Facebook Pixel

Living with and possibly leaving a sick spouse - a heartfelt story from a reader looking for advice

By Expert HERWriter January 7, 2009 - 10:17pm
Rate This

A couple of days ago, a woman wrote to me in the "ASK Michelle" section and told me her heartfelt, honest, and I think heart-wrenching story about her ill husband, who has multiple sclerosis, and the very real difficulties about living with someone who has changed in so many ways over the years. Many of the changes have affected his personality and made him very difficult to live with at times. I wrote her back and told her how I could totally see where she was coming from in terms of her emotions, and that I understood what she was saying. But I also wanted to post her story here (see below), so others could see it and reply to her and give her more suggestions, support and a sense of hope and that she is not alone. Please, if anyone has anything they'd like to tell her, I would really appreciate it--I'm sending her this link so she can watch for more replies. For example, do you know of another woman who has gone through this, and/or do you know of any resources for her? Thank you everyone!

"I am a 37year old female, well educated and completely healthy. I married my husband 8 years ago, knowing that he has multiple sclerosis. He was a vibrant, fun, clever and interesting person. Over the past 8 years, he has physically deteriorated (developed seizures, incontinence, difficulty walking distances, had a pulmonary embolism and now suffers from depression (but who wouldn't)). He no longer works, he stays home and does some household chores, is obsessed with our finances (we are doing ok), is mean and angry, hardly talks to me, hasn't held me or made love to me in years and honestly I don't even think that he likes me. I really think that I could deal with the physical limitations, it's the emotional stuff that is wearing me down. I've been seeing a counselor who asks me "How much more are you willing to take?" and I just don't know anymore. I'm so lonely and feel so trapped. He refuses to see a counselor or psychiatrist. I feel like an awful person for even thinking of leaving him, but I'm so unhappy that I don't know what else to do. I guess my question is "what kind of woman leaves a sick spouse?"

Add a Comment522 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I left my abusive, violent, alcoholic and disabled spouse when we were both 70. I was planning to leave him years before, had already left once and went back, and he had a stroke before I could get my plans in place to leave for good. Caregiving a mean alcoholic man for two years like I did is hell. He refused to support me financially. He called me filthy names before and after the stroke for no reason at all. Just out of the blue he'd start in. He ranted, raved, yelled at the TV as well as me. I took care of and maintained a large house all by myself. Fixed the toilets, replaced faucets, removed snakes from the swimming pool, because he refused to hire someone to do those things. I could not afford to hire the person with my money because my income was 1/6 of my husband's and all of it went to pay our mortgage, food, other needs. He canceled his life insurance that would have benefitted me if he died. He wanted me to sign over my rights to our marital home so that his kids would inherit it - and I'd paid half the down payment and my share of mortgage payments. Oh, and I would be allowed to live in it after he kicked off as long as I paid for insurance, maintenance, mortgage, and everything else concerning the house. Then his kids get what I have paid for. I left and have no regrets even though I agonized over the decision. As far as I'm concerned he broke his marriage vows first by not loving, honoring or cherishing me, and he had no intention of ever doing so or providing for me as the Bible instructs. If you can get out of a situation where your spouse is destroying you and everything you hold dear, GO. They are evil and don't deserve your sacrifice.

September 22, 2017 - 7:29pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I think you are such a brave person for leaving your marriage at 70 whatever the circumstances! To have such self is truly admirable - you are a fine example to everybody who are victims of an abusive relationship and boy, your ex husband sounds like one mean, cranky, angry person. I hope you find happiness in your new beginning. xxx

September 24, 2017 - 2:22pm
EmpowHER Guest

Can you hire a home care nurse ,And house cleaner , ? To help take away some of your responsibility s ?
Then take a vacation with your friends or self . For a week .
Still keep the Nurse and house keeper , when you return .

September 11, 2017 - 12:21pm
EmpowHER Guest

Looking for advice also here, I am a 32 year old female who has been with her partner 13 years, carer for 9 years to my partner(not married but co habitating), he has chronic life long incurable illness alongside other health issues and recently a reoccurrence of serious mental health issues. I gave up my career(gladly) to care for him a while back and as result of caring have been seriously ill which I'm trying to recover from myself. He is loving and kind (although the mh issues are creating a lack of intimacy and mood swings) however we now realise the life I may have hoped for travel etc won't be possible with him, I'm trying to be honest and explain that he cannot meet my needs (physically,emotionally)and I understand that ,however as we have no other support system I am the caretaker of everything, he says I don't have to be but there's no one else to pick up the pieces. I want to be single now just to live alone but I feel so trapped because he will have noone to care for him and also that I would be making a mistake. And I also feel like a horrible person leaving because I have had enough I have felt down and sad for a very long time now but noone to discuss this with who isn't apart of our inner circle of mutual friends. I also am now tied to my partner in regards money etc also now with welfare (thankfully we don't have kids or a mortgage but my work day savings are gone)I answered if God said tomro if I could be single would I I said yes but i feel horrible because he is loyal faithful and treats me the best way he knows how, (those qualities are hard to find in a partner)i feel hopeless trapped and also taken for granted, like my life doesn't matter. Thanks for listening, if anyone has constructive advice or tips I would be grateful and to everyone out there i am reading your stories and comments , I have no advice to give but I am with ye in spirit and hope that ye also find a resolution.

