Everything changes when a chronic illness or disability enters a marriage!
The stress of a chronic illness can be challenging to a marriage, even when two people have been deeply in love for decades. Just knowing that they will live their entire lives (except for a healing miracle) having to cope with the ravages of a disease – such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, lupus, heart disease, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a host of others – is an enormous burden to carry. They constantly deal with questions like these:
- How do I juggle my needs with the needs of my chronically ill spouse?
- How can I fight feelings of inadequacy and guilt?
- Am I a burden to my spouse?
- How do I keep it together for my spouse who has a chronic illness?
- What do I do when I find myself thinking, “This is more than I bargained for?”
David and Charlotte talk about the impact of a chronic illness on their marriage and why they are excited about the Family Builders’ Stronger Together marriage ministry for couples dealing with a chronic illness or disability.
Cindy and Willie are well acquainted with these thoughts and feelings. Twenty-one years ago, Cindy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an auto-immune disease that has progressively disabled her to the point of spending most of her waking hours in a wheelchair. They wrestle with the challenges this chronic illness presents daily in their marriage.
Most marriage ministries are not focused on the unique needs of couples with chronic illnesses. God has called us to reach out to those facing these stressors in their relationships. There are limited resources and expertise to guide them on those occasions when they hit major relational road blocks. One spouse said, “I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been met with the ‘deer in the headlights’ look when the discussion turns to how my chronic illness may be playing a role.”
Nearly half of all Americans live their day-to-day lives with at least one chronic illness as a companion. Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, Crohn’s disease, asthma, arthritis, lupus, sickle cell anemia and a host of other conditions pillage millions of personal lives and marriages each year. Statistics show that over 75 percent of marriages plagued by chronic illness end in divorce. Nothing quite assists a spouse in understanding his or her role of helpmate like a chronic illness. For married couples, a diagnosis means twice the heartache, discomfort and worry. – Focus on the Family
This urgent need was apparent at a large men’s conference where Willie spoke on how to make a marriage work when your spouse has a chronic illness – physical, mental, or emotional. A small room with 35 chairs was assigned. He wondered if anyone would come. Ten minutes before the seminar, the room was overflowing with guys in every chair, sitting on the floor, and standing against the walls. There were more than 60 men there! A room filled with husbands whose wives are living with life-changing and life-threatening illnesses. They longed to know how to navigate this journey with courage, understanding, and compassion. Afterwards, they stood in line to tell their stories and ask the raw, candid questions that could only be asked in that room. Cindy was deeply moved by the comments and tears of men who communicated their gratitude to her for suggesting this seminar topic.
My first marriage failed mainly due to my chronic illnesses. My ex-husband did not believe that I was sick and thought that I was just faking it. He could not understand that with the illnesses I have remissions and flares are common and that even though right this minute I might feel good, in 20 minutes I can be bedridden.
These are couples that are in need of help and not everyone can do this type of ministry. Not everyone can speak into their hearts and marriages the way we can. God has given us a distinctive gift and opportunity and that is why we initiated this new ministry focus in 2012. With God’s help, we will achieve the following:
- Provide weekend marriage enrichment events specifically for couples with a chronic illness. Because a couple’s finances are impaired by extraordinary medical and living costs, we will need to underwrite a large portion of the expenses for these events.
- Reproduce ourselves by equipping couples globally with the tools to help others living with chronic health issues in their churches and communities.
- Expand our online seminar offerings to include specific issues related to marriage and sickness.
- Partner with national organizations such as the National MS Society, Joni and Friends, and Rest Ministries to provide marriage relationship education and training to couples within their associations.
Your financial support will help us reach this special group of couples before they become part of that heartbreaking and horrific 75% divorce statistic. Willie and Cindy are passionate about doing their part, with God’s help, so couples on this challenging journey can be more effective servants of God, minister to others, and proclaim the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ!