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Did I Really Say That? (Part 4 in a Series of 4)

By:  Donna Martin

I take you to be my wife/husband in sickness and in health.  When couples are standing at the altar repeating their wedding vows, most likely the farthest thing from their minds is a picture of their future spouse suffering from a serious illness.  The words “in sickness and in health” flow from their lips with little understanding of the impact illness may one day have on their relationship.

The movie The Notebook depicts a sweet, endearing love story of a man whose wife is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.  The husband kept a notebook of their life together and every day he would go to the facility where she lived and read her part of the story of their life together.  And if you have seen the movie, you know the ending is also sad, but sweet.  However, as most movies, much of the nitty-gritty, sorrow, stress, disappointment, loneliness, and general messiness of sickness is not depicted.

Everyone can be certain that sickness will be experienced at sometime in marriage.  It comes in various forms and severities – from runny noses to critical cancers.  Couples will have to deal with the sickness of a spouse, personal sickness, the sickness of a child, or the sickness of a parent.  Often sickness comes sooner than expected and lasts longer than expected.  Sickness is repeated over and over again through the years.

To someone who has never experienced sickness, this vow may not seem like it would be hard to keep.  One might flippantly think, well, of course I will stick with my spouse through sicknessWhat’s the big deal?  But sickness is a big deal, not only to the person who is sick, but also to the caregiver.  Sickness is not pretty.  It is messy and ugly.  It is stressful both for the person who is sick and for the person who is caring for the sick. 

So how do couples make it through sickness?  The obvious answer is that they do what they said they would do – stick with their spouse.  Commitment is the key to any of the hardships couples face in marriage.  If you truly love, someone you will be committed to stay with that person and help that person through any situation.

Dealing with sickness requires love, patience, unselfishness, kindness, and compassion.  Can you imagine how you would feel if you were admitted to the hospital and the nurse told you, “I can’t stand the sight of blood, I get sick if I even hear someone throwing up, and I will not clean up after diarrhea, so, don’t bother to click that call button if you experience any of those symptoms!”  You would probably get out of that hospital really fast.  However, when it comes to their spouse, some people have that attitude.

As a child, I panicked at the sight of blood, but as Paul states in 1Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”   So when I became a wife/mother, I had to put childish ways behind me.  I had to clean up the blood, spit-up, vomit, etc.  My mother wasn’t there to do it.  But I found that 1 John 5:18 is true; “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear.”  The love that I had for my children and my spouse helped me face the challenges and hardships that came with sickness.

Here’s a little advice for when sickness strikes:

1.  Stay calm.

2.  Be available to hug, help, and encourage.

3.  Ask how you can help or, if you are the person who is ill, make requests so your spouse will know how to help you.

4.  Pray, pray, pray

5.  Be patient and be willing to take on extra responsibilities that your spouse will not be able to do because he or she is sick or is caring for a sick child or sick parent.

6.  Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.

7.  Memorize Bible verses before someone gets sick so that when it comes, you will have God’s word in your heart to help you face the hardships of sickness.

8.  Give your love and support unconditionally.

9.  Do what you can to find out about the illness so you can be an informed caregiver or encourager.

10. Help schedule doctor’s appointments.

11.  Remember that one person should not have to take all of the responsibility for caring for a child or sick parent.  You are a team, and you need to work together.

12.  Know that as you work together and lean on each other, you will build a stronger relationship as you overcome the hardships that come with sickness.  (See James 1:2-4)


The Martins currently present “Happy Together” marriages seminars for churches and organizations.  To schedule a seminar call Michael at 940-735-1515. They also publish a weekly “Happy Together” Blog about family and marriage issues.  You can order copies of their new books Dancing With Death and 366 Tidbits We Have Learned in 14,610 Days of Marriage, read, and subscribe to their “Happy Together” Blog by logging onto the Martin’s website at

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