How to Deal with (In)dependence in Romantic Relationships with Chronic Illness

  • By Miranda Davis
  • 27 December 2020
  • 5 minute read
How to Deal with (In)dependence in Romantic Relationships with Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

This article is written by Miranda Davis. 

Whether you’re in a long-term relationship or recently dating, dealing with chronic illness can be quite challenging. Therefore, it’s helpful to get the itsy bitsy of chronic illness.

Chronic illness can exist at any age, not just in the elderly. A chronic illness can be defined as a persistent long-term health condition that may otherwise not be cured. As opposed to curable acute diseases, which come rapidly and need short-term care, chronic illness is a disability that lasts one or more years and needs ongoing medical care for a person to carry on effectively with their daily activity.

Some examples of chronic illness include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Multiple Sclerosis. Chronic illness can be difficult to recognize because the symptoms are usually invisible. They usually include pain, fatigue and mood disorders.

It can be quite challenging to juggle both chronic illness and dating, but not impossible. Even the word impossible says ‘I’m Possible.’ It is not uncommon for chronically ill patients to feel overly dependent on others, be it spouse or family, and yet there is no shame in getting care from loved ones.

If you’re looking to get back in the dating game after being diagnosed with a chronic illness, you could find love using dating sites. And if you find yourself in love with a chronically ill individual, there is still a way to spice up your relationship without having to feel overwhelmed with care-giving roles on either partner.

In such relationships, heavy emotional support is needed. Dependency and not codependency should be strived for in order to deal with (In)dependence on romantic relationships with chronic illness. It is quite essential to get the difference right.

For dependency, each partner’s emotional needs are met as they depend on each other to fulfill them, while in codependency, one partner heavily assumes every emotional need of the other partner and tends to feel useless unless they are needed. They make drastic sacrifices for the other partner to feel needed.

How to Deal with (In)dependence in Romantic Relationships with Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions
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How Can a Chronic Illness Affect Relationships?

One main aim of getting into (In)dependent relationships is to eventually start a family with the spouse you choose to love. Therefore, it’s good if the chronically ill partner understands how chronic illness affects the family.

Chronic illness affects the dynamic and normal routine of a family. If not taken positively, it can trigger negative distress emotions such as anxiety, feeling helplessness, and depression. There is a chance of a spouse feeling trapped and overwhelmed to be a caregiver; thus, it is important to recognize and work through emotional dependency to deal with this.

A loved one can offer support when you share your feelings, empathize, and give comfort in your situation. It is usually best to aim at emotional interdependence in a relationship because there may come about codependence when there is emotional dependence.

Codependence is when you put down your needs to take care of the other partners’ needs. This will result in one person taking the gear of the relationship, and he/she may feel this is too much to handle.

Chronic Illness and Mental Health

So what is the relationship between chronic illness and mental health? Chronic physical illness can, at times, prompt mental illness since many physical conditions are linked to irregular levels of neurotransmitters and hormones that can alter mental health.

When dating a chronically ill person, it’s good to understand that, at times, the chronic illness may hinder the mental health state when there are mechanisms that increase stress. Therefore, monitoring stress levels is a good way to deal with (In)dependent romantic relationships with chronic illness.

How to Deal with (In)dependence in Romantic Relationships with Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions

Life Hacks for (In)dependence in Relationships

Here are some of the life hacks to deal with (in)dependence in romantic relationships with chronic illness;


This chronic illness life hack is that simple: Communicate with your spouse!

Be open with your feelings about certain matters that affect you in the various ways that they do. This creates intimacy and is a step toward problem-solving. Remember, a problem shared is a problem half-solved!

Be open about your needs

Your partner is no mind reader! Duh! Therefore, be open about what you need so that you may not send mixed messages or mixed signals that may be misinterpreted by your spouse.

There is a need to discuss who does what in the relationship. It is common for chronic illness to create a shift of balance in a romantic relationship. This is where the caregiver may start to feel resentful because of being overwhelmed, and the receiver feels like a helpless patient.

Thus, it’s good to have a system that helps each partner to trade tasks and not overwhelm the other.

Balance leisure activities to suit the chronically ill

Include simple leisure activities that can work around chronic illness. Leisure activities that help strengthen your relationship can go a long way. For example, having game nights where you play games like scrabble and invite friends over.

Maintaining social connections

Maintaining supportive social connections goes a long way in managing chronic illness. It evades depression as the couple does not feel isolated in their own world of challenges. If the chronically ill person is unable to socialize, the caregiver should not feel guilty in lonesome socializing.

Long term care

Over time, you may need outside help. Experts have advised that it is good for chronically ill patients to take long-term care insurance for up to 3-5 years. 

How to Deal with (In)dependence in Romantic Relationships with Chronic Illness | The Health Sessions


With an optimistic mindset, romantic relationships can still blossom, and partners can live happy and meaningful lifestyles despite having to manage chronic illness. Thus, if you are a chronically ill individual, remember there is hope for love.

What’s your experience dealing with (in)dependence in romantic relationships with chronic illness? We’d like to hear from you. Drop us a comment!

Author’s bio:  Miranda Davis is a freelance writer in the relation and psychology area. Miranda is interested in such topics as building healthy relationships between people, love/sex compatibility, and how to find the right balance in life in general. She is currently doing specific research on the topic. Miranda loves cooking and long-distance walking.

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