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June 12, 2014
by Christie Hunter

Effect of Chronic Illness of Children on Marital Relation of a Couple

June 12, 2014 04:55 by Christie Hunter  [About the Author]

Chronic illness or disability is not only challenging for children, but parents dealing with such children also have to tolerate constant pressure and stress. This not only impacts their nerves and overall health, but also affects their marital relation. Many authors overlook the fact while discussing the long-term effects of chronic illness on children, but this is a fact that early childhood developmental delays or sickness can damage the marital relation of a couple beyond repair. Apart from the constant stress and challenges associated with the early childhood illness, lack of awareness on this subject is also responsible for stressed martial relation after a child is diagnosed with chronic illness or disability (Lana, 2013).

Causes of Stressed Marital Relations

Following are some of the causes, as highlighted by Dana (2013), 2 that lead to stressed marital relationships and in extreme cases divorces:

1. Emotional Stress

This is probably the biggest factor responsible for impaired marital relationships. Dana pointed out the fact that mothers and fathers react differently in the state of emotional trauma. Mothers usually don’t talk openly about their grief and therefore suffer from depressive diseases. Fathers, on the other hand, usually find their escape in staying away from home, thus resulting in limited interaction between spouses.

2. Communication Barriers

Most couples are scared to face the truth about the illness of their child and don’t talk about it openly. Isolation and limited communication can create distance between spouses. Discussion and interaction is very important in order to understand each other. Often couples vent out their frustration on each other and try to find peace of mind by blaming each other for the tragedy.

3. Financial Issues

Chronic illness of children along increases financial obligations of the earning parent (usually fathers). In most cases, both parents share financial responsibilities when they have a sick or disabled child, as the treatment is long-term and quite expensive. This not only gives less time to spouses to interact with each other but also impacts the personality of other children. Other children feel neglected and blame the sick child for inadequate attention from their parents. This stresses the overall family atmosphere and overburdens parents with responsibilities.

4. Disturbed Routine

Most studies don’t highlight this fact, but Klass (2013)3 mentioned in an article that lack of sleep and constant pressure are two of the biggest factors responsible for stress in marital relationships. Insomnia or temporary lack of sleep makes a person short-tempered and unreasonable. Moreover, parents who have to deal with children with permanent disabilities feel that despite all their efforts, their child cannot lead a normal life. This sense of failure and helplessness often lead to chronic stress and depressive disorders.

5. Lack of Support from Spouse

Mutual efforts and coordination are very important to cope with the challenges associated with bringing up a disabled child. However, in most cases, partners use each other as their punching bags to vent out their anger and grief, and this lack of support and coordination from the other spouse results in stressed a marital relationship.

6. No Sexual Activities

Due to stress and pressure, many couples give up on their sexual life. According to Sobsey (2004), 4 limited or no sexual intercourse is one of the biggest factors in distancing spouses from each other, as they find no charm in their marital life.

Ways to Cope with a Stressed Marital Relationship

Galica J. (2014)5 in a detailed article about the impact of childhood illness on marital relationships listed some easy ways to help couple save their marital relationship. Some of these useful tips are:

1. Stress Management Therapies

Stress management therapies can hap people in strategically mange stressful situations, these therapies are meant to strengthen nerves and guide people to calmly tackle any unpleasant situation.  

2. Counseling

Discussing things with a third person can provide couples a way to talk things out. This not only helps them in venting out their frustration, but also eradicates communication barriers that limit interaction between couples.

3. Insurance Options

Health insurance and other money saving ways can help parents with disable or chronically ill children to overcome financial issues. Moreover, cutting down additional and unnecessary expenses can also reduce financial burden to a great extent.

4. Time Management

It is also very important to manage time strategically and give adequate attention to other spouse.


1. Lana. (2013). Coping with Chronic Illness in Marriage.

2. Dana, (2013). Diamonds or Dust: Keeping Your Marriage Together When Your Child Fights For Life.

3. Klass P. (2013). Haunted by a Child’s Illness.

4. Sobsey D. (2004). Marital stability and marital satisfaction in families of children with disabilities: Chicken or egg?

5. Galica J. (2014). The Effects of the Death of a Child on a Marriage.


About the Author

Christie Hunter

Christie Hunter is registered clinical counselor in British Columbia and co-founder of Theravive. She is a certified management accountant. She has a masters of arts in counseling psychology from Liberty University with specialty in marriage and family and a post-graduate specialty in trauma resolution. In 2007 she started Theravive with her husband in order to help make mental health care easily attainable and nonthreatening. She has a passion for gifted children and their education. You can reach Christie at 360-350-8627 or write her at christie - at -

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