The Impact of Illness on Marriage

Cáncer de Mama.

Some of you may know that I’ve lived with a chronic illness, Rheumatoid Arthritis, for many years. I was diagnosed soon after the birth of my middle son, who’s 20 now! Yikes! It’s hard to believe it’s been that long! Thankfully, my RA is well-managed, even though it often limits me in some aspects of life.

Now I’m facing another illness that can be a bit more unnerving—breast cancer. But with both illnesses, the hardest part for me has been how it’s affecting me physically, not only in the limitations it will bring (and has brought), but also in the physical destruction it leaves in its wake.

And both of those concerns directly affect my marriage.

My husband has been so wonderful to pick up the slack when I’ve needed it, to be patient and understanding of me when I’ve needed it, to love me unconditionally when my body and looks begin to fail me—and him

But I have to confess, I have a hard time accepting those limitations and disfigurements in myself.

Can you relate?

Now, in spite of all of that, God has richly blessed me, because even though I’ve endured years of debilitating inflammation and countless high-powered drugs that often do just as much damage as they do “good” for me, I’m still in fairly decent shape. And please hear me when I say this—I’m not complaining in any sense of the word! I know my illnesses and struggles could be so much harder and more painful. I guess I’m simply processing out loud what has been the hardest part for me to face as a wife with chronic and serious illnesses.

I know that many of you have chronic and debilitating illnesses too and you’ve found a productive and joyful way of living with your spouse in spite of and sometimes even because of the affliction you bear. I’d love for you to share with us …

What have you found that’s been helpful to you, your spouse and/or your marriage?


And to those of you who are married to a chronically or seriously ill person …

What have you found that’s been helpful to you, your spouse and/or your marriage?


And to those of you who are experiencing an ever-growing divide in your marriage due to your illnesses or your spouse’s illnesses …

What do you need help with? Are there questions I could address here?

Ways I could pray for you? Resources you’d like for me to provide?


I really don’t like sharing about my illnesses or my limitations, but I feel God’s urging to share more with all of you about the struggles that cancer will bring to my life and marriage in the days and months ahead. I’m doing this because I believe so many of you can relate and may even long for this part of marriage—the messy, ugly side of pain and affliction—to be spoken to and discussed here.

“The Lord has established Zion, and in her His afflicted people will find refuge.” -Is. 14:32b (NIV)

“For He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; He has not hidden His face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” –Psalm 22:24 (NIV)


Photo by Elena Pardo de la Morena


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  1. Beth, I am so concerned that you have cancer. I will definitely be praying for you.

  2. Darby Dugger says:

    Praying for you, dear Beth, in the midst of these health problems. Praying God will be your healer and source of peace. Will be praying for your marriage too. Thanks for sharing!

    • It’s good to hear exactly how you’re praying for me, Darby. It makes a difference and encourages me. Thanks for stopping by, linking up and, best of all, praying for me!

  3. waldenbunch says:

    Oh, Beth. I’m so very sorry! I had no idea. I don’t know the struggles personally and for that I”m so very grateful. We’ve seen trials in every other possible way and I know quite possibly this will be one for us, too, as we age. You are such an encourager and woman of God and I’m praying that your testimony will grow even stronger and point to the God who holds you and carries you. Much love my friend. Marty

    • Thanks so much for your kind words to me, Marty. Yes, I feel the same way about this “aging process.” I thought, “why not me?” when it comes to cancer. There are so many women who’ve succumbed to this very ugly disease and have come out on the other side victorious and blessed. That’s what I’m trusting God to do for me as well, my friend.

  4. Hannah Guillory says:

    Oh, Beth. Thank you for sharing honestly and for being brave enough to do it. I pray that God is glorified in this new challenge in your life and that He will protect your marriage, drawing you both nearer to Him through this.

    • It’s so good to hear exactly how you and my other “prayer warriors” are praying for me. Just the other day I got a note from someone at a church in Houston with a long, lovely prayer written out in it for me. It’s so very uplifting to know that I’m being “lifted up” by so many! Thanks for your kind words, Hannah. I truly appreciate it!

  5. Dear Beth… I am so glad on the stand you have taken and I know God will strengthen you some more. The scriptures you shared are so comforting and reassuring, God is true to His word and will do as He has promised. Will be praying for you.

    • I pray that this makes me stronger in the Lord, Ugochi. That’s a lovely thought and prayer, my friend. Thanks so much for your prayers and your constant encouragement and support!

  6. I appreciate your willingness to share what you’re going through. It can bless and strengthen others and make them know that they aren’t alone.

