When Illness Moves In


When Illness Moves In

Helping Couples Process the Trauma of Sickness

By Jeri Hepworth

May/June 2007


The phrase "in sickness and in health" is a hallowed part of our marriage vows for good reason. As human beings vulnerable to a wide variety of diseases and infirmities, we need to know at the deepest level that our partners or spouses will stick around even when our bodies betray us, as they will eventually. And yet, even though we generally agree that abandoning an ailing partner is unacceptable, we don't really appreciate how high a toll a serious medical problem can take on a relationship. Even many couples therapists, I suspect—trained as they are to probe faulty communication patterns, sexual problems, money issues, work and family stresses—may not think of exploring a couple's medical history. But a partner's chronic illness, disability, or life-threatening medical emergency can disrupt and undermine an otherwise good relationship just as much as infidelity, addiction, or abuse. Indeed, severe medical problems can have a genuinely traumatic impact on even the strongest relationship.

Ellen and Phil looked like many other couples whose marriages aren't working—the signs were clear even in the waiting room. He was working on his PDA, and she was leafing through an old magazine with her back to him. They both had placed their coats on the seat between them. When I spoke their names, she jumped up expectantly and he finished his task before making eye contact. In the office, when I asked why they were there, Ellen said, "Phil, you talk. I'm tired of doing it all."…

Already have an account linked to your magazine subscription? Log in now to continue reading this article.

(Need help? Click here or contact us to ask a question.)

Not currently a subscriber? Subscribe Today to read the rest of this article!




Read 3037 times
Comments - (existing users please login first)
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
*