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Divorce risk: higher with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Monday 12 August 2013
What has your illness done to your marriage (or other intimate relationship?) Most of us know first hand that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome can put pressure on a relationship, and I hear from a lot of people who say their marriage was destroyed by it.
I saw a recent study about divorce rates for people with brain cancer that showed something concerning: the divorce rate overall wasn't higher than the national average, but it was seven times more likely when it was the woman who was sick.
What's more, the outcomes for people who were divorced post-diagnosis was worse in several ways. Also, we have to consider that it could represent a loss of medical insurance for some of them. The stress and other emotions of divorce sure won't do anything good for your health, either.
In an interview with the New York Times, one of the researchers said that the study didn't look into which couples were having marital problems before the diagnosis. However, he said that the numbers suggest that women are more likely to stay in a previously rocky marriage when the husband becomes sick, while men appear to be more likely to end a previously happy marriage when their wife is diagnosed.
This seems significant for those of us with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, since the vast majority of us are women. Sure, brain cancer is a very different diagnosis and may have a different psychological impact; still, it doesn't seem like a stretch to think that this study could apply to debilitating illness in general.
We have research showing that these conditions can have a substantial negative impact on relationships. (Read more about the study.) I've also reported on a fibromyalgia poll in which more than a quarter of respondents said their illness had ended their relationship, and nearly 40 percent said it had caused a strain.
Something researchers in these studies suggest is that doctors and hospitals need to ask about illness-related relationship problems and help their patients connect with resources such as family therapists and social workers. That's certainly a good start, and it's probably about all we can reasonably expect from the medical community. After all, it's not the doctor's job to save our marriages, even if it does mean a better outcome.
So what can we do? I think the biggest thing is to focus on the basic elements that are important to all relationships - communication and trust. If you don't have both of these, it's going to be harder for the two of you to weather the problems posed by chronic illness. They're things that can be improved, but only if both people are willing to work on it.
If your relationship has suffered, you may want to try counseling. You can also explore the many articles here: How to Make Your Marriage Last, from About.com Marriage Guides Sheri & Bob Stritof.
These articles can help your spouse or others in your life understand your illness:
What has your illness done to your marriage or other intimate relationship? Take the poll, and leave your comments here!
Learn more or join the conversation!
The above, with comments and a poll, originally appeared here.
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