Treat Others as You Wish to Be Treated: An Open Letter to Our Spouses and Partners

Treat Others as You Wish to Be Treated: An Open Letter to Our Spouses and Partners

Patiently Awakened

My journey in life has allowed me to connect with and meet people from all over the world. For this, I am blessed. I’ve met many diagnosed with MS and other chronic illnesses. All of our experiences are different and we have varying levels of support.

A little while ago, I had a conversation with a fellow MS warrior regarding marriage and I was able to discern that the person was going through a difficult time with illness and adversity. I have read other accounts and heard similar stories of the difficulties that MS and chronic illness may pose to a marriage. This exchange, and the other accounts that I have been told or have read about, led me to write this week’s column.

This person described the spouse as critical, and saying verbal attacks and bitter diatribes were commonplace. I thought of other instances in which the supporting spouse’s behavior was seen as abusive, isolating, and/or insensitive. Spouses referred to chronically ill partners as lazy, and even implied they were hypochondriacs. I am saddened each time I hear of or read about a situation such as this. I know how important support is, especially from the person with whom you share a life. I believe it’s crucial to offer the level of support needed to assist a spouse in managing a life-altering disease.

It is important for spouses to be willing to learn about the disease, and be receptive and empathetic.. As someone who has always battled chronic illness, I know the physical changes disease brings to our bodies and the psychological aspect of illness can be devastating. Illness has a tumultuous effect on self-esteem at times.

During our conversation, I realized this person also was struggling with issues of self-esteem. I remember times that I, too, didn’t recognize myself. In this person, I saw remnants of me throughout various times in my life. The difference is my supportive, loving spouse, and the person today who — as a result — loves and embraces herself.

I want to speak to the spouses and partners of those with MS and chronic illness about the essential role you play.

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To our spouses and partners:

Whether I have met your loved ones in person or virtually, I can say without hesitation that they are brave, resilient and beautiful. Please know that your words and actions matter. Speak life, confidence and perseverance into your spouse whenever possible. Illness attempts to purloin so much from us, and at times we wonder if we will recover. Your positive reinforcement helps us fight. It reminds us that we are loved and valued.

Harsh words, in contrast, can compromise us emotionally. They can make us question who we are, and may prompt us to inquire if we want to stay around for more of this. Unkind words shatter us mentally and further strain our wellness. Stress worsens our conditions. Remember, you took a vow and/or made a commitment to love one another — in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. Be assured that I don’t have the right or the desire to interfere in your marriage. I am too immersed in sustaining my own.

However, as a married woman with MS, it must be said that I often rely on the love, support and encouragement of my spouse to get through wearisome times. I rely on him to stand in the gap when I can’t show up.

I challenge you to consider the alternative, asking yourself, “What if the shoe was on the other foot?” What if you were the person who was ill? Would you be satisfied with the support, affection and standard of care you give to your spouse if it were you needing help and support? We are not privy to the details of the future. There may come a time when your spouse has to care for you.

I acknowledge that as a supporting spouse, MS and chronic illness also may be difficult for you to manage. Everyone responds differently to illness. Please seek help if you must. There is a plethora of literature on MS and many support groups for spouses, partners and families of those with MS. Some information from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society may be useful and a good place to start.

Live well and treat your spouse the way you wish to be treated. Love can heal wounds that medicine cannot.

Sincerely,
Teresa

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Teresa I. Wright-Johnson is a married Multiple Sclerosis Warrior and Congenital Heart Disease Survivor. She was born with a heart murmur and an Aortic Valve Defect. Teresa has endured multiple open heart surgeries and cardiac procedures. She was diagnosed with MS in November of 2014 and is under the care of an esteemed MS Specialist. Teresa knows there is a calling on her life and she fully embraces that. Teresa uses her illnesses as opportunities to further rely on her faith, walk in her truth, raise awareness and educate others. She believes that she is purposely on purpose. Teresa offers a solid background in Criminal Justice and Social Services. A graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and a retired Sr. Parole Officer for the State of New Jersey, Teresa uses her life to empower and inspire others. She embodies community service, is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc and is active with several other organizations. Teresa aspires to be a light that shines in dark places. Teresa is an author, poet, inspirational speaker and a community activist. She enjoys writing, reading, listening to music and spending time with her family and friends. Teresa acknowledges the unwavering love of her wonderful parents throughout her life and her supportive and loving husband Marvin who is beside her through every trial and triumph.
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Teresa I. Wright-Johnson is a married Multiple Sclerosis Warrior and Congenital Heart Disease Survivor. She was born with a heart murmur and an Aortic Valve Defect. Teresa has endured multiple open heart surgeries and cardiac procedures. She was diagnosed with MS in November of 2014 and is under the care of an esteemed MS Specialist. Teresa knows there is a calling on her life and she fully embraces that. Teresa uses her illnesses as opportunities to further rely on her faith, walk in her truth, raise awareness and educate others. She believes that she is purposely on purpose. Teresa offers a solid background in Criminal Justice and Social Services. A graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and a retired Sr. Parole Officer for the State of New Jersey, Teresa uses her life to empower and inspire others. She embodies community service, is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc and is active with several other organizations. Teresa aspires to be a light that shines in dark places. Teresa is an author, poet, inspirational speaker and a community activist. She enjoys writing, reading, listening to music and spending time with her family and friends. Teresa acknowledges the unwavering love of her wonderful parents throughout her life and her supportive and loving husband Marvin who is beside her through every trial and triumph.
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3 comments

  1. jacklyn burse says:

    I was diagnoised in 2011 and im not married but i feel as if my boyfriend is hateful at times. Im only 26 i have 2 beautiful daughters but my health sucks.since hes the only one who works i feel worthless im trying to get disability and help but he makes me feel awful.

    • Teresa Wright-Johnson says:

      Dear Jacklyn,
      Thanks for your response. I am sorry that you are going through this situation. Please know that you are worthy and you matter. Please reach out to the NMSS, your treatment staff and others for support if you need it. There are also online support groups. I wish you the best.

  2. jacquelynn ravenswillow says:

    me and my husband just separated because I was diagnosed two weeks ago and he has done nothing but tell me that I’m making up the disorder to get attention he told my friends that I made the whole thing up, not sure how I entered into getting a neurologist and an MRI and my doctor to all be in on this cruel joke to him but it’s just been the worst.I have felt that the strain and stress in our relationship lately have made me have the latest ms attack that they found on the MRI it’s left me in bed broken hearted and broken body but I feel that having him around and his negativity is the stress that can make me even sicker.
    I need to focus on me and my daughter and healing I don’t have time for negativity or extra stress or someone who doesn’t want to help me do common things like vacuum or do the dishes and call me lazy because I can’t do them myself even though I really want them done. Having Ms isn’t hard enough it’s even worse when someone you thought that loved you abandons you.

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