    I have been blessed that my health challenges are manageable and really don’t impact my life too much. I can basically do anything I want, within reason.

    The times where I’ve been on bed rest due to my back my hubby just accepts it. I remember leaving the doctor once and calling my husband and saying “The doctor said I have to be on bed rest for a few weeks” and hubby said “Oh wow…….o.k.!” and I just had to drop everything and hubby had to take over. He also had to wait on me and also help take care of my elderly mom.

    He’s getting better at understanding my limitations and he will tell me to stop and go rest and he will also jump up immediately and lift something if it’s too heavy for me to lift. In fact sometimes he’d get annoyed because he felt I was pushing myself too much, lol!

    We could also be visiting someone and I could tell him that my back had had all it could take and it was time for me to go home and he would immediately be willing to go home.

    In my brother’s case, he has good days and bad days. In living with him, my sister in law just has to be flexible. Sometimes their plans have to be cancelled because he just doesn’t feel well enough to go anywhere.

    I think it helps to remember it’s not their fault, and to just be as supportive and loving as you can.

    I am so thankful that you have a sweet, loving husband. He will be your support but he will need support too. That’s where friends, family and of course, the Lord come in! Thanks for hosting today my friend. I continue to pray for you.

    • And you will be hubby’s support too. You will walk through this together and support each other!

    • I’m so glad to hear how your hubby has helped you and stepped in when you’ve been weak, Nan. I’ll keep on praying for your brother too! And yes, such good advice, not to think of it as “their fault”–either way, with the sick wife or the burdened husband. No one needs criticism at a time like this. Hugs to you!

  7. Shirley Brokaw Young says:

    Several years ago my husband went through several strokes, several surgeries that resulted in both of his legs being amputated. It was exhausting for me, but also very rewarding to be by his side during the difficult times. Two things really stick out in my mind. The first I remember thinking while he was in surgery for his first amputation, “am I still going to love him the same?” Well, of course I did because he hadn’t changed, just the fact he had less of a leg. Second, I remember being so tired and emotionally exhausted that I was aware that I was vulnerable. I asked one of my workers to pray for me and my vulnerability. I know it’s what got me through. Looking back, I know that our love and committment, especially during that time, strengthened our marraige, and I consider those last 5 years the best years emotionally of our marraige.

    • Thanks for sharing about what you went through in that ordeal with your husband, Shirley. First of all, it helps to know that even though our bodies change and are “disfigured” our spouses will still love us the same. And second of all, it’s important to recognize that this will exhaust Gary too. So I’m grateful for your insight. It’s much needed and appreciated!

  8. Oh, Beth thanks for your vulnerability here and for the way you are allowing God to take your struggles and encourage someone else. Praying for you, friend.

    • Thanks, Alicia. I’m glad my vulnerability has blessed you. That’s the faith risk I was taking and will continue to take each time I share about this very personal battle, my friend. I’m so glad you stopped by and encouraged me with your smiling face and loving heart!

  9. Kim Adams Morgan says:

    Beth, I love that you are sharing more of your story here. I think for us, maybe you have found the same thing, chronic illness is much harder on the men than us. They are fixers, but they cannot fix this. It is a process to lay it at God’s feet – this wife that they love – and have faith that He will watch over her, a job that the husband is also there to provide. It is a test of faith and resolve, at times. I think if couples going through illnesses can realize two people are going through the illness, and from two different perspectives (and respect them both) trouble can come. Communication is key, but joy and fun should always outweigh the talking about the down times. A hard lesson learned. Women process out loud, men hear and want to fix…not a good combination. Beth, my prayers are with you, friend.

    • You know, Kim, I’ve not really stopped to think about how my RA has affected my husband, although I have thought about it in regard to this new diagnosis. I suppose that’s because my RA has been so well-managed, even though it has impacted him in certain ways for sure. But this seems like a whole new ballgame. I’m sure you’re right about how hard it will be for him. That’s something I’m going to have to talk more about with him. Thanks for pointing this out and for encouraging always, my friend!

  10. My dear sweet friend…how I pray for God’s blessings upon every aspect of your life, your health, your marriage. Rarely a day goes by that I do not think of you and ask God for your healing. Thank you for being so brave in sharing. God bless every word you write. Trust that my love and prayers are flowing across the miles to you. Peace, my friend. xxxooo

    • Awww, Sheila, you bless me so! I am amazed at how you and so many other friends from across the globe are lifting me up! I would’ve never thought or imagined it but it is sweet and is making a difference for me and my family. Love and prayers are flowing right back at ya, my friend!

