If you read the statistics you’d think that relationships are a huge challenge to maintain at all – but add in a chronic illness or two and the odds apparently plummet.
This has not been my experience. I’m not a relationship expert, but my husband and I celebrated our 12th anniversary this year, which is a great blessing.
(Yes, I know you’re frantically adding up, trying to work out how old I am, I’m 29.)
There are challenges to living and loving with a chronic illness, I’m living with many of them, but it is far from impossible.
I’ve put together my top three struggles and how to manage them.
Sharing household tasks when you are seriously ill
Chronic illness in a relationship changes the parameters.
If you are caring for your partner and they are caring for you, you can’t just be a friend/wife/lover you have to be carer or cared-for-person too.
This isn’t always easy – how do you combine the roles or switch between them?
My husband and I came up against this challenge two weeks after our wedding, when I relapsed and was so unwell the nurses wanted us to sleep in separate beds on separate floors! Uh, no thank you. That clearly wasn’t happening.
We instigated in innovative solution…but that’s a story for another time.
But that’s just an example of the challenges of being cared for and being a lover.
I’d imagine that without chronic illness if your partner said they were tired and fed up you could say, ‘Oh don’t worry darling, you sit down, I’ll do the washing up‘. But in chronic illness we often can’t say that, nor take care of the bills or make the meals or one thousand and one other things that need taking care of in life.
What To Do? Divide up the responsibilities fairly – just be creative in how you do that.
How to Share Household Tasks & Ease Your Relationship
Start by writing down all the household tasks, and then think laterally about what really needs to be done and who can do what.
What Really Needs Doing?
There are lots of things we do on autopilot, but when illness of life crisis is involved, we need to be revolutionary.
You are doing this for the health of your relationship after all. And, honestly, if you are reading this, it’s likely that your plans have shifted significantly from what you first envisioned for your life…you are becoming a wellness trailblazer. It’s just a question of extending that.
What’s the hardest household task? Can you get rid of it?
Do you hate cleaning the oven? Can you cook things that don’t make the oven dirty? Or put parchment paper under whatever you bake to keep the baking tray clean. No scrubbing here!
Maybe you just can’t hoover and your partner hates it. Ok, why not get rid of your carpets? How about saving up, or crowdfunding for a roomba? Even putting throws or rugs down over your flooring that can be shaken outside and don’t need to be hoovered?
Perhaps, like me, you find cleaning very tiring. What’s tiring about it? Cleaning and moving all-the-things.
When I couldn’t clean, I took a radical route and sold most of our possessions.
This arose from an exercise in The Phoenix Fire Academy. It’s transformative stuff.
Now my home is beautiful, clean, spacious and easy to keep tidy and dust-free.
If you are ill and can’t cook… can you make a very simple meal once a week? What about if you make it and just call your carer to get it out of the oven? Can you make a smoothie, if your partner puts the blender on the floor for you to lie next to? Can you guys eat a smoothie for a meal once a week, or a bowl of beans with dressing on them? We made sure to get creative in what counted as a ‘meal’ to allow me to contribute to cooking.
(If you are looking for accessible recipes, check out Prepping Your Kitchen for Plant-Based Wellness – my accessible eating guide that’s compassionate, pragmatic and has got rave reviews.)
If you are exhausted….. can you take over the letter writing for the house and write them in bits and pieces? Always start with the envelope first – it makes you proud you’ve accomplished something and more likely to finish the letter.
Can you make phone calls using a speaker phone or hands-free service? Can you make phone calls from bed?
How about setting up systems to keep track of all the bills and to-dos? I talk about systems in depth in
What tools can you bring in to make life easier?
Wooden Floors for easy sweeping?
Can you sit up in your wheelchair and push a swifter about a bit? Can you make soup for dinner, if all you need to do it put the veggies in a high-powered blender and press ‘start’?
This issue here is that if you used to be able to do it all and now you can’t do any of it you may not yet have learned how to do it in bits and pieces. It really doesn’t have to be perfect.
If none of these are an option for you then perhaps it’s time for a care worker to come in to help.
Can you organise or support respite for your partner, and can that respite come in the form of cleaning or cooking services?
Divide up your list of tasks – and set a week trial period. Make one change for the space of a week and book in a review at the end of the week – talk together to see how things went and make changes.
Repeat for other tasks you are trying out and keep the agreement fluid.
Who do you know who would love/need this post? Be kind and send it over to them. Sharing is caring.
Where can you make things easier for each other today? Let me know in the comments!
Grace Quantock is an award-winning international wellness expert, coach, author, motivational speaker, certified Reiki master and spiritual response therapy practitioner. She is the founder of Healing Boxes CIC and The Phoenix Fire Academy. Currently living – and thriving – with often debilitating illness, she is the real deal and knows, firsthand, the emotional and physical roller coaster that accompanies diagnosis and life struggle. Currently, a resident of Wales, Grace loves reading, gardening and early mornings. She firmly believes that life is meant to be celebrated, and has made it her mission to help others do just that …joyfully and on their own terms. You can follow Grace on Twitter.
Image courtesy of Kelly Sikkema.