How to Navigate Chronic Illness and Marriage


It started during the engagement.

He called from the hospital with the news – kidney stones. Four hundred miles away, I felt helpless and frustrated.

But the saga continued. As it turned out, I had plenty of opportunities to make up for missing that first episode.

Thirty-one years into our marriage, my husband, Jim, has now passed over 60 “babies” and holds no empathy for my four childbirth deliveries. Most women say they’d rather have a baby than a kidney stone.

So there’s that.

Over the years, we’ve visited Duke for Jim’s kidney stones and other chronic illnesses. It seems to never be an easy route, he’s always got the worst luck.

Often, the stones are too large to pass, resulting in surgery, followed up with stents.

Stents hurt.

Dealing with chronic pain and illness can make anyone's life challenging. But, there is hope. learn how to navigate chronic illness and marriage. #chronicillness #marriage #relationships

How to Navigate Chronic Illness and Marriage

At one time, he took meds to counteract the stones…

Which caused him to faint and be admitted to the hospital for more testing.

After numerous gallbladder attacks, they put him under for surgery…

He came down with pneumonia.

He began having heart attack symptoms while flying.

Turns out, it’s an electrical problem related to the heart, and if he has surgery, he’ll become paralyzed.

The man is a walking time bomb. He now sees a heart doctor at Cleveland Clinic and is banned from flying.

(Did I mention he travels for work?!)

It’s easy to become discouraged as the spouse of a chronically ill mate. Click To Tweet

It’s easy to become discouraged as the spouse of a chronically ill mate. If not careful, one can become desensitized and less-than-empathetic (not that I would know anything about that). Unfortunately, life still goes on. Meals need to be cooked, kids have soccer practice and laundry piles at the speed of light.

So what’s a wife to do when she feels defeated, exhausted, and sometimes like a single parent?

With these things in mind, here is my best advice on coping with a chronically ill husband – but first, let these truths from Psalm 23 surround your soul:

“Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need! He lets me rest in the meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He gives me new strength. And, He helps me do what honors him the most. Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.”

Psalm 23:1-4, TLB

Dealing with chronic pain and illness can make anyone's life challenging. But, there is hope. learn how to navigate chronic illness and marriage. #chronicillness #marriage #relationships

What a comfort! God promises provision for all that we need – strength included.

Here’s How to Navigate Chronic Illness and Marriage

FirstTake time for prayer.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my attitude, it’s that prayer focuses on my Savior, diminishing my selfishness.

Paul said, “Always keep praying” (I Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer strengthens, refreshes, and teaches the soul to wait. Prayer delivers peace that passes understanding. Praying Scripture is also important for when we don’t know what to say!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my attitude, it’s that prayer focuses on my Savior, diminishing my selfishness. Click To Tweet

SecondShare with 1-2 trusted friends.

Enlist godly friends who are FOR marriage and FOR your best interests and growth in Christ. You need to be able to share your feelings without being preached at – just loved. And yet, it helps to hear the truth from these dear sisters.

ThirdDon’t be too hard on yourself for all that doesn’t get done.

Dishes, laundry, and cleaning seem daunting, especially when things start to pile up. But remember, people are eternal – things are not.

Invest in your hubby and kids above and beyond the seemingly immediate calls of duty.

Invest in your hubby and kids above and beyond the seemingly immediate calls of duty. Click To Tweet

Fourth…  Ask for help.

If your mom or MIL live nearby, ask if they can watch grandkids, deliver a meal, or run errands for you.

Enlist the help of your kids! If a kid can operate an iPhone, she can certainly help fold towels. As they help, enjoy the camaraderie in the process!

FifthSquelch resentment.

Christ, God in man-form, humbled Himself to death on the cross. His whole purpose in life was to serve.

Why should we, redeemed saints, live any less? Paul said, Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to (I Corinthians 8:27). Sometimes we need to call self-pity what it is.

Yes, there is a time and place for grief and sorrow. But in the long run, Paul encouraged joyfulness. This post will help when you don’t know what God wants you to do.

SixthDon’t buy into the lie that “I deserve better.”

Scripture says God formed us in the womb and knows our sitting, rising, and sleeping patterns. He designs our steps with His eye on us (Psalm 139:1-18). If we truly believe this, we must accept that He has us in this situation for His glory and with our best interest in mind.

