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Nursing Your Relationship
Tips for when a partner is seriously ill
by Demian
© January 1999, Demian

Do not let serious illness, or your fear of it, isolate your loved one from you. These tips can help maintain a loving bond.
  • Touch your partner. A hand squeeze or hug can communicate that you care. Most illnesses, including AIDS, cannot be transmitted by external body contact.

  • Respond to your partnerís emotions. Weep and laugh together; itís healthy to share these intimate experiences. However, donít pressure your partner to emote.

  • Celebrate holidays and life together. Decorate the home or hospital room. Any or every day can be designated a holiday.

  • Ask to take your partner on a walk or outing. Understand their limitations.

  • Tell your partner he or she looks good, if itís true. Donít ignore changes in appearance.

  • Encourage your partner to make decisions. Illness can cause a loss of control over many aspects of life. Urge your partner to take personal power over decisions, even simple or silly ones.

  • Respect your partnerís health care decisions. There are many approaches to healing. Your partner has the right to chose, no matter what you think best or correct.

  • Donít lecture or express anger toward your partner if you think their way of handling the illness is inappropriate. You may not understand their feelings.

  • Take your worry elsewhere. Though natural, worry is counterproductive. Express it away from your partner.

  • Be prepared to receive anger for ďno obvious reason.Ē Anger and frustration are often taken out on the closest and most loved ones because it is assumed safe and it will be understood.

  • Gossip and talk about common interests. Talk of symptoms, doctors and treatments can become tiresome.

  • If your partner is religious, ask if you could pray together.

  • There is no blame. Germs cause disease, not lifestyles.

  • If the illness is communicable, and you have sex together, exercise precautions to prevent the spread of disease.

  • Acceptance of illness is not defeat. Acceptance can free your partner, giving them a sense of personal power.

  • Talk about the future. Consider tomorrow, next week, next year, 10 years from now, without denying the reality of today.

  • Keep an optimistic attitude. Itís catchy.

  • Avoid isolation. Ask friends over to play cards, watch TV or give a back rub.

  • Take care of yourself. Recognize your own emotions of grief, anger and helplessness. By getting emotional support from others, you can be there more completely for your partner.

  • Ask for help. Allow your friends to shop, cook, clean, or provide transportation. It not only helps you; it contradicts their feelings of helplessness.

  • Set your legal lives in order. If you havenít already, prepare Wills, Powers of Attorney, Joint Tenancy and other agreements to avoid legal battles. [See Legal Precautions to Protect Your Relationship.]
Adapted from a pamphlet by the San Francisco Community Partnership on AIDS, and with assistance from Bruce MacDonald, M.S.W.

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