Our Wedding Vows Took on New Meaning After My PH Diagnosis

Jen Cueva avatar

by Jen Cueva |

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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.

Jen and her husband, Manny, riding the Ferris wheel on a date night. (Photo by Manny Cueva)

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.


G Has avatar

G Has

If only my wife took her vows as serious. After 23 years, she left 3 weeks after my youngest moved out. My health was too stressful for her, so she moved in with her mother.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

G., I am so sorry that you are going through a tough time. I know so many stories where one partner cannot deal with all of this. PH brings so much to a marriage. Some are able to work things out, while others may not. I hope that things will improve for you and again, I am sorry for your struggles.

William Jones avatar

William Jones

My wife and I have been together for 38 years and when I was diagnosed 3 1/2 years ago I never realized how much of a burden I would become. Over the last year my condition has worsened with my PH, my interstitial lung disease, and my RA to the point she is the one carrying the load with so many things. She is always the one that will change my oxygen tanks,loads the car whenever we go somewhere, Helps me load up all my "gear" when I go into the office for the day and so many other things on a day to day occurrence. She is also my rock when I get frustrated with everything that's happening. She really has taken our wedding vows to heart and I love her so much for that.

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Hi William, I am so happy that your wife is so supportive. I feel like my husband is my rock, too. I have learned to not think of myself as a burden, this makes me deal with too much guilt. I find that communicating with my husband and also telling him just how much he is appreciated is important. I also try to remind him to take a little “me” time for himself. Thanks for reading.


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