On March 14, 1992, when my husband said, “In sickness and in health,” he had no idea just how important those five words would become. I’m sure that like most couples, we repeated our wedding vows quickly so that we could share that first “married couple” kiss. We were newlyweds, full of excitement, and ready to conquer the world as a team. He was in the Navy, so we were living in San Diego. We were both healthy and took advantage of our beautiful surroundings by spending time outdoors. Little did we know we had a huge curveball in our future.
We often hear about how pulmonary hypertension (PH) affects our bodies, but rarely do we learn about its impact on our partners. The strains and additional stresses that PH can put on a marriage aren’t often discussed. I have an awesome husband and caregiver. Although he is incredibly supportive and helpful, some days my illness takes a mental and physical toll on him.
All couples struggle with life’s ups and downs. Even the strongest marriage is tested when one spouse is diagnosed with a chronic illness. Relationship roles can change due to the limitations and symptoms of a disease like PH. Financial struggles can cause additional stress and arguments. For example, my husband was put under pressure when we went from a two-income household to one.
Chronic illnesses such as PH will inevitably affect a marriage in many unimaginable ways. It can wreak havoc on intimacy, an important part of any loving relationship. Addressing these sensitive issues is a priority for me, but we can find it a difficult topic to discuss. We struggle to find creative ways to maintain some intimacy in our marriage.
As I write this, we are preparing to leave for an appointment with my PH doctor. I tend to become irritated and anxious before these appointments. My anxiety can take over when I think about what I need to say or worry that I will forget to mention something important. The doctor’s office is near the hospital, and when I attend my appointments, I am reminded of previous hospitalizations. I squirm in my seat as we approach the clinic.
Unfortunately, on my toughest days, my frustration is directed at my husband. I’m unhappy when this happens. Sometimes I think he deserves an award — but don’t tell him that.
I know that it tears him apart to witness my struggles to breathe. I catch him glancing at me when he thinks that I am unaware. He is always “on guard” as he knows that a situation can change in an instant. When I am dealing with an increase in PH symptoms or a “PH crisis,” he lies awake at night, listening to me breathing. On the “bad” days, I can see how it affects him. He is a diesel mechanic, and he fixes things. So he becomes frustrated that he can’t “fix” me.
My husband has accompanied me on my emotional PH trip on countless occasions. He has been by my side through it all. It’s tough to see someone you love suffer, and it’s worse when you feel helpless and unable to make it better for them.
I recently read an article about the ways a chronic illness can affect a marriage, and it offered some helpful tips. Words can’t express how much I appreciate the unconditional love and support that my husband gives me. I know that it would be easier for him to run away from me and the roller coaster ride that PH takes us on.
We have spent about half of our married lives battling PH. Communicating openly and honestly about PH is an ongoing challenge for us. Our journey is smoother when we work as a team and remind each other of the reasons we fell in love.
Do you have a loving and supportive partner? Don’t forget to remind them how much they are appreciated and loved.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.