Six months before we got married, my wife went from being a vibrant 30-year-old with no health concerns to being unable to complete the simplest of tasks.

It was one of the most fearful times of our lives. Despite her getting sicker by the day, we had no diagnosis and no idea of what was going to happen.

In a relationship, when one of you is unwell it can’t help but affect you both. While it was my wife who was in pain and whose body seemed to just be giving up, it also had a profound effect on my daily life. To see the health of the person that you love most in the world get progressively worse and being unable to stop it brought with it a real sense of hopelessness, pain and uncertainty. I would have done anything to take that pain away from her and to be sick myself.

And so, ‘in sickness and in health’ began long before we officially spoke those vows in front of our friends and family. For me, while everything may change, nothing would change. More than anything, I still wanted to build a life and a family with my wife and would do whatever it took to love and support her through this, whatever the outcome.

There will be so many other people who have been through or are going through something similar to what I experienced. For me, there were five main things that helped me through that difficult period.

1. Knowing and understanding my limitations

It was so important to me that I fully understood what was realistic during that time and what was not. For example, I am not a doctor and therefore couldn’t do anything to change what was happening to my wife. I also couldn’t shorten waiting lists or request extra tests. But I could cook tasty food, put on loads of washing and be there to listen and support her.

2. Letting other people help

It can be tempting to want to do everything ourselves during periods of uncertainty and difficulty. It can make us feel less helpless and even give us a sense of purpose. For me, keeping busy was really helpful, but I also recognised that I couldn’t do everything myself – it just wasn’t possible, or healthy. Accepting help from friends and family was vital during this time. A home-cooked meal or someone taking away the burden of a food shop was so helpful.

3. Connecting with community

We weren’t made to do life alone, but at times like this it can be so easy to drift away from people around us or to isolate ourselves. For us, community was predominantly our church, family and friends, but it could also be work colleagues, your sports team, parents at the school gate or a whole host of other people. Having people to lean on and be supported by was invaluable, as was having time to talk about anything else but my wife’s illness.

4. Looking after myself

Although my focus was my wife’s health and recovery, it was so important that I didn’t neglect my own physical and mental health. I needed to make sure that I was also taking care of myself, which meant making sure that I was eating properly, sleeping well, reaching out for help when I needed it, taking time for myself and giving my body and mind what they needed.

5. Remembering that she is more than her illness

While there were some things that we couldn’t do during my wife’s illness, there were plenty that we could. Yes, we were fighting a battle with illness, but we chose not to be defined by that. My wife is so many things before she is someone with a chronic illness. She is a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a leader, a lover of board games, an avid traveller, a foodie, an adventurer and so much more! During this difficult time, we made so many memories, laughed as well as cried and also intentionally chose to have fun and to make the most of each day. We did not allow this illness to define us, we got creative and saw beyond our limitations.

Saying the vows ‘In sickness and in health’ was, no doubt, the most poignant and powerful part of our wedding day. In fact, this period of illness brought us even closer as a couple. While no two situations are the same, I hope our story encourages you in knowing that you are not alone, that there is hope and that there are things that you can do that may help on the journey.

Share on social media

Help us support families today

At Care for the Family we support couples, parents and those who have been bereaved. If you would be able to make a one off donation to support our work, we would be very grateful. Thank you.

We'd love to stay in touch!

Sign up to receive regular updates full of practical articles, top tips, and encouragement, plus hear about our work and events near you.

Skip to content Skip to content