Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Sex

Font Size

7 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Strong Despite a Chronic Illness

Don't let chronic illness weaken the bond between you and your partner.
By Karen Bruno
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD

Having a chronic illness such as diabetes, arthritis, or multiple sclerosis can take a toll on even the best relationship. The partner who's sick may not feel the way he or she did before the illness. And the person who's not sick may not know how to handle the changes. The strain may push both people's understanding of "in sickness and in health" to its breaking point.

Studies show that marriages in which one spouse has a chronic illness are more likely to fail if the spouses are young. And spouses who are caregivers are six times more likely to be depressed than spouses who do not need to be caregivers.

Recommended Related to Sex & Relationships

Marriage Advice: Stop Having the Same Fight

By Laurie Puhn Almost every couple has one: that seemingly trivial fight that just keeps cropping up, day after day, month after month, making you feel as if you're stuck in your very own version of Groundhog Day. Perhaps it's about your husband's leaving his cereal bowl by the sink rather than in the dishwasher, or your forgetting — oops! — to tell him that his mother called. The issues that trigger bickering can seem insignificant, but when fights keep on resurfacing, your otherwise happy marriage...

Read the Marriage Advice: Stop Having the Same Fight article > >

Clinical psychologist Rosalind Kalb, vice president of the professional resource center at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, says, "Even in the best marriages, it's hard. You feel trapped, out of control, and helpless."

But with patience and commitment, there are ways you and your partner can deal with the strain a chronic illness can place on your relationship.

1. Communicate

Relationships can suffer when people don't discuss problems that have no easy or obvious solution, Kalb says. And that lack of discussion can lead to feelings of distance and a lack of intimacy.

"Finding ways to talk openly about challenges," she says, "is the first step toward effective problem-solving and the feelings of closeness that come from good teamwork."

Marybeth Calderone has limited use of her legs and hands because of a neurological disorder called Charcot-Marie-Tooth. Her husband Chris says that figuring out when to communicate is his biggest challenge.

"My wife gets frustrated with herself when she can't do things, like organize our 8-year-old daughter's desk," he says. "A lot of times, I'm not sure if Marybeth is angry at me or with her condition. Often, I try to figure it out on my own and don't say anything.”

The right level of communication is key. Boston College social work professor Karen Kayser says, "If the couple is consumed with talking about the illness, that's a problem. If they never talk about it, it's also a problem. You have to find a middle ground."

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

couple not communicating
How to tell when you're in one.
couple face to face
Get your love life back on track.
couple having an argument
Turn spats into solutions
couple in argument
When to call it quits.
Life Cycle of a Penis
HIV Myth Facts
How Healthy is Your Sex Life
Couple in bed
6 Tips For Teens
Close-up of young man
screening tests for men
HPV Vaccine Future