When Illness Intrudes Upon Your Marriage

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The Bible says, “The two will become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:31) So when illness intrudes upon a marriage by grabbing hold of one of the partners, it can become powerfully invasive.

It can steal away from you so many of the dreams you have planned out together and reduce them into living one day at a time instead, trying to cope with each trial the illness brings with it.

It can also test the metal of each spouse’s value system and character in what they are willing to do, to help their ailing partner.

When Illness Intrudes Upon Marriage

“Marriage is two people traveling together, each one more concerned with the other’s well-being than with his or her own.” (J.L. Hardesty)

The Bible says in Philippians 2:4, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” It also says, “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)

But when the strained dailiness of living with a very ill partner hits your home, it can be the last thing that comes to mind. There is a continual call for “dying to self” and dying to dreams and “normalcy.” Yet, that is what the vow you gave “to have and to hold in sickness and in health” demands, when illness intrudes upon your marriage. I know this personally to be true with some serious illnesses we have had to battle in our marriage.

I agree with the following advice Helena Madsen gives on this issue in dealing with illness:

“Change your vocabulary. Facing and dealing with chronic illness has never been limited to just the chronic partner. Chronic illness always affects both parties in a marriage. Use the words ‘we’ and ‘our’ when talking about the illness. Notice your level of connectedness and how your emotional intimacy grows.”

And that’s true. My husband and I have witnessed this in our own marriage while battling the effects of Type 1 Diabetes. There are other illnesses that won’t go away and have invaded our marriage, as well.

Additional Advice on Illness Invasion

And then here’s some good advice that Erin Prater gives concerning the illness of a spouse:

 “Realize your doubts are normal. It’s ordinary to wonder if you’re ‘really cut out for marriage to a person with [insert condition].’ It’s ordinary for someone in your position to be tempted to leave—temporarily or permanently. There is no sin in being tempted. But there is sin in breaking your vows. Let God know you need His strength to fulfill your vows to your spouse.” (From the Focus on the Family article, “Reality Sets In”)

For more insight on this issue, Focus on the Family put together a whole series of articles. You can gain insight by reading:


The above advice goes along with something else Helena advices. It’s something we tell couples continually. This is true whether you’re dealing with an illness or not:

“Remind yourself that divorce is not an option. When you close the door to certain options such as divorce, your mind won’t ‘go there’ when stress or difficulties arise. Close the door to divorce and keep it shut.” (From the Marriagetrac.com article, “When Chronic Illness Enters Your Marriage”)

Praying for You

It is our prayer that there is “such a oneness between you in your marriage that when one of you weeps, the other will taste the salt.”

It is also our prayer that when illness attacks your home, you will pull together. Don’t allow it to rip you apart as a marital team. We pray that when each of you is tested through the invasion of sickness, you will grab onto the strength that God can give you. That way you are better able to do what needs to be done for your marriage partner.

“Sometimes ‘sickness’ can be the most ‘healthy’ place to be if God is present. That is because He can change us there.” (Myrna Pugh)

When someone in the family gets seriously ill, he/she might be the one infected, but the entire family is affected. This applies whether it’s disease or chronic pain that has changed your loved one.

Additionally, here is some good advice that Dr Phil gives:

“Don’t let the disease become your identity. You can manage an illness, or it can manage you. Are you becoming a full-time patient instead of a human being with a disease to manage? Investigate every avenue of rehabilitation and create the highest quality of life. Don’t let the limitations of a disease become as handy as the pocket on your shirt. Do 100 percent of what you can do.”

That’s advice that is difficult to do, especially when the illness or disease is debilitating. It’s also true when illness is consuming so much of your time as you try to manage it the best way you can. But it’s important. Don’t allow this illness to erase who you are and all that God can still do through you. And don’t give this illness more power than you should.

To learn more advice that Dr Phil has to give, please click on the web site link below. (This is not a Christian web site. But it has very good, common sense principles in this document.) Please read:


In Closing

The following are wise words and thoughts tailored just for you:

“Someone has said that none of us can carry a lifetimes’ burden. But we can each carry this hour’s worth. As we’re told in the Bible, ‘Your strength will equal your days.(Deuteronomy 33:25)

O Lord, You alone are my strength. Pick me up when I collapse. Comfort me in pain. Carry me in weakness. Infuse me with Your power to go on. Thank You for staying close. Amen.” (Jana Carman)

For those of you who are caring for your spouse who is ill, these words of hope are also for you:

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Galatians 6:9)

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)

May it be so Lord, may it be so.

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

If you have additional tips you can share to help others, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

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3 responses to “When Illness Intrudes Upon Your Marriage

  1. (USA)  Is there a section for those that contract an incurable disease though their unfaithful spouse? Selfish, wicked cowards and the “w” that go after them and we as the victims just keep getting more abuse.

    1. Pavrone, I’m sorry to say that we don’t have anything on this web site on that subject. It would be a good one, but so far, we haven’t written anything –or come across anyone who has. I’ll pray and see if the Lord inspires anything for us to write. Or perhaps He will lead us to an article already written.

      But in the meantime, something came to mind that can somewhat be compared to someone who takes drugs or drinks, or is just plain careless while driving and then rams the car into someone, injuring them. The innocent person was not responsible for the crash, but tragically has to live with the consequences. I had that happen to me. My knee will never be the same. And the surgery and the pain (and now, arthritis) is something I had to live with (and still do –especially when it rains). But, I made a decision a long time ago that I can live like a victim for the rest of my life or I can forgive the young man who rammed into our car, move on and do the best I can in life. I’ve chosen to forgive and live in freedom. I know I’ve made the right choice.

      The same type of thing (but much worse) happened to a friend of ours. This friend lost his young wife in a car crash when a drunk man rammed his car into hers as she was innocently driving along. This friend and many other family members have had to suffer horribly at the hands of this man who decided to be foolish enough to drink and then drive (and it wasn’t even his first driving offense for driving under the influence). What adds to the sadness is that this man got off with only a few months in jail (even though this was his 3rd offense and this last one involved the death of someone –he had a good attorney, obviously). Our friend, her parents, siblings and so many others are serving a life sentence of loss without their precious Judy.

      But eventually, our friend made the extremely difficult decision to forgive and make the best of his life, despite the injustice of it all. Yes, he went through the stages of grief and anger and such, which took a while, but eventually he released it all to God and made the effort to find a “new normal,” despite the loss. He is now a missionary and is SO rich in wisdom and grace. It’s amazing to see what he has made of his life as he put his hand into God’s and let go of that which he could not change.

      I realize this isn’t exactly the same as what you are describing here, but there are some similarities. As difficult as it is, and as unfair as it can seem, sometimes we have to get to the place of forgiving and deciding not to live as a victim, or we will be tied into knots by the sinful people and circumstances involved, that brought about the disease, until we do release it. Please know that I don’t say this lightly. I’m not trying to minimize the pain of the victim. But life is hard on this side of heaven and sin hurts ESPECIALLY the innocent. All we can do is to set our sights on Christ and His suffering and allow Him to comfort us and help us to live brave, despite the sin that assaults us. In Christ, there CAN be victory, even in suffering.

  2. Hello! I’m in need of prayer. I suffer with Fibromyalgia, two bulging disc in my lower back, spurs in my neck and asthma. There are many more things on that list. I husband puts me down because I hurt so much. He doesn’t help around the house. I really feel he doesn’t want to be here. The only time he shows he care is at Church. It hurts to see him caring for others and not taking care of home. Please help!