Spouses who are disabled by stroke still have ability to express appreciation and provide emotional support.

How to Keep a Marriage Alive After a Spouse Has a Stroke & Is Disabled

by Katrina Miller

Keeping a marriage alive after a spouse is disabled by a stroke gives you both challenges and opportunities. Seeing the person you love lose some or nearly all the ability to perform life’s daily tasks can take a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. What you learn and what you do to meet the challenge of the stroke can be a source of satisfaction and reward. The key to keeping a marriage alive after a disabling stroke is to adjust how you care for yourself as well as how you care for each other.

Get Help

Strokes come on suddenly and do not typically give you time to prepare for your new role as caregiver. If you are going to keep your marriage alive, you will need to accept that you're going to need help. In most areas of the United States, you can locate resources in your community by simply dialing your zip code and 2-1-1. A person who is familiar with what is available in your area will answer and personally help you. He will direct you to information as to where you can find nursing help, a support or education group, as well as things like medical equipment. When you're a caregiver, respite care, which is someone to care for your spouse while you take time off, is one of the most important services you'll need. Family and friends can provide informal respite, or you can seek professional services through the 2-1-1 information line, your hospital, physician, or community organizations. Your spouse’s workplace or former workplace might have an employee assistance program that can help you find and perhaps even pay for some services as well.

Attend to Your Needs

You shouldn't focus so much attention on keeping your spouse and the household going that you forget about yourself. Taking care of yourself will help you take better care of your loved one, according to the Today’s Caregiver website. Keep in mind that helping your spouse is just one of the roles you have in life. It's important to participate in, and enjoy, other roles, too. If you have interests or hobbies that you pursued prior to your spouse's stroke, you need to find the time to continue to pursue them so you don't begin to resent your spouse. You also have to realize that you have the right to experience and express your own emotions. This means that if you're feeling angry or depressed on some days, you should be able to express those feelings to either family, friends or a therapist. Give yourself kudos for the strength of character you show to meet your difficult day-to-day challenges. You should also give your spouse the opportunity to express his appreciation for you in whatever way he can.

Involve Your Spouse

Some stroke survivors can only provide emotional support in a marriage, while others regain near or full function to the point where they can return to work. Focus on what your spouse can do instead of what she can't do. Encourage her to use whatever abilities she has to help you manage the household. Resuming a role as a contributor to the household in whatever she can is essential as this helps restore a sense of equity and balance to the relationship, according to a research article published in June 2011 in the journal, “Health and Quality of Life Outcomes.”

Continue Intimacy

Remember that your spouse can continue to nurture and love you, even if the disability is so severe that it is difficult to help out with physical or material needs. The mutual affection between the two of you can bring rewards and reduce some of the strain of care giving, according to the June 2011 article in “Health and Quality of Life Outcomes” journal. Be aware of the invisible forces of love, warmth, respect, gratitude, and affection emanating from your spouse. Lovingly hold and touch each other often. Watch movies together, enjoy your favorite meals and try to find activities in which you both can participate. Work on your emotional intimacy until you are ready to resume physical intimacy. While a stroke can sometimes interfere with sexuality, intervention is often effective and can help restore sexual function, according to a 2009 newsletter for stroke survivors and their spouses prepared by the State of Virginia. Talk to your doctor and a therapist to find out when it is safe to resume sexual relations and how you can improve sexual functioning if it is impaired.

About the Author

Katrina Miller is a medical writer specializing in behavioral health. She has been published in "Family Perspectives" and the "Salt Lake Tribune." She has a doctoral degree in Family and Human Development from Utah State University.

Photo Credits

  • John Rowley/Digital Vision/Getty Images