Coping, or not, with your spouse’s (SO’s) challenges

In sickness or in health, for richer for poorer… this isn’t just for married couples but for any committed couple — what challenges from your spouse / significant other, health or habits or otherwise, are you dealing with, and how do you cope? Or did you decide it’s just too much, and you left? (This idea came from an IMHO thread where the OP’s husband has challenges that he doesn’t appear willing to address (My husband may be permanently disabled and I’m asking myself questions)).

I never thought of leaving my wife, who has some challenges. Not even remotely. But others do, and have. That other thread reminded me of the challenges we have, but for me they are just ‘part of the deal’. And God knows I’m no picnic to deal with either.

Some of us cope, but how? Is it love, or duty, or commitment? Is it the marriage vows we made? And yet some of us leave because their burden has been too great to bear. Maybe they say, “I didn’t sign up for this!”

Ivylad is permanently disabled. He is in constant pain that the morphine pump doesn’t help. He’s in a wheelchair because his leg gives out with no warning and he falls. The thought of leaving him never crossed my mind.

When I was in high school and college, my mom underwent a surgery that was botched. She ended up addicted to Vicodin and barbituates because of it. It was a really rough time for all of us but especially for my mom and dad.

I remember having late night conversations with my dad. In one, he finally bared his soul to me saying, “What should I do? Leave her? I… I can’t.” And he didn’t. My mom was finally able to get better when my dad and her friend took her pills away from her. They treated her like a child until she got sober enough to see what was happening. She had to get new doctors. They still live with the consequences of her surgery, but their marriage breaking up wasn’t one of them.

Now that I’m pushing 50, I’d stay.

But if I were in my twenties?

No, sorry. Sucks to be you.

Beer is my friend.

My wife is a Type 1 diabetic and at times her blood glucose (or, BG) has unexpectedly crashed and she is suddenly unable to respond or act rationally. Twice, it happened while I was away on a business trip (we live alone; I try to minimize my business trips). At several other times I’ve been there with her, either at home or while vacationing, on a plane or in the car. The more it happens, her docs tell me, the more ‘hypoglycemic unaware’ she becomes — she is less able to recognize the onset symptoms (drowsiness, sweaty skin). I worry that her BG might crash when I’m not there, and if she’s otherwise alone with noone around.

If I can recognize the signs soon enough, a packet or two of glucose gel is enough to get her BG to rise, but she has to be conscious enough to swallow, else she’ll choke and gag. And if her BG has gone really low and she is totally out of it, then I administer a shot of glucagon which releases glucose stores in her liver, IIRC. We used to work in the same office and I had to do it in the office once. When she came to, I brought her home, which thankfully isn’t far. I’ve administered a glucagon shot maybe 8-10x in the 16 years we’ve been married.

It’s scary. The first times it happened her BG got so low that her muscles were convulsing. She collapsed in convulsions in front of me and I did not know what was happening. Her eyes are open, but she cannot respond. Her breathing is automatedly labored, like her body has gone into some kind of survival mode. 9-1-1 and the paramedics treated her. I cried when it first happened because I didn’t know what was going on. Early on, the paramedics were here a handful of times. Once it was in the middle of the night, I was sound asleep and was woken up by her body’s random flopping in the bed. To wake from a deep sleep and see her helpless like that, and to realize she’d been crashing right beside me for some time before it got to that point, I can feel totally helpless.

These low BG episodes, especially when the crash is so severe, cannot be good for her brain which needs glucose to function, can it?

On top of that, she has had two organ transplant operations over the years — kidney and pancreas 20 years ago, then a second kidney 10 years ago ;this time from a relative), so she will be on immunosuppressants all her life. In winter cold weather she has caught infections. Between the BG crashes and suppressed immune system we’ve been to the E.R. more times than I can count. We have insurance but it still gets expensive. She goes almost monthly for either a lab draw or doc visit (to her primary care doc, or nephrologist, or transplant team or other specialists).

It can be pretty scary. I need to be always near to her. We now have it controlled pretty well, but it took a while. Smart phone apps, automated insulin pumps, and continuous glucose monitors do wonders these days. Compared to others’ challenges mine clearly pale in comparison. A friend of mine lost his wife to ALS, for example, and that was utter hell.

Does the CGM not catch it in time? I"m also a T1 diabetic, and my lows have more or less disappeared with the newer CGM systems. Everything starts beeping and alerting and generally making a ruckus long before I ever get so low that I couldn’t handle it on my own. I do realize everyone varies, so hope this doesn’t come across as judgmental - I’m mostly just curious.

