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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
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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?"

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EmpowHER Guest

As a person married to my spouse for 15 years I was left when my Heart Failure rendered me incapable of sex and only a small amount of any out of the house activity. I can tell you it's devastating. Now I am left alone to only get worse by myself. I thought I would have a partner to help me through and then one day out of the blue she told me she wanted a divorce. I was crushed

August 25, 2016 - 8:33pm
EmpowHER Guest

You probably wont want to read my opinion but I am going to post it anyway because it is the honest truth. You were married, divorce is a contradiction to marriage it shouldn't even exist. What is the point of getting married if you are going to get divorced? What is the point of the vows and false promises?

"...for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health... "


What did you not understand about that? Oh, his attitude hasn't matured to your liking and his health hasn't gotten any better. Too bad, you should have thought about that during your wedding. Now you are going to cop out because your marriage isn't what you "thought" it was going to be like? Here is an idea, its your marriage, figure it out. I am tired of people like you "copping" out I don't respect it. Marriage is suppose to be until DEATH, until one of the lovers are 6feet deep in a casket covered in roses, what do you not get ? I don't respect you, you are just as weak of a wife as he is a frail husband and you should honestly be ashamed in yourself as you put all the blame on him. You married him knowing he was suffering from multiple sclerosis, not that it would matter anyway. But you KNEW he was SICK.

Your story is one sided where you play the victim and you are looking for support from people because you know divorce is shameful. And I am certainly not going to support this decision and pretend like its ok.

From the sound of it your husband doesn't seem interested in divorce and thats why I respect him more than you.

In a nutshell you knowingly married a sick person and want to cop out of a marriage after 8 years because it's too hard. You are a weak wife and shouldn't have gotten married.

August 14, 2016 - 10:14am
Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hello Anon,
I think you forgot one critical point: she isn't leaving him because of his physical condition! He is a horrible husband and that has nothing to do with his sickness.
"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"

She does not need put up with horrible treatment just because he's sick! She promised to be with him in sickness and in health, NOT abuse and neglect!!!!!!!
She has a good heart and loves him, but he's treating her like crap!
I fully support her leaving him.

You should never tell someone to put up with abuse.

August 20, 2016 - 1:25pm
(reply to Anonymous)

My, your post is so full full of judgement. Yor opening sentence is a complete contradiction: how can a statement be 'only your opinion' while at the same time being 'the absolute truth'. Opinions are subjective and therefore are not neccessarily the truth.
For someone so emphatic about the religious implications of marriage, you seem completely void of empathy and any semblance of understanding. You actually sound like sound like a sad and frustrated person to me.
Your post is so full of bitterness, it borders bigotry. You need to address your bitterness

August 20, 2016 - 9:54am
EmpowHER Guest

I found this thread by accident but it struck a chord with me. I met my husband 9 years ago, and we knew from day one we were soul mates, we moved to the south with my two tween children and started a life together. Three years in he decided he hated my children and started venbally abusing the kids and I, name calling degrading, threatening, insulting, emotional and verbal abuse of the highest order. I hung in thinking something MUST be wrong...and it was. He went down 3 years ago april with what they though was COPD at the young at of 47 and was dying. I made a gargantuan effort to safe him by getting a job in a larger city and moving our family there to be near a hospital that did lung transplants as they said that was what he needed. I found us a beautiful home to rent so he could be in nice surroundings through his illness, in a beatuful place near lots of cool things we could take him to do as he was in a wheelchair now. When then next time he suffered an attack and lost o2 levels, i took him to one of the top 10 hospitals in the country. What they did find what a rare blood disease and 3 brain tumors. AHA! They put in into chemo and his emotional abuse turned from bad to worse and then the threats, the calls to my job, the control and intimidation began. halfway through the chemo, he decided we were horrible vile disgusting people and left, ran away out west. He then was deemed four months later unable to take care of himself and expected to return to me. I said no, so his family took him there. He went thru my chemo and almost died, all the while daily calling to scream at me what a terrible person i am and how i caused all of his ills. he now wants to reconcile, and honestly i dont think i have it in me, so i understand all your comments. It is SO draining...where did my strong handsome amazing husband GO?

