Many elderly married individuals often spend their last years of marriage caring for their disabled spouse. For other couples this additional marital challenge strikes at a much earlier age or stage in their marriage. Married couples dealing with a disability can be thrown into a completely different set of stressors than the average married couple.
The stress of dealing with the onset of a disability is difficult for anyone, but can especially come as a sort of shock for married couples who later experience a disability in one of the spouses.
It can be difficult to learn that your spouse, who once could bathe themselves, can no longer do so without your assistance. For many other similar situations the dependence can be a challenge for couples, especially those who place great value on independence. Though, this spousal dependence can also be an opportunity for the able spouse to serve their non-able spouse. Service is huge in the marital dynamic of couples dealing with a disability.
What better time to become selfless than when your spouse requires it the most. Do things going forward with an attitude of love and expecting nothing in return. Many times nothing can be returned in equal form due to the disability your spouse is dealing with, but this doesn’t need to stop you from doing what will strengthen your marriage. Continue to do for your spouse what they cannot for themselves and look for the blessings that might go unnoticed otherwise.
Remember that your spouse did not ask for their disability or the challenges that their disability invites into the marriage. Don’t allow resentments to build, but instead deal with them as they appear to help avoid harming your marriage. In these times prayer may be the only answer and the only means to provide peace to your heavy heart. Maybe, your spouse has grown dependent on you, if so please keep in mind that this isn’t what either of you want; it is just the reality of things. Pray for the strength to move past the negativity and endure the continual challenges you will face. You alone may not feel capable of what you’re experiencing, but with a little divine intervention there is nothing that you can handle on your plate. After all life isn’t fair, but who says yours life together can’t be beautiful.
It is unfair to blame a spouse for not being able to meet your needs. It is also unfair to compare your spouse before the disability to who they are now as your spouse with a disability. It is fair though, to give your spouse the chance to love you how they can love you ‘now’ and in the future. Just giving your spouse with a disability the opportunity to show you they are still capable of loving you, even if not to the same degree they could prior, is so beneficial to the strength of your marriage.
Remember to focus on the ‘now’ and what the future might bring for you and your spouse. Concern your thoughts with what you as a couple can do, as well as what your spouse can do individually. Yes, it is true that things are not what they used to be and that they may never get back to the way they were, but don’t spend you energy or time consumed by the past. You should cherish the good old days, but should never compare them to the present. If you do this, then you will only set yourself up for disappointment. I suggest practicing mindfulness the next time you feel bombarded or overwhelmed by the amount of stress you are experiencing at the moment. Live in the present!
Married life with a disability doesn’t have to be the end of the good old days and with the right attitude you can still enjoy the blessings of marriage, even on the bad days. So take the time to nurture your marriage and steal away the moments you can to be present together.
Also, continue to date your spouse and make things happen, instead of just hoping the fun will all of a sudden appear. Take your spouse out on spectacular night on the town and surprise them, along with yourself on what you could be feeling toward one another.
Please watch the following videos and then complete the activity below:
1. Write about a single blessing that has come due to the fact that you or your spouse is dealing with a disability (include what it was like before and after the blessing). Then share what you’ve written with your spouse.
2. Think about how you can better serve your spouse and then write down one thing you will do in the future to serve them.
3. Plan out you next date with your spouse. Decide together if you will do something that one of you wants to do or both of you are interested in doing. Then decide whether or not you want to go out to eat before or after the activity, along with where you will end up eating at.