Dealing with a Spouse’s Declining Health 

138136056When your spouse’s health starts to decline, it can be very difficult for the both of you. Whether your spouse has developed a chronic illness or disability early in life or it is just part of the normal aging process, declining health will greatly impact your relationship. There are some steps you can take to help keep your marriage strong while dealing with the problems that result.

Problems Caused by Declining Health

Health problems can lead to lots of possible marital problems. A less healthy spouse isn’t as likely to be able to help out around the house or run errands. There may be financial problems if your spouse can’t work or can’t work as much. Medical bills may also be piling up. 

Health problems often interfere with physical intimacy. It can cause problems with emotional intimacy as well. It’s likely you can’t do all of your favorite activities together anymore. Social activities may be replaced with doctor’s visits. Date night may no longer be a possibility.

All of these issues can lead to a lot of mixed emotions. The spouse with the health problems may be feeling guilty, tired and overwhelmed. The healthier spouse may be experiencing similar emotions as well as anger and resentment or anxiety and fear.

With the many problems that can be caused by health issues, it is important to take steps to address your emotions and to care for your marriage. There are several strategies that people can use to help them cope with the grief of a spouse’s declining health.


It’s essential that you take care of yourself. If much of the responsibility with household duties, finances and caring for your spouse lands on your shoulders, it’s likely that you don’t have much time to care for yourself. Take at least a few minutes each day to do something that you enjoy or to get a break.

If you don’t care for yourself, you will likely burn out and not be of any use to your spouse. Make sure to care for your own medical needs, get exercise, and eat a healthy diet. Also try to get enough sleep to ensure you’ll have the energy to do all the tasks you need to do in any given day.

Seek Help

It can be difficult to ask for help. However, sometimes it’s necessary. If your spouse is no longer able to mow the lawn, it may be time to ask a neighbor for help. It’s important to tell friends and family what you need. Sometimes they just aren’t aware of what they can do to help. By telling them, it can give them an opportunity to help.

If you can afford professional services, consider hiring help if necessary. Whether you need someone to do the cleaning, need help with just one task, or want ongoing help to care for your spouse, those services are available. There are often many low cost services available for people who cannot afford them as well. Research resources in your local community or ask your spouse’s doctor to refer you to an agency that can provide you with assistance.

A support group can be a great way to get some emotional help for yourself. Spousal support groups are often available for a variety of chronic issues. These groups can help you talk to others who have similar experiences and can provide you with information about resources are available in the community.


Even a small decline in health can lead to grief. If your spouse isn’t able to do the things he normally does, it can lead to feelings of loss. It is important to allow yourself to grieve these losses in order to help you heal.

Sometimes people ignore their feelings of loss or grief or assume that a small change isn’t significant enough to cause feelings of depression. For example, for a couple who can no longer play tennis together may experience some grief about the loss of this activity. It’s important for couples to recognize and acknowledge losses when they happen.

Part of working through this grief means that couples need to communicate about their feelings and allow themselves to feel sad. Meanwhile, it’s important to also build a new sense of meaning and purpose. A couple who previously enjoyed playing tennis may need to find a new activity to do together if they find themselves no longer able to do so.

Acceptance is part of the process as well. When one spouse can longer do some activities, it can be difficult for both partners to come to a place of acceptance. It can also be important to accept that not all tasks need to be done all the time. If the dishes don’t get done or the lawn isn’t mowed the way it used to be, you may need to accept that those things will still be “good enough.” 

Professional Help

If you are struggling to keep your marriage strong in the wake of declining health, consider professional help. A counselor can help you work through changes that may be causing marital problems. Marriage counseling can assist you and your spouse in working together as a team and keeping your marriage strong despite declining health.

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