What kind of person leaves a sick spouse?

  • PublishedApril 2, 2013

This is not the kind of topic anyone would want to write about. It’s heart-wrenching and uncomfortable. But we cannot talk about life and not talk about illness and even death. We cannot talk about marriage without talking about things that happen in marriages and illness is one of them. I was going through an online magazine when I saw this letter from an anonymous woman.

“I am a 37-year-old female, well-educated and completely healthy. I married my husband eight years ago knowing that he had multiple sclerosis. He was a clever, vibrant, fun-loving and  interesting person. Over the past eight years, he has physically  deteriorated (developed seizures, incontinence, walking difficulties, a pulmonary embolism and now suffers from depression). He no longer works and stays home, is mean and angry and hardly talks to me. He hasn’t held me or made love to me in years and honestly I don’t even think that he likes me.

While I really think that I can deal with the physical limitations, it’s the emotional stuff that is wearing me down. I just don’t know what to do anymore. I’m so lonely and feel so trapped. He refuses to see a counselor or psychiatrist. I feel like an awful person for even thinking of leaving him, but I’m so unhappy that I don’t know what else to do. I guess my question is; what kind of person leaves a sick spouse?”

What this woman is going through is not an easy situation but is very much a part of human life. It pricks your conscience as you read it. How do you deal with a spouse who is chronically ill, whether you are a man or woman? If you stay, how do you cope? And if you go, just how do you walk out on a spouse who needs you so much? These are not simple questions and even thinking about them, especially because I am also married and could find myself in such a situation, fills my heart with sorrow.

If a woman – that species that is so good at adapting to situations and helping those in need can feel this desperate – how would a man who may not even have the slightest idea of how to take care of a sick wife cope? I put myself in that situation as I write this piece.

Many people silently bear the cross of a sick spouse, especially the elderly. But many of us especially young people never think about such issues when we are preparing to take marriage vows.

Marriage counsellors tell us to discuss finances, number of children, sharing of chores and place of in-laws before we sign on the dotted line; but few if any remember the “in time of suffering” line. That is never discussed because marriage is mostly assumed to be a “live happily ever after” affair.

One man who commented on the above letter asked readers to imagine they were the ones lying on that bed. How would you feel if you were sick and your spouse abandoned you?…Subscribe here for more.

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