Dealing with a spouse’s health concerns can be difficult and even emotionally painful. To help understand what type of impact a spouse’s health concerns can have on marriage and for tips on coping with a spouse’s health concerns, I have interviewed therapist Ann Becker-Schutte.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed counseling psychologist. I provide compassionate support for those experiencing loss and transition. This means that I create a safe space for individuals and couples experiencing loss. I work with my clients to process difficult emotions and identify unhealthy patterns. Then I guide clients in building more healthy coping strategies for future challenges.”
What type of impact can a spouse’s health concerns have on the marriage?
“Serious health issues can pose several challenges to a marriage. First, both members of the couple are experiencing their own individual process of coming to terms with the illness. If their processes of grief and coping are not identical (and they rarely are), couples may experience feelings of distance or isolation. This can negatively affect communication. It is not unusual for one or both members of the couple to minimize their feelings in an effort to protect their spouse or partner. Couples may also experience practical challenges, such as loss of income, loss of mobility, difficulties in child-rearing, and stress managing medical expenses. Each of these stressors can damage connection and communication for a couple.”
What are 5 coping tips for someone that is trying to deal with their spouse’s health concerns?
“The following are 5 key strategies that someone may use to cope with their spouse’s serious medical issue:
1. Talk often. Many couples retreat into silence as they try to guess what the other person needs. It is much more helpful to have clear discussions about needs and expectations.
2. Create permission for difficult feelings. If the health issue is disabling or terminal, both members of the couple will be experiencing grief and loss. If the health issue leads to other financial or social stressors, there will be additional difficult emotions. Each member of the couple needs to know that they can freely experience their feelings.
3. Seek outside support. Because the primary source of stress is within the relationship, but is not under the control of either member of the couple, it will be important to seek outside support to manage the stress.
4. Attend to your own health. It is important to be sure that you are getting adequate sleep, exercise, spiritual engagement, and remembering to take time to have fun. As the healthy member of the family you are at risk of over-identifying with care-giving responsibilities and neglecting your own health.
5. Don’t let the illness define your family. It can be easy, especially at the beginning of a health crisis, to let the daily activities of your family get buried by the health concerns. It is important to recapture as much of your routine and family identity as possible.”
What type of professional help is available for someone that is trying to cope with their spouse’s health concerns?
“There are many mental health professionals who can provide strong resources for you as you cope with a family illness. You might want to seek out someone who specializes in grief or medical issues. If your spouse has a chronic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, you can find many resources through the Arthritis Foundation, or other foundations supporting specific illnesses. If your spouse is facing a terminal condition, your local hospice organizations should have good resources.”
What last words would you like to leave for someone that is coping with a spouse’s health concerns?
“I think that my final words would be to reiterate the importance of maintaining your own health, including utilizing therapy if needed, and to focus on the importance of not letting the illness define your family. So, seek out the support you need, and be ferocious about maintaining your family’s identity.”
Thank you Ann for doing the interview on 5 tips for coping with a spouse’s health concerns. For more information on Ann Becker-Schutte or her work you can check out her website on http://www.healthybalancedlife.com.
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