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Navigating Health Conditions as a Loving Team

Navigating Health Conditions as a Loving Team
Navigating Health Conditions as a Loving Team

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Source: Jasmine Carter/Pexels

If you, your partner, or both of you are dealing with a chronic health condition, you’re definitely not alone. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the ratio of American adults with an ongoing health issue is six out of every 10 people.

There are a variety of chronic conditions, some of them more apparent than others. For instance, diabetes or heart disease would be examples of conditions that could go undetected, including by a partner. So how can partners tackle a chronic health issues and nurture their relationship at the same time? In a recent study, a team of researchers explored this question.

The couples in the study filled out a set of questionnaires three times over one year: first at the beginning of the research, again at six months, and finally at one year. These questionnaires asked about a range of topics, such as how couples viewed the health condition(s) they were dealing with, how they spoke about the condition, the degree to which partners opened up about the condition and thought their partner had done so, how partners handled stress together, the couple’s contentment in the relationship and with their sex life, and the strength of their connection.

The study showed that couples who viewed the condition as something that was theirs to address as a team (i.e., a matter for “us”) were more inclined to speak openly about the health issue, and more open dialogue was linked to a greater tendency to handle the health issue in a more fruitful way. Partners who handled the health condition in a more beneficial manner were also happier together.

Additionally, the mental outlook of viewing the health condition as a joint issue instead of an individual one was linked to the couple dealing with it more effectively and to the partner of the person with the health condition feeling more sexually content and happier in the relationship. Although people with a health condition who opened up to their partner about it felt more sexually fulfilled, they were apt to feel less sexually content when their partner opened up more about the health condition to them. The researchers pointed out that it’s possible a partner could overdo it and talk too much about their lover’s health issue, and that cultivating clarity around how they talk about the health issue could be a valuable step.

Undoubtedly, the investigators were correct in calling for more research to improve upon this study. For example, the people in this study were younger, data were missing across some groups, and people’s memories may have been inaccurate as they reflected on the past when filling out questionnaires. Having said that, as the researchers wisely indicated, this research shines a light on ways partners may navigate a recurring health issue in ways that lift them up, including treating it as something to face as a team.

Please note that the content in this piece refers only to nonabusive relationships.

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