The Effects of a Severe Disability on a Marriage

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Severe disabilities significantly and abruptly change many marriages. When one partner becomes disabled, the other must become a nurturer and a provider. Severe disability creates a major obstacle to financial security for marriages when only one can work. As a result of the disability itself, as well as other issues, emotional problems may surface within a marriage. It is not easy to prepare for such a sudden change, but by knowing the potential effects on a marriage, couples can brace themselves if they ever experience such a circumstance.

Changes in Dynamics

When one partner becomes severely disabled, many relationship changes follow. One partner has to become a caregiver, while the disabled partner becomes dependent upon his caregiver. Severe disability forces couples to rearrange how they do things. Men, who are often seen as the providers for a couple and family, may have to adopt more nurturing roles. Women, who often take care of the home, face the possibility of being the sole financial provider. Couples must adjust to the sudden change in roles when a severe disability befalls one partner.

Financial Concerns

After one partner experiences a severe disability, marriages experience a financial struggle. Financial concerns occur in different ways based on who works in a relationship. If one partner is the sole provider and becomes disabled, the other partner must take up the provider role while taking care of the disabled partner. When both partners work but one becomes incapacitated, then the couple must work with less income. These financial worries increase when a couple has children -- not only must one partner take care of a disabled partner, but he must also take care of the children.

Emotional Changes

After a severe disability, emotional issues may surface for one or both of the partners involved. The disabled partner may become depressed or irritable due to having to adjust to the disability and a decrease from normal functioning. The non-disabled partner may also become depressed from having to see her spouse endure a significant decline in functioning. At times, the non-disabled partner may feel as though she is married to a different person, which can contribute to emotional issues.

Mitigate the Effects

While you cannot plan for the event of a severe disability, you can set up safeguards in case you or your partner become disabled. Set aside money to cover medical costs and living expenses in the case of a disability. This money can work as a temporary safety net until you find a permanent solution. Discuss with your partner how you will go about living if one of you becomes disabled. You may both decide to learn common household tasks so that the adjustment phase is easier. Having a contingency plan for a severe disability can provide peace of mind, rather than you and your partner having to adjust and plan all at once.