“In sickness and in health” is easier said than done in any relationship – even the healthiest marriage. These tips for keeping your relationship strong through sickness will help you cope with emotional and physical illness. I wrote this article for a reader whose boyfriend is struggling with depression.
“I’ve been in a relationship for over five years,” says J. on 5 Ways to Help Your Boyfriend Deal With Depression. “Until about four years ago things were great, my boyfriend was affectionate, complimentary, romantic, everything a woman could wish for. He lost his mom about four years ago, which was truly sad, but he seemed to cope. It wasn’t until the end of last year that he changed significantly, he became snappy and there was no intimacy in our relationship. Then he totally snapped and said he was fed up and didn’t know what he wanted. I told him that we should break up until he sorted himself out and saw a doctor, which broke my heart. But I don’t know how to keep our relationship strong through his illness, I don’t know how to help him. Now that we know he is depressed, he goes to cognitive therapy once a week. After seven months on feels no change, and won’t take medication. He also has a lot of financial issues and work stress due to self-employment. He shows no love towards me anymore, although I continue to let him know how much I love him.”
Every relationship is different, and so is every illness, even if they have the same diagnosis. One man’s depression or illness isn’t the same as another man’s depression or illness. Their emotional and physical health issues will affect your relationship in different ways.
There is no “one size fits all” tip – or even a list of tips – on how to keep your relationship strong through illness. I have no guarantees or solid answers, but I can share a few ideas that might help.
Keeping Your Relationship Strong Through an Illness
Here’s the rest of J’s comment:
” Did I handle this the wrong way, did I weaken our relationship? I’m beating myself up constantly. How do we stay strong in our relationship, will he be the way he was before this illness? I just so hate the day I told him to go to the doctor because I think if he had not been told it was depression maybe he would of just got through it. Thanks if you could advise me in any way.”
1. Be gentle with yourself
If you want to keep your relationship strong through illness, you need to stay emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy. When you find yourself regretting or beating yourself up for past decisions, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you could. You are doing the best you can to repair and save your relationship! You did not make your boyfriend’s illness worse, and you could not have prevented it. You don’t know what would have happened if you or he had acted differently. Do not beat yourself up for past decisions or actions.
If your boyfriend or husband is recovering from an operation or medical procedure – or has been diagnosed with an illness that requires surgery – read Prayers for Healing and Recovery After Surgery. Even if you don’t follow Jesus or believe in God, you’ll find peace and healing when you pray. Even better if you pray for strength to keep your relationship strong through illness! Prayers don’t always create miracles or change the diagnosis of an illness…but they do change you. Prayers keep you emotionally and spiritually healthy, which will strengthen your relationship through illness.
2. Allow your relationship to change
Your boyfriend or husband probably won’t be the same man. He’ll change after being diagnosed and experiencing treatment – especially if it’s for a condition such as cancer, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s or even knee surgery. Your relationship may become stronger through illness, or it may become weaker. It’ll change in some way because both you and your boyfriend will change. You might become stronger, wiser, healthier. This illness might help strengthen your relationship in ways that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
If you’re unhappy about how your relationship is changing, read When Guilt Keeps You in a Marriage You Wish Was Over.
3. Get and stay emotionally and spiritually strong
If you’re stressed, scared, worried, angry, or depressed about your relationship, then you won’t help it. You need to focus on getting strong and healthy. One of the best ways to keep your relationship strong through illness – and to take care of your boyfriend or husband – is to take care of yourself. The happier and healthier you are, the more you can support your partner.
Getting emotionally strong may involve talking to a counselor about your role in the relationship. There is such a thing as enabling an illness, which involves prolonging and even making it worse. A counselor can help you sort out if you and your partner are in a healthy love relationship. A serious illness is tough to survive no matter how healthy your love is — but if your love isn’t healthy, then you’re in for a long, unhappy haul.
4. Learn as much as you can about your partner’s illness
Go to support groups for family members, read books about the illness, talk to your partner’s doctor if possible, and get information from reputable health websites. Read books about your boyfriend or husband’s illness, and talk to him about what you’re learning. The more you know about your partner’s illness, the better you can support him. If you visit blogs written by people diagnosed with the same illness, remember that you’re reading one person’s perspective. Learn how to distinguish between reputable health websites and personal blogs.
Talk to your boyfriend or husband about your hope to strengthen your relationship through his illness. When you search online for tips on how to keep your relationship strong through illness, remember that one website or blog post can’t give you all the answers. But, every little tidbit can help strengthen and guide you towards a bright, happy, fresh new season of life.
If you want to learn more about praying to strengthen your relationship through illness, read How to Pray to God for Help, Healing and Hope.
Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.
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