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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    How can you cope with a partner who is dealing with a serious illness?

    Tragedy can impact the most intimate relationships, striking at the root of their deepest bond. Yet, amidst serious illness where a partner is dealing with life-threatening circumstances, hope and courage can keep your relationship strong. Though difficult, couples can choose to cope in order to not only survive these difficult times but to thrive.

    In the face of adversity there is a chance for personal growth and enhanced intimacy. It is an opportunity to become aware of each other's deeper needs and vulnerabilities. Acknowledging the hurt and emotional pain that such a heartbreaking experience can bring is essential. Showing care, kindness, and compassion for your partner is of the utmost importance.

    Of course, it is essential that couples maintain structural communication and transparency. A balance between sharing information from the medical community and creating private emotions between partners is needed. Having difficult conversations can make healing even more meaningful when done in a respectful, safe, and supportive way.

    Encouraging physical activities like walking together or taking moments for relaxation in nature can be wisely employed. Meditation, journaling and creative hobbies can help as well. The extra attention both partners place on physical activity, relaxation, and mental health can boost energy levels, reduce symptoms, and encourage more meaningful engagement.

    It's important to measure progress with respect to the illness, while recognizing that time is the biggest healer. Grief over missing what should have been can weigh heavy on one's soul, so allow yourself to reset expectations as much as possible. This can involve giving yourself permission to take a break, take it slow and remain patient.

    Lean on support networks. Family, friends, and professionals can all play a part in helping to manage the physical and psychological stress associated with serious illness. Co-creating an action plan with multiple members of a compassionate support system, can be an incredible source of strength and resilience. Researching available treatment options and creating a safety net of resources can be adapted and added to throughout this journey.

    It will be natural and normal to want to lean on your beloved for solace and comfort, but don’t forget about self-care. Both of you will benefit if each gives themselves full permission to take breaks and also seek solace outside the partnership. Connect with others who can witness this, offering both recognition of the depth and gravity of the situation, as well as providing validation and understanding without passing judgment.

    Creating a space between each partner and the illness is key, blending it with normalcy when and where possible. This can be done through simple day-to-day rituals, like shared meal times, movie nights, conversations, laughter, and embracing the small yet meaningful moments. Taking some time for partners to remember and discuss the things, feelings and dreams they had before the illness occurred, can help to remind each other that there is still a beautiful life to create and share despite the current crisis.

    It boils down to loving in a way that is patient, kind, and supportive. Life can bring unexpected, difficult and drastic changes, so let love be the anchoring force that nourishes, repairs, and rebuilds the bond. Remember, relationships are living, breathing creatures; being compassionate, listening, communicating, and sticking by each other through challenging times, no matter how hard it may be, can transform the bond in the most unexpected ways.

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