Simplify Life

4 Ways to Improve Your Marriage When Your Husband has a Chronic Illness

It was our first anniversary, and I had it all planned out! First, we’d picnic where we got married, eat the top of our wedding cake we’d saved and watch our wedding video. Then we’d pop by a photobooth to take cute pictures and then we’d go out to a nice restaurant. Nothing too extravagant, just ways to spend some time together and reminisce about our wedding.

And my husband was zonked out, feeling sick. I was frustrated and felt like I wasn’t asking very much. I thought that if he really loved me, he’d drag himself out of bed and do this with me. After pouting about it for a bit, I realized I was being selfish and this was a dangerous way to start thinking.

Of course, he really loved me, and our anniversary was about more than just me. And what did it matter if we celebrated it a little later? Marriage is about making the other person happy, not just doing what I want.

Believe he’s doing the best he can

I knew that I had to believe that my husband was doing the best he can while dealing with his chronic illness, otherwise I’d be constantly setting unrealistic expectations and setting myself up for disappointment. After all, he’s not in charge of my happiness, I am.

I’ve talked before about being kind to yourself and believing that you’re doing the best you can. I was practicing self-love and understanding, and I knew I needed to extend that same attitude to my husband.

Everyone is human, and no one does everything perfectly. I’m sure there are plenty of times I haven’t lived up to my husband’s expectations and I don’t have a chronic illness to blame.

We all just need to do our best and trust that everyone else is doing their best. Don’t even let your mind entertain the idea that they’re not. That’s the fast road to resentment.

Be flexible

While it would have been great to celebrate our anniversary on our actual anniversary, you know what? It’s just as fun to celebrate another day. Plus I’d rather my husband feel well enough to actually enjoy our time together.

Chronic illness can be so unpredictable, so while you should still make plans and set expectations, you also need to be compassionate and flexible. It’s not the end of the world to move or even cancel appointments if you need.

I’m a people pleaser, so I used to struggle with this one. But I’m my husband’s advocate and I care more about him and his health and happiness than disappointing others.


For a while, it seemed like my husband was constantly on his computer playing video games. While I was working full-time and trying to maintain the house. I was getting a little frustrated. In my mind, he was just being lazy and not helping out.

I finally asked him about it and he told me he was having really bad anxiety and was trying to keep himself distracted to deal with it. It was a coping mechanism to prevent him from having an anxiety attack.


That totally changed my perspective on the whole situation. And it reiterated my first point, to believe that your husband is doing the best he can.

To me, it looked like he was being lazy, but when I talked to him I learned that he was struggling.

I’m fortunate that my husband is very open to talking about how he’s feeling and if he’s struggling, but sometimes it takes some prompting to get it out of him. He knows I have a lot going on and doesn’t want to add to my stress or worry, so he can put on a good front.

I’ve had to communicate to him that I love him, will always be concerned about him and I’d rather know what’s going on. He’s gotten better about telling me how he’s actually doing, sometimes without prompting, and I’ve gotten better about asking him how he’s doing.

Setting him up for success

Everyone has different capabilities and for people with chronic illnesses, that can vary greatly from day to day. And being limited in your abilities can be a blow to your self-esteem.

I love my husband and I think he’s a wonderful husband. I also want him to think that he’s doing a good job. I always try to make sure that I’m setting him up for success.

I set realistic expectations for things I’d like him to help with, accomplish and what needs I have. Make sure that they’re clearly defined and he understands them. There’s no point in having expectations and not communicating them, that does not set someone up for success. You can’t reach expectations if you don’t know what they are.

At the same time, if he’s sick and sleeping all day for a week, I’m going to let those things slide and pick up the slack.

It’s a delicate balance of setting expectations and helping him be successful in them. The longer I’m married the better I can read my husband and figure out what he can handle each day. So I can better tell when he’s just dragging his feet and I can push him, and when he needs to take it easy and not be bugged about it.

Marriage is already a partnership that requires compromise and give and take. Chronic illness adds a whole other level of complexity to that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a happy, thriving, successful marriage, it just means you might have to do things a little differently.
Always trust your husband is doing the best he can. It’s the easiest way to prevent resentful thoughts from creeping in. And let’s be honest, he loves you and is doing his best.

Make plans and set expectations but be flexible. It’s not the end of the world if you have to cancel a date night or he can’t take out the garbage.

Communication is key to everything. Be open about how you’re feeling and don’t accuse him if he seems to be slacking. Instead, kindly ask how he’s doing. You might find that he’s struggling and could use your support.

Set him up for success. Everyone wants to feel like they’re doing a good job and having a chronic illness that limits your abilities can really cause a blow to your self-esteem. Set reasonable expectations and be clear about your expectations and needs. Then help your husband be successful in attaining them.

And be sure to thank him for all he does. Somedays managing your illness is all you can do, so I try to make sure my husband knows how much I appreciate anything and everything he does. Give your husband a kiss and let him know you love him, just as he is.

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