I think there is a big difference between many physical and many mental/psychological issues. For physical issues the spouse mostly can’t fix the problem. But suppose the spouse is a spendthrift with constant overdrawn checks, creates bad credit for both of you, etc. Then the question naturally arises if the spouse considers all these physical goods more important than you to her. If so why not leave?

I also feel this way. Spouses should support each other, but each spouse also has a responsibility to minimize the burden on the other spouse. If it’s a health issue, then that spouse should do everything they can to minimize the burden that issue causes. That may mean changing diet, habits, exercise, etc. so that the negative effects are not so great. Similarly for addiction, the spouse should try to get in recovery, change habits to avoid relapse, etc. If the spouse with the burdensome condition is not making appropriate efforts to minimize the effect to the other spouse, then that’s not what marriage is all about.

I have a friend who last week left her wife, because wife is suffering from depression and refuses to get help. They got married to be a team and support each other. My friend was willing to support her wife but the wife, frankly, was dragging them both down. And my friend put up with it for a long time before she just had enough. Now the wife is already following through with therapy, because she no longer has her crutch (my friend). I think in this instance divorce is justified.

My mom has been with my dad for 40+ years now, through some major ups and downs. Her parents got divorced when she was a teen and she is still upset about that. Maybe she would have left dad if they didn’t have us kids, but I’m pretty sure divorce has never been in the picture for her. I don’t know if it’s vows so much as stubbornness on her part.

Not a problem, it’s okay. Not judgmental at all. I’m glad your CGM is working well for you. My wife’s CGM does catch it, but she’s not great about monitoring it, and when the alarms go off she doesn’t tend to that right away.

Recently she has gotten much better at heeding her CGM!

My husband’s only “challenge” is that his work requires a lot of traveling… all over the world. Once he’s back home, he has to deal with MY challenges, mostly - but not all - health-related.

Our challenges are not in the medical category. We are both on our second marriage. And I would say that we both have weaknesses that partially explain why we are not still in our first marriages, and why we are together. We are both ill constructed to make excellent choices in partners, and as a unit we are ill suited to effectively communicate and work through issues. (One can read between the lines on that last part.)

For me I tried to learn from my first experience and placed more emphasis on the nature of commitment when entering into this one. In a subtle ways, I think commitment can be exploited by a spouse.

As for coping, it’s a constant risk / reward calculation. I am an accommodating type by nature (which can feed dis-function), so I get along.

Had I a different mix of natural hormones or gut biome, perhaps I would have already moved on.

Not a pretty picture, but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

I am a T1 diabetic and I mostly care for myself. I have a monitor and I am religious about my diet and insulin. I have to be, I am so often alone.
Mr.Wrekker is quite a bit older than me. Right now he is in optimum health. He’s very active. I know that won’t be how it always is. I know I will be caring for him and trying to maintain myself sooner rather than later. I wouldn’t leave him over a health issue. Both his parents had severe dementia and that is what I dread. I still wouldn’t leave but, man, that is one hard row to hoe.

Home Health Care can help relieve some of the burden.

The spouse still needs to support an ill partner. But, a good Home Health Care nurse can provide a lot of help. Getting them dressed, out of bed, IV medications etc.

When my wife and I got married, we joined together as partners in a team. In a different world we might have drifted apart and gotten divorced; who knows. In this world, my wife was diagnosed with dementia and I felt I owed it to her as a partner to take care of her. Add in the fact that our children were 9 and 11 when she was diagnosed, and leaving never crossed my mind. And even though she’s not capable of contributing anything anymore, I still consider us partners.

There are situations where separation is necessary, and the most common one is one where the spouse’s illness makes them dangerous to be around, for the spouse and/or the children (especially the children).

As for the bounced checks example, that could be a manifestation of a manic episode, if the person isn’t habitually irresponsible regarding money management.

While my personal belief is that marriage is for life, I also think there are situations where separation or divorce is warranted. Abuse, or addiction, are some of those. And danger, like nearwildheaven points out.

I’ve never been married or in a relationship that lasted longer than 3 years, but I think my ability to cope with an SO’s challenges would depend largely on his attitude and personal responsibility. Two people can have identical medical conditions (for example) but vastly different personalities/expectations/approaches to dealing with it.

In addition, does anyone really think that someone is going to admit to leaving a sick spouse, or for that matter child, because they couldn’t cope with it and wanted greener pastures? :confused: