Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Have you felt trapped in a relationship with a sick spouse?

Asked by wundayatta (58635points) May 4th, 2010

Some of us love our spouses, and when they get sick, we may not be happy that we have to care for them, but we are happy to care for them. But others have spouses who get sick, and then they seem to enjoy staying sick. Maybe they like the attention and service they get. Maybe they like the drugs. Slowly they turn into a dictator and their spouse gets smaller and smaller (metaphorically speaking).

Have you been in such a situation? How did it happen? Did you get out of it? How? What were your feelings about both your spouse and yourself while you were in this situation?

If you haven’t been in something specifically like this, maybe you could talk about something related or about other people you know who have been in similar situations.

On the advice side. If someone is trapped, why (psychologically) do you think they are trapped and what can they do about it (that is realistic given social pressure and guilt and low self-esteem)?

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10 Answers

Sophief's avatar

I haven’t been in that situation, but if I ever was then I would care for him as much as I could. There would be nothing I wouldn’t do for him, and my love and care would be completely unconditional.

john65pennington's avatar

Sophief(Dibley) is correct. do these words sound familiar, “for better or worse and in sickness and health”? some people do not take their marriage vows seriously. i do.

tinyfaery's avatar

Are you talking about mental or physical illness? Long or short term?

wundayatta's avatar

Physical, long term. Years—more than five, with the person getting increasingly demanding and disrespectful. The worst patient you can imagine.

Cupcake's avatar

This hasn’t happened to me, although with my depression I have thought about the possibility of being on the other end. I do think that someone can be so physically/emotionally/psychologically/emotionally unhealthy that the relationship becomes overburdened. Sometimes a break is helpful (staying apart or not sleeping together or taking a short vacation from each other… NOT sleeping with other people). Sometimes it can be so severe that the relationship may need to end.

I have a strong need to see my partner try to do “better”. If he was unhealthy for a long period of time and I did not feel he was trying to do better, I would have a hard time continuing the relationship. Of course we made a commitment to each other, and I would do everything I could to work it out… but it takes two people to make a relationship work.

I was (briefly) married before and he gave up on the marriage. There was nothing I could have done to salvage it. I gave myself away to try to make it work, and ended up broke, sad, and alone.

The reality is that love is not unconditional. Co-dependence might be unconditional. Commitment might be unconditional. Love waxes and wanes.

Physical pain is NOT an excuse to be belittling, demanding or inconsiderate of your partner.

tinyfaery's avatar

My mom had MS when I was born. She went from fully functioning to not being able to get out of bed. However, she never really expected anyone to do anything for her. She always tried to do things herself before asking for help from others, even when she couldn’t do anything but sit up.

My dad took off for about 5 years leaving my mom in an assisted living facility. (I was only 17.) Who knows why. He was an ass when he was around anyway.

I’m with @Cupcake. Nothing gives another person the liberty to treat others like shit.

YARNLADY's avatar

@wundayatta your description goes beyond a sick spouse. That person you describe has become the opposite of a partner and is now taking advantage and controlling. No one has the right to expect a marriage to last when one partner treats the other like that.

My second husband was in the process of a divorce when he discovered he had terminal cancer, and his ‘fiance’ left him. He came back to me for the three months he had left. I never stopped loving him. In fact, I had asked his girlfriend, who was my best friend, to love him as much as I did, but I guess she didn’t.

wundayatta's avatar

The spouse in question here is hung up on ‘for better or for worse.” I guess I’m not sure that for better or for worse entitles one person to make a kind of slave of the other. I guess some people believe that. But to me it seems like enabling behavior. I guess even if a person is sick, I don’t think that entitles them to order you around and make your life hellish. And if a person treats their spouse like a slave, I don’t think “for better or for worse” applies. I believe the sick spouse still has a duty to their partner—to be loving and caring, to the best of their ability. This sick spouse, as far as I can tell, isn’t even trying.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think it depends on the illness. No I don’t think it’s ever right to treat your spouse badly for any reason, but as a nurse, I have seen patient’s that are so completely out of it due to their illness. For example, an elderly person with a urinary tract infection may show no signs of illness except for confusion. So some behavior changes can be related to illness. If anything happened to my spouse, I would take care of him to the best of my ability. If for some reason I could no longer provide the care he needed, I would find the best facility that could do it for me. There is no shame in getting help when you truly need it, and that includes taking care of a loved one.

As a nurse, I always tell my patient’s family members that they still have to take care of themselves first. If the neglect taking care of themselves (mentally and physically) the quality of care for their loved one will decrease over time.

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