a couple displaying three different phases of body language and emotions

COPD and Relationship Changes

For those of us with a chronic illness like COPD, the one thing we know is that our lives were turned upside down with our diagnosis. We also know this: it didn’t just affect us, it affected our families as well. There is no doubt that our relationships with spouses and children can suffer, as the normal roles can change and are often reversed. Having poor communication skills adds fuel to the fire and can end up leaving one or both of you with feelings of mistrust. This change is not for the better. Your family needs to be patient and understanding but this is not always realistic as they are fearful of your future too.

Finding the middle ground

The thing is, we tend to be as shocked as everyone else upon our diagnosis and develop feelings of neediness with a tendency to be clingy. As we begin our journey, in an attempt to come to terms with it, the only thing we talk about is our illness. Some will go to the other extreme of not talking enough about our chronic illness. It should at least be acknowledged because it did happen, even if only to ourselves.

Communication is the key to teamwork

Without teamwork, you are unable to save your relationship and you are on your own. Each person should be looking into more resources. You are the patient and should be looking up resources on taking care of your spouse who has now become your caregiver. Whoever your caregiver is should be looking for resources on how to care for you and how to make you happy. It is not always easy, but in the end, it is well worth the effort.

Counselors come in all shapes and sizes

The person you least expect could lend an ear and give you some sound advice. Sometimes we just need to get it out and off our chest. Religious leaders and professional counselors probably give you the best bang for your buck. Look for someone that knows and teaches Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I first learned CBT in respiratory rehab and have practiced ever since. I began learning mindfulness which has helped me in immeasurable ways.

Stating your needs clearly

The changes are hard for most of us so we tend to give mixed messages about our needs. Once you learn to state clearly what you need, you will watch a shift in the balance of your relationship. You cannot expect people to be mind readers. It is no wonder our caregivers become resentful, overwhelmed, and confused. Stating what you need clearly and without attitude is immeasurable.

People offering services

When people offer to help, they mean it. If we cannot give them a specific task, we leave them hanging. We are often thankful at the time but do not follow up with them. Take others up on their offers of help. I tend to brush off people saying, “Oh my husband will do it. Not to worry.” What I should be saying is, “Thank you very much, your kindness helps both myself and my husband."

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 7th, 2024, Barbara Moore passed away. Barbara’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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