Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mutual Misery and Christian Hope

There is sad mutuality to chronic illness among couples. The sick one chronically needs special help from the healthy one. The healthy one wants to be loving, but feels put upon some times. The sick one feels terrible that he or she must demand so much extra from the healthy one and experiences self-hate. The healthy one wishes someone else could step in and help to alleviate some of the stress, but realizes that he or she is basically irreplaceable. This can lead to bitterness and deep unhappiness for both.

What is the answer? There is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. Rather, in Christ, we must cultivate faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love. Each partner must lovingly submit to the other, putting the other first, but without neglecting one's real needs (sometimes called "self care"). The healthy one can burn out and blow up if he or she is not careful, and this helps no one.

1 comment:

  1. In addition to caring for my adult daughter during the past 12 years, I spent 8 years in direct care and overseeing the care of my father during his physical (with dementia) decline unto death. For my father, no one could substitute for my presence. I have known both sides because I was sick for 11 years. My relationship with my daughter is a delicate balance, since she needs help but also wants to be as independent as possible. I think learning how to love is the great lesson of life--one that is a continual journey. Illness is the vehicle through which I have learned the most, although I have hated that vehicle.