The Enemy works His wiles by whispering, “You don’t have to take this. It’s not fair.”

Think about the truth!

“Fix your thoughts on what is true and good and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely, and dwell on the fine, good things in others. Think about all you can praise God for and be glad about.”

Philippians 4:8

Dealing with chronic pain and illness can make anyone's life challenging. But, there is hope. learn how to navigate chronic illness and marriage. #chronicillness #marriage #relationships

FinallyAbide in Christ.

It’s easy to build up a wall of resentment toward hubby when you feel you come last all the time.

It’s easy to build up a wall of resentment toward hubby when you feel you come last all the time. Click To Tweet

Also, it’s incredibly easy to become distant from our heavenly Father. Carve 5-15 minutes each day to read Scripture. It helps to write it down on a 3×5 and post in a frequented spot (such as your kitchen window). Keep the prayers rolling. Remember that God loves you just as much now as He ever will and ever has. Abide – well beyond your quiet time!

Dear wife, I know it’s hard. But Psalm 23 can become your go-to as you let the truths of The Good Shepherd sink in and permeate your mind. May I encourage you to write out the passage and stick it on your wall, ‘fridge, or car dashboard? Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need – direction, strength, and comfort.

I’ve learned to love my husband well, and though I’m far from perfect, God has patiently shepherded me to become a more compassionate, giving, self-denying wife. And the rewards are overwhelmingly sweet!

Even though Jim is in the worst health of his life, our marriage is strong and thriving. I’ve come to love and appreciate his strengths, so much so that they outshine any weakness. I know that God has His eye on us and that He will renew strength daily as I abide in Him.

I know that God has His eye on us and that He will renew strength daily as I abide in Him. Click To Tweet

And I also believe He’ll do the same for you.

Do you struggle as the wife of an ill hubby? Share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to bond with you!


About the Author:

Ruthie Gray is a wife, Gigi, and mom of four (who lived to tell about it). Ruthie’s passion is
mentoring moms to capture joy with humor, advice, and practical application of Scripture at Ruthie Gray.Mom.

Ruthie is a contributor to the free mom devotional app, TruthBytes, and the author of Count to Nine; 9 Liberating Steps for Mom Frustration and Anger. Click to download her Wife and Mommy Survival Kit.

Connect with Ruthie on:
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Want more Hope Today?

HOW TO MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE THRIVE WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TIME

WHEN YOUR GOD AND HIS DON’T LINE UP

HOW DO I KNOW WHAT GOD IS CALLING ME TO DO?



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About helloredds@gmail.com

Blessed wife of Randy for over 25 years, mom to two great college students, blogger, women's ministry coach, speaker and author who is amazed by God's grace-

9 thoughts on “How to Navigate Chronic Illness and Marriage

  1. Thank you for sharing this! My husband has hemophilia and I find myself fighting resentment from time to time. He’s due to have surgery in the next few months and I know that the recovery period is going to be hard on both of us. I just pray that I can love him well.

    1. Hey Caroline,
      I’m so sorry to hear how ill your husband has been.
      Praying today that God will give you incredible grace and extra love for this man.
      Keep on keeping on! You are an amazing wife!
      Blessings,
      Melanie

  2. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt message my friend.Its encouraging and awesome advice.Im praying for you and your husband.Im so sorry you both are going through this. Much Blessings to you!

  3. Ruthie,
    Thank you so much for sharing with us today.
    So sorry for all that you and your man have been dealing with!
    Sure do appreciate your wisdom and insights.
    You are a blessing~
    Melanie

  4. This is so great. Thanks so much for all the good advice. My husband too has several chronic illnesses and I’ve figured out some of this myself but it’s always good to have someone else confirm it. We’ve been married for 30 years and I think the hardest part is helping our now adult children navigate their own relationship with him. They aren’t serving God so it’s difficult for them. They both received Jesus as young children but have moved far away.

    1. I thought it was so good too, Alison!
      Ruthie has shared some wonderful advice.
      So sorry your husband has been dealing with chronic illness.
      Praying for their hearts and their return to Christ.
      Blessings,
      Melanie

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