It will happen. The time comes in all marriages, often unexpected and always inconvenient. The “in sickness” part of marriage will inevitably invade and put your happy day in the toilet.
This week I got sick. It was the stomach bug type of sick and it rendered me useless. The fever made summer feel like the arctic even in my warm bed and extreme energy reserves were needed just to shuffle to the bathroom. I’ll spare you the other unattractive details of the “flu like symptoms” but I was totally out of it. A few days later when I was starting to feel life creep back into my body, the kids got sick, and then my wife. Rolling blackouts are nothing compared to the rolling tide of family sickness.
Physical illness is not only a medical problem; it easily becomes a relationship problem if not handled well. Strangely enough the time your spouse is sick can provide greater relational connection when you are intentional.
1. Provide Comfort. Comfort can be provided in a number of ways. You can make chicken noodle soup, provide a cool washcloth, or another blanket. Comfort can also include sympathetic and soothing words. Ask how you can help them feel more comfortable and be extra understanding and polite if they give you a half-awake grumble in response.
2. Give Space. When your spouse is feeling sick, provide them space to rest. This means give them actual physical distance from people and set up their environment for rest. For example: dim the lights, play soft music, avoid cooking deep fried catfish, and entertain the kids as far away as possible. Giving space can also mean giving them a break from intense conversations like talking about the bills or the next holiday with the in-laws.
3. Hold down the fort. When your spouse is sick, you have to understand they will not be doing their normal routine. Step it up and get things done. It will mean the world to your spouse if you can keep the house reasonably clean and take care of the kids. If this means you need to feed the kids Chuck-E-Cheese is a good option, besides, it’s likely far enough away to provide them space.
The amount of comfort, space, and household tasks you need to provide depends on the personality and desires of your spouse. The important part is to be responsive to what they want. When your spouse is sick it’s a great time to show them your love. The “in sickness” part of your marriage vow is put in there to remind you to love and to cherish, not only because you have to endure their sickness, but because your marriage connection can deepen when their needs are met.
4. Celebrate health. When you and your spouse are back to full health again, celebrate! It’s amazing how good it feels to feel good again. After feeling sick, even the simple things like eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and keeping it down is worth celebrating. If sickness is a reminder of how fragile health is, returning to health is a great reason to celebrate.
What do you want from your spouse when you are sick? What does your spouse want when they are sick?