How To Keep Your Relationship Strong Despite Chronic Illness

A study from the University College, London, reveals that one in three middle-aged British adults have at least two chronic health conditions. Maintaining a great relationship with your partner can be challenging even under reasonably normal conditions. This challenge is often worsened if you are living with a chronic health condition like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, or multiple sclerosis (MS). Therefore, it is crucial to know how to navigate your relationships and strengthen them despite the challenges of your chronic condition. Here are some tips worth knowing to strengthen your relationships despite living with a chronic illness.

Ease your stressful emotions

It is normal to feel sad and anxious if you live with a chronic illness. Besides, many of these ailments are unpredictable, which can make you even more nervous. You can deal with this anxiety by identifying the cause of the worry and finding the best resources and strategies to tackle it. For instance, you and your partner can learn more about the condition and leverage available resources to feel less stressed and more in control. 

Similarly, consider signing up for joint or separate counselling sessions with a therapist, rabbi, minister, or other trained professional. However, many experts advise selecting someone trained in cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), so you can build coping skills to help you navigate the challenges of maintaining a relationship while living with a chronic illness. Furthermore, watch out for depression and address it immediately to prevent it from dampening your mood and relationship. Finally, accept any new changes to your relationship that arise due to your condition to cope better.


Keep the romance alive

Intimacy and sex are undoubtedly integral to the long-term success of any romantic relationship. However, romance can be challenging for you and your partner if you live with a chronic condition. Indeed, in a study of people living with MS, over 80% of sexually active respondents said they experienced issues with sex. Your chronic disease itself or the drugs you take can cause sexual problems like low libido and erectile dysfunction, affecting the quality of your sex life. Also, the mere physical act of sex can be painful if you have a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis or MS due to muscle weakness and spasms. 

Furthermore, body image issues can make you feel less confident or sexually attractive if you live with a chronic condition. Thankfully, there is no shortage of ways to revive your sex life and stay emotionally connected with your partner. You can talk to your partner about experimenting with new positions that could make sex less uncomfortable. Also, you can take various oral medications to maintain an erection if you struggle with erectile dysfunction. Additionally, explore other ways to remain emotionally connected, like taking a shower together and cuddling frequently. However, talk to your partner about having children and ensure that you are on the same page, just like any other relationship. You can always speak to your doctor about an effective contraceptive pill to continue enjoying your sex life if you don’t want to have children right now, so keep this in mind.


Prioritise open communication

Regular communication is critical in any relationship, so it is not surprising that many partnerships end due to its lack. According to a Your Tango survey, ‘communication problems’ is the most common factor that leads to divorce, present in 65% of all cases. Consequently, it is critical to prioritise open communication in your relationship since your condition can make talking to your partner more challenging. Therefore, be honest and open with your partner by sharing your feelings and asking them to do the same. For example, if you are down-in-the-dumps, tell your partner how you feel and why. 

This way, you can avoid the distance between couples when one partner does not know what influences the other person’s actions and attitudes. Also, find ways to talk about any challenges you both experience openly to encourage practical problem-solving and boost feelings of closeness. However, remember that it can be problematic if you talk about the illness constantly, much like if you never talk about it. Therefore, find the right balance of the level and frequency of communication for the best results.


Address financial strain

Money is a bone of contention in many relationships, and chronic illness can be a significant financial burden. You may have lost your job and income because your illness made it impossible to continue working. Similarly, you will likely encounter increased medical expenses and potential remodelling fees if your house needs to be made wheelchair-accessible for your convenience. Consequently, it would be best for you and your partner to work with a financial adviser who handles chronic medical conditions. You can also hire a regular adviser, as long as they have the necessary empathy and willingness to tweak some of their standard approaches to suit your specific needs. Furthermore, discuss insurance options, emergency funds, and cash flow with your partner to tackle the elephant in the room head-on.


Strengthen social connections

There is no denying that chronic ailments can be isolating for you and your partner. Therefore, having strong friendships is crucial to ensure that both of you can remain cheerful and avoid depression. Consequently, encourage your partner to pursue an active social life alone without feeling guilty about it. This way, you can ensure that they do not lose their identity by being by your side at all times. Similarly, spend time alone with your best friends so you can have other people to vent to besides your partner. These friends can encourage, entertain, and help you forget about your problems momentarily. You can explore new ways to have fun together based on your limitations. For example, a simple movie night, book club idea, or just sharing a glass of wine may be enough to keep the friendship spark alive if your condition does not permit strenuous physical activity. Finally, stay connected with your friends on social media since face-to-face interactions are not always possible.


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