens a place for communicating what really speaks love to your spouse. Why not give it a try?
Step in with 76 Questions to Connect You as a Couple to get you talking and connecting with your spouse. Take a look at the questions and have some fun sharing with each other. Enjoy the journey of talking with one another. There’s no rush – choose one or two questions at a time to talk through and pray about. Perhaps over time, laughter will pop up along the way.
Have you ever thought, “If only he’d/she’d say _____ to me”?
LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR SPOUSE’S THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
No matter how many years we’ve been married, we can always learn more about our spouse. This is so important to remember when chronic illness is part of the equation. How do we discern what our partner is thinking or how s/he is feeling? Communicate! We cannot forget how powerful our words are.
If you are ill, you may wish your spouse would say, “I believe you. I know you’re doing your best.” Would this make a huge difference for you – and your spouse who needs to hear and know it? Share this with your partner!
If you are the caregiver, perhaps you feel forgotten and unappreciated. It could mean so much if your spouse said, “I’m sorry for not thanking you for all you do.” or “You are such a blessing to me.” It can make the extra vacuuming and household chores seem a lighter load.
Take a look at the printable Words are Powerful. Print it out and have your spouse highlight phrases that mean something to them or have them write out other things they wish you would say. Talk about this and ask God to help you become more aware of your words and their impact.
Chronic illness can become all-consuming and we can forget to dream together or even be hopeful about the future. Take some time to talk about your hopes and dreams. Use the Building Your Bucket List printable to help get you started. Consider creating a list of things you could enjoy together on a rough day.
- How about some music? Check out the suggested playlist after the printables. (A favorite is, I Get to Love You by Ruelle. Our spouse is a gift – we get to love them.) Listen to some of the songs on the list – rest in their melodies, listen to the lyrics, hold each other…
- Have date nights, hold hands, talk, laugh, dream – maybe in new ways.
- Encourage each other to have friendships outside of the marriage. You need this – you can’t be everything to each other.
- Study the Word together. Press towards Christ and one another.
Allow the refining that will ultimately happen in you as individuals and as a couple.
MOST OF ALL, PRAY:
- On your own.
- For your spouse.
- With your spouse.
As Katherine and Jay Wolf write in their book Suffer Strong: “…but what if we weren’t meant to change them? What if we were meant to know them and love them and see the truest version of them, the one even they can’t fully see? What if instead of the change agent, we were the cheerleader? Relentlessly hopeful, endlessly encouraging, expecting change to come from God and not from us.”
- Relentlessly hopeful
- Endlessly encouraging
- Expecting change
- From God
Love to you today. We’re cheering for you.
76 Questions to Connect You as a Couple
Use the questions slowly, one question and one conversation at a time over many months in any order you choose. This is an exploration and an opportunity to grow more deeply in love as you rediscover one another.
Build a Healthier Marriage
As spouses, how can we pray for one another? Where can we intentionally invest in one another? How can we creatively carve out a little one-on-one time? What could we do together to help us bond and share a little more of our lives with one another?
Building Your Bucket List
A bucket list is an invitation to dream with God. Ideas don’t have to be grand or extravagant. Sometimes the best adventures happen right in our own backyards. It’s also an opportunity to invite friends and loved ones to have rich conversations about their dreams.
Lessons from Biblical Couples
Marriage is a gift, a holy weaving of two very imperfect people into one through a lifetime of difficult, beautiful, exasperating, and amazing mountain-top moments of God-ordained sanctification.
Words are Powerful
Ask your spouse which of these phrases is meaningful to him/her or if there are other phrases he/she would like to hear. Both you and your spouse could highlight phrases on either side to help you remember what is powerful to your spouse.
Ministry of Reconciliation
Reconciliation is the process of restoring broken relationships, of building something new from the tender soil of forgiveness.
“Where words fail, music speaks.” Hans Christian Andersen
- I Get to Love You – Ruelle
- Bless the Broken Road – Rascal Flatts
- I Do – Paul Brand
- Family – Toby Mac
- Together – Steven Curtis Chapman
- In Jesus Name (God of Possible) – Katy Nichole
- First – Lauren Daigle
- Without You – for King & Country
- Flawless – Mercy Me
- Household of Faith – Steve Green
- You’ve Got Me – Steven Curtis Chapman
- Broken Together – Casting Crowns
- I Choose You (The Wedding Song) – Ryann Darling