When Partner Becomes Patient

What Is A Marriage?

When we get married we have ideas about how our married life will be. It may include romance, friendship, and partnership. We expect to share decisions, divide up chores, raise kids together, go on family trips, and take care of one another when we are sick.

After several years of marriage, most couples end up with some sort of division of labor where each does certain things to maintain the house and family. One person may take out the trash, do laundry, handle the bills. The other may do the shopping and cooking, yard work, picking up kids and taking care of the pets. Or maybe one goes to work while the other handles the home front. Regardless, you develop a routine where each takes care of their part. This division of labor often evolves organically over time until it becomes comfortable and routine.

Along Comes Cancer

Cancer throws a wrench in this partnership. It disrupts your family and home. It disrupts your routine and throws the division of labor between you and your husband completely out of whack. There can be periods where your husband can do little for himself and needs a lot of care. No longer is he your partner, sharing in the decisions and responsibilities. He become your patient.

Wait a minute!  This isn’t what I was expecting from my marriage!

Our Manual For Our Marriage

Everyone is familiar with manuals. They are the instructions that come with the appliances and electronics we buy.  They describe how things should operate if you just follow the steps. Just like those manuals, many of us also have a manual in our head for how our marriage should operate. It may include things like:

We should always discuss and agree on all financial decisions. 

We should always support each other.

We should equally share all the household chores.

We should appreciate and take care of one another.

We should make each other happy.

If our marriage would only follow our manual, then we would be happy. Unfortunately, marriages are not like appliances and rarely operate according to our manual. This becomes blindingly apparent when your marriage partner becomes your patient.

How To Cope

Thinking things should be different than they are is what causes us pain. We want our husband to be healthy and strong. We don’t want to be his nurse. We want our partner back. Thinking these thoughts is what causes us pain because we are wanting things to be different than they are.

Chuck Your Manual

There is no “right way” for a marriage to be. Your marriage is exactly how it was always supposed to be. How do you know? Because it is. Resisting our reality and wishing it were different takes so much mental energy. There is no upside. Life is 50/50. Half is pain and suffering and half is joy and celebration. Each half makes the other possible. Only when you stop wanting things to be different and accept your reality will you find some peace.

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