Divorce rates among spouses where one has a chronic health condition are much higher than that of the average population. There are many factors that could lead to divorce being higher in this population. Some of these factors are similar to why divorces occur in marriages where two healthy people are involved. Others involve a completely different set of contingencies.
Miscommunication is a common cause of divorce in both sets of circumstances. In the case of a marriage with a chronically ill spouse, communication may be more difficult. A person who has a chronic condition may have feelings of depression, helplessness, fatigue, and other negative feelings. The spouse may feel the need to “fix” the problem when it cannot be changed leaving both parties feeling helpless. Neither party chooses to speak about the circumstances and events may build over time leading to the decision for both parties to go separate ways.
The healthy spouse may feel overburdened with having to be the breadwinner as well as do much of the work at home. Sometimes the healthy spouse is held back by the high cost of health insurance or even the health bills of the ill spouse. Human nature is such that the working spouse may be jealous of the nonworking spouse because he or she does not understand the crippling nature of the other person’s chronic condition. The healthy spouse may feel guilt at his or her feelings and therefore not voice them. The disabled person may become moody and depressed over what he or she cannot do to help the family unit and both sets of contingencies work against each other. The healthy spouse may imagine himself with another person who is healthy and could work thereby not having to rely so highly on one income.
Many couples who do stay together go through periods of considering divorce or separation. Declines in health often have an adverse effect on marital quality even among those who remain married.
So, what is the answer? Counseling is certainly an option. Better access to health care may be the answer for others. Communication between spouses whether with the assistance of a counselor or not is critical. Patience with one another is key.
My husband and I have been married for seven years. I am chronically ill and we have spoken of separation a couple of times. In our case, it involved his being unable to afford to pay my medical bills and our not communicating our needs with each other. He also admitted to being jealous I do not work and feeling as though he places more in the marriage than I do. Each of what I said above applied and applies to my own family situation. It is a difficult position to be in but no one chooses to be disabled or have a chronic condition. With a lot of work and love, it can be done.