  11. bluecottonmemory says:

    I don’t have a diagnosed chronic illness but I struggle with exhaustion, maintain my blood pressue via a low dosage medication – but God has blessed me with a man who sees beyond my failings – and sees me beautiful, doesn’t give up on me – and I think that’s just the grace of God – how he sees me. It took me a long time to be able to trust this way – and that, too, is a gift from God. It’s like free-falling – trusting this way! Praying for you Beth, on this journey!

    • Yes, free-falling is a great way to put it. I’ve been thinking a lot about that … and not just falling back in my husband’s arms, but in God’s arms. He is so very strong and able to face and slay this giant with me. Thanks so much for your sweet encouragement and prayers! I’m blessed by both!

  12. My husband and I don’t have any physical issues, but years ago we took care of his mom when she battled with cancer. If I had one thing to do over again, I would take people up on their offer to help. We did too much ourselves and wore ourselves out.

    Definitely face your health issues with help from family and friends. Yeah, I know it’s hard, but it gives people a chance to give (good for them) and you won’t wear yourselves out (good for you).

    • Yes, Lori, that’s my tendency too. I don’t release responsibilities very easily even with my own family, much less my church family or friends! It will require a lot of stretching for me–which is a good thing, just not always comfortable! Thanks so very much for stopping by and encouraging me. I truly appreciate it!

  13. Rachel Ramey says:

    Yes – I often feel useless, because I don’t have the energy to do everything I think of as “my job.” My husband is usually pretty good at reminding me that my value lies in who I am, not in what I do. (Of course, we have our days when we run short on grace for each other! But as a rule, that’s how it works.)

    • Sounds as if you have a very wise and loving husband, Rachel. And that is a lesson–recognizing where my true value lies–that I so desperately want to learn and internalize. I’ve made strides over the years, but God’s stirring up some new territory to deal with. Thanks so much for speaking into this subject with such grace and precision!

  14. heather c says:

    What I find helpful with all my medical problems and the affects it has on me and my marriage is honesty and laughter. And I’m fortunate to have Scott who know when I need both. He is also so good at being gentle enough to handle my blunt honesty about how awful I feel about me and my medical problems without dismissing my feelings. I try to stay in touch with how he is handling things and what he thinks is the right path for me and us. he is my biggest advisor when addressing my treatments and health at the moment.

    • Yes, honesty and laughter do seem to be hallmarks of the Copple household! 🙂 And I think they are ways that Gary and I connect too, but could always use an extra dose of attention. So I will take your wise insight and remember to be open about my feelings when they bubble up inside me, Heather. Thanks for that wise advice, my friend!

  15. I lived with chronic illness for years…oh the word limitation beings back the struggle…for me…it was performance and earning love from God …my husband and my children…I felt I was being tied to a chair and had to sit still and receive God’s love …love through my husband and children and friends …so sorry to hear you have a ‘double’ whammy….prayers as you walk this hard journey.

    • Yes, there’s something about being sick that reminds us of God’s ultimate control, but most of all His love, Ro. I’m sensing God’s love in so many ways lately and some of it I attribute to the incredible prayer support I’ve received and some of it I attribute to Jesus making Himself known in clearer, bolder ways. Either way, I’m doubly blessed–even with a “double whammy!” ha!

  16. First of all I want to say that I wish I had known you eight years ago. Your wisdom and insight would have given me courage and understanding for my failing marriage. As a single mom now, God has blessed me by bringing people like you into my life to share chronic illness or messy marriages both of which gives me insight into better understanding part of what I have lived through. Thank you for timely posts, your voice about marriage and your courage to share this with so many. Blessings, Beth!

    • You’re so sweet, Mary! Your words are so kind and encouraging to me too. Who knew that cancer would help me to bond with so many of my readers and fellow-bloggers?! 🙂 And to all of your thanks, I say, it’s been my pleasure to give to you and so many others. And thank YOU for being so sweet and loving towards me a relative stranger, Mary!

      • I just want to clarify that I do not have a chronic illness but my former husband did. He has since passed away which has left my sons without a dad but God has taught me, carried me and shown me what love is through everything.

  17. All those months way back in the day that my husband tenderly cared for me when I could barely care for myself did nothing but deepen our love and commitment to each other. I think I never really understood the deep depth of his love for me before crisis hit home.
    I have a very strong feeling that you will find that to be true for you as well, my sweet friend …

    • Yes, I’m beginning to understand/experience how difficulties like this can bond me to my husband and him to me like nothing else, Linda. It’s a lesson I need to learn and see from this deeper angle. Thanks for sharing about your experience with illness in marriage. It all helps to know and is so very encouraging! 🙂


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