Do you remember how excited you were to spend the rest of your lives together?
Do you recall the intensity of love and commitment you felt as you recited your wedding vows?
Many of us would describe our wedding day as a fairy tale. We were dressed in our best, surrounded by loved ones and eager to embark on happily ever after.
Newlyweds seldom think about the inevitable struggles that will come once married life gets underway. But struggles do come and usually in all shapes and sizes.
One of the most challenging struggles a couple can face is chronic illness. It has the ability to unnerve and disrupt the strongest of marriages. Sadly, the numbers back this up – the U.S.divorce rate exceeds 75% in those marriages where chronic illness is present.
Additional statistics tell us that over 125 million Americans or 2 out of every 10 people have some type of chronic condition. A chronic condition is one lasting three months or more by definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.
Chronic illness is stressful, no doubt about it. It depletes your energy, tests your patience and can drain your finances. There is nothing easy about illness.
Why Some Marriages Survive
Why then do some marriages survive chronic illness while others don’t? I don’t know for certain but I believe maturity has a lot to do with it.
Maturity doesn’t necessarily mean old age or number of years married. I know several young couples who are wise and mature beyond their years.
To be mature is to base things on slow careful consideration. It is the emergence of personal and behavioral characteristics that can come only through growth processes.
Chronic illness has the potential to grow you and your marriage like few things can if you let it.
Qualities of Mature Couples
Do you recognize the following qualities in your own marriage?
1. You understand marriage to be a life-long commitment
When you stood at the altar before God on your wedding day and pronounced your vows, you took them seriously and still do. You don’t look for a loophole because the “love each other in sickness” part actually happened. You make your commitment a priority no matter how rough it gets.
2. You serve one another
When illness entered your marriage, it likely created an imbalance. You acknowledge the imbalance and seek to redistribute roles and responsibilities based on ability. You serve one another without keeping score. You meet one another’s needs without resentment even if it’s not convenient or fun.
3. You communicate
You express what’s working and what’s not working in your marriage. You create a safe environment where it’s possible to express feelings openly and honesty without fear of condemnation or judgment. You take ownership of your own feelings and don’t attack each other verbally when stress levels are high.
4. You deal with conflict quickly
You recognize that the longer you allow conflict to fester, the worse things get. You understand that you will have many situations related to the illness that can and will cause conflict. You don’t shy away from it but seek to address and resolve it as soon as possible.
5. You’re flexible
Symptoms of your illness can hit you at any time and when you least expect it. How you react when you need to bow out of social events or commitments at the last minute is an indication of maturity. You don’t pout or get angry. You understand the unpredictability of chronic illness and remain flexible in order to come up with alternate ways of doing things.
6. You extend grace and compassion
You’re aware that people move towards acceptance of illness at different paces. You give each other time, space and grace to adapt to new ways of doing things. You extend compassion to each other because you know this intrusion in your lives is not easy for either one of you. You allow this compassion to strengthen your marital bond.
7. You problem-solve together
You work hard to solve problems together. You don’t try to shield one another from bad news or use power plays to get your own way. You view challenges as opportunities to make healthy changes and you implement the steps needed to build a better future together.
What mature quality in your own chronic marriage are you particularly proud of? Please share and leave a comment!