Sad but resigned

Anonymous for safety

August 13, 2016 - 5:48pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hey there, you are definitely not alone. In a few weeks we will be celebrating our 8th anniversary and today I stumbled up on this because I am in the same situation as you. Just before the birth of our second daughter who is now 4, my wife started complaining about all kinds of pains: foot, back, hands shaking, you name it. Basically every time I came home and opened the door, the first thing I heard was: I am glad you are home because one more negative thing happened. This accumulated and only made me feel like not coming home. Now, let me mention that on top of that of the two of us, she has had nothing but my support in the jobs she wants to work, most of them part-time while I have had no choice but to work full-time so we could live decently. Now the latest thing is that she has endometriosis and that added more physical limitations to our relationship than before. She went through a laparoscopy and that didn't help one bit. Everyday she is in pain to the point where she doesn't do much for chores around the house. I am on the same boat as you, I have been asking myself what's best for me and the kids? Leaving her now, it is very clear that the kids will live in a mess but at the same time, I am not happy and have not been in longtime. I feel like I have roommate more than a spouse.

August 12, 2016 - 8:25pm
EmpowHER Guest

I too am in the same position. Dating someone with MS . We have been together 3 years and I have known him for about 17 years. I feel very neglected at times. I also feel like I have my whole life ahead of me and am being held back and weighed down. I accommodate so much. I am always there. The times I barely am away he tells me he wants me home because he is sick. Sometimes I feel like I can't have anytime to myself. When we do go out I feel like I am not having fun from always worrying about him or hearing him complain. I think about life before I was dating him. I was free, myself and not miserable. I love him but with the lack of intimacy, conversation, adventure and affection I feel very lonely. I want to leave so bad but I too feel stuck and horrible for thinking that way. You are not alone. Most times I feel like no one understands me. This post really hit home.

August 12, 2016 - 1:28am
EmpowHER Guest

I have been married for 12 years to a person I thought was perfect for me. We had a great relationship until my second daughter was born. She had "colic" ---gerd, milk protein allergy, etc. She was very difficult to deal with for the first several month, but she is now a wonderful, loving 7 year old! During this time, things went bad with my husband's job and he was taking it out on me and the girls...even the cats. No denying that he was emotionally abusive to me for a LONG time. This started about 4 years into our marriage. He started having trouble with GI issues and ultimately now has Crohns/UC. All of this has changed his personality for the worse. He's pushed me away from him with his behavior and I don't have a desire to get closer. It came out in therapy about 3 years ago that he doesn't respect me and resents me. Everything we talk about is -him-.

We are still together but I think daily about how long I can deal with his behavior with this illness and his job issues. He is literally always complaining about something, and he doesn't deal well with the girls and I fear for their mental health as they grow older.

I am seeing a therapist so I can try to determine what is best for me and the girls. I don't work now and I fear what life as a single mother would be, but when I look at how my girls will most likely benefit---I don't know.

He will start looking for a new job soon and we may be moving somewhere new in a year or two. I really do not want to lose my friends as a support system. There is no guarantee that things will get better if we move, and if they sour (his health, job, our relationship, the girls) I am stuck with no support system.

Has anyone been in a similar situation? I've really simplified the story but this is the jist.


August 8, 2016 - 2:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

All of you have been so helpful. My husband has caused me to know agony and this was before he had cardiac 5. Now a year and a couple months later I ended up in the er today with an ischemia stroke. he decided to leave today and leave his 11 year old son.
I'm ecstatic he's such a viscous human being. now I can take care of my son and myself. WE WILL BE GOOD!!

August 2, 2016 - 1:15am

I am a 46 year old professional and for the first time in ten years I feel hope because I now realize that I am not alone in my journey. As I read the story, I fealt like someone was inside my head and telling MY story. My husband has been physically ill for most of our ten year marriage and as a result we have been basically roommates for eight years with no physically intimacy. I feel incredibly lonely a majority of the time but because I'm a person of faith I try to wear a "happy" face so family and friends won't know my pain. Unfortunately I don't have any secret tricks up my sleeve to share but do want you to know you're not alone and I understand your very private pain. Take care of YOU and know that you are NOT a bad person for feeling the way you feel. You are simply human!

July 29, 2016 - 9:03pm
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