September 7, 2017 - 9:42pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am 30 and have been with my partner for 10 years. We aren't married. He is in chronic body pain equivalent to a women in labour 24/7. A few months into dating I moved in and automatically took on the role of his care giver. Besides his pain he isn't very healthy at all, i try and motivate him to live a healthier lifestyle (to help his quality of life and his pain) and he resists. Even his hygiene is REALLY lacking. On top of that, he is always stressed out, negative, snappy, rude, verbally abusive, disrespectful and emotionally disconnected. And he demands sex every day. He blames his behaviour on his chronic pain which is a valid point, but my question is where do I draw the line? Is that really a valid excuse? I see all my friends having fun, getting engaged, enjoying life and all I do most days is cook, clean, and feel alone... and I'm so young. No dates, no flowers, no excitement, no appreciation. But is it selfish of me to expect those things when someone is ill? For the rest of my long life... any insight would be very appreciated.

September 1, 2017 - 10:39pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Your not married , get out , If he thought enough about you he d offer to marry you , and sign everything over to you, after his death .

September 11, 2017 - 10:23am
EmpowHER Guest


You clearly have no idea what it is to sacrifice and watch your life slip away as you care for someone else. It is one of the hardest, selfless things you can do for someone you love and even more so for someone who shows no love to you! Marriage is a two party commitment and when one gets ill, obviously they cannot fulfill in the same way they would if they were healthy, but they must also find a way to contribute with what they CAN do. For someone to be in a marriage and just take without giving anything positive, well, that's not a marriage; it's a parasitic relationship. I hope with your hard stance that you are able to take an honest look in the mirror and just as hard as you are on others, you are as well on yourself to be kind, loving, appreciative and contribute all that you can despite your illness.

August 26, 2017 - 9:10am
EmpowHER Guest

I guess I come from different stock! ! My mother and father were married for 57 years, my father retired at 65 as a pharmacist, 4 years later my mother began the torment of Alzheimer's. After my father broke vertebrae in his back caring for my mother, I hade a one-on-one with my father where I practically had to threaten to whip his ass over putting mother in a care facility. I pursuaded him to do just that. We found the perfect place 1 mile from their home, 2 miles from their church. My father ate three meals a day with herthere for the next 7 years, my mother always never forgot who my father was, even though she often thought me to be her brother nor her son. My grandparents: One set were married 76 years the other set my grandfather died after 35 years of marriage, my grandmother lived to be 101 years old, spent her last 40 single, the"love of her life was gone.
Me I was diagnosed with PPMS in 2011, now my wife of 18 years is abandoning me. What kind of a person leaves someone when they get a disease. Well if the "promise to love through sickness and in health " were part of their vows, then I guess that makes them a LIAR! They will have to answer to their maker for abandoning their sick spouse. It exemplifies the ULTIMATE ACT OF SELFISHNESS AND BETRAIAL. Guess I am cut from different stock than y'all

August 7, 2017 - 10:24am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I completely agree with you. It was part of their vows and it does make them a LIAR. No one plans on getting sick or having a accident that leaves them disabled. It's so easy to just quit these days and get a divorce. For the most part the disabled or sick spouse is left with no way to take care of themselves financially. If they weren't married ten years before the illness or accident happened then they aren't required to pay spousal support to them no matter how much that person gave before they became ill.

September 18, 2017 - 11:52pm
(reply to Anonymous)

I am really surprised at your answer to this poor woman! For a lot of reasons. Your examples were not similar at all.
This poster is only 37 years old--she has mnore than 60 years of life to live and to live it in this way would seem unbearable!

Your parents were MARRIED for a full 20 years longer than she's EVEN BEEN ALIVE! Can't you see the difference?

At the age of approximately 70 (that's twice this original poster's age NOW) your mother fell ill. At 70 years old. Your parents had already lived the bulk of their lives. Married, had children, worked, probably saw their grandchildren born, maybe even graduated high school or college, etc etc. I mean heck, they had a full 4 years POST-RETIREMENT to enjoy themselves before medical issues cropped up.

That's a far cry from this woman's situation. Whereas she has the next 70 years of her life potentially living in a miserable situation (his attitude) your father had AT MOST 30 years of his life left, if that. And at 70 years old he probably wasn't planning on hiking to the top of Machuu Pichu anytime soon. So there would have been less "loss" anyway. Did your writeup include any emotional or physcial abuse wrt your mother & father? I didn't see any. This woman is enduring a lot.

GROW UP and see things for what they are and don't give advice with your eyes shut to the details of the situation.

August 16, 2017 - 2:58pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.