“Hot and bothered” has long referred to romance and those sparks of chemistry between you and the one you love, but if you have a chronic illness, romance may be the last thing on your mind. Chronic illness can quickly redefine “hot” to mean the symptoms of a thyroid condition, night sweats, or a hot heating pad. “Bothered” is something you feel every night when you are annoyed you can’t sleep. For examle, achy joints, a dog who snores from his resting place on your pillow, and a spouse that can sleep through anything. Romantic evenings may be the last thing on your mind in your home!
Nearly 1 in 2 people live with a chronic illness in the U.S. which means that a lot of marriages are disrupted by this uninvited third party of illness, often including mental illness as well. Seventy-five percent of marriages end in divorce. But romantic ideas don’t have to be used just on Valentine’s Day.
So, how can you add back some of that spark? I’ve got some romantic ideas that will tell your hubby “I love you” even when you are in chronic pain.
You have to give it your best effort and avoid excuses. “I’m so tired and had such a hard day. I feel terrible.” I’ve said them all so I understand. Unfortunately the circumstances won’t likely change, so you have to change your attitude in order to have the benefit of getting to the joy of romance. Let yourself relax and push past the pain and see if you can forget a good chunk of it. Distraction can be a wonderful thing.
Make romance a priority in your house! Rather than cleaning your house all day and mopping those floors, take a nap so that you have some quality time with your spouse that night. Make sure he feels valued and important and not just “one more thing to take care of.”
Be enthusiastic during your romantic evening. Even if you’re just going out for dinner, don’t say, “I’m doing this just for you. I don’t really feel like it.” (Oh, yeah, that will turn him on.) Smile and talk about pleasant memories or dreams you have. Promise yourself not to talk about your illness for just one night.
Poetry can be over-rated, so don’t worry about being eloquent. Instead, just write some of the things you love and appreciate about your spouse in a mini-photo album, or frame your favorite photo on a large matte and write your favorite memories of that event around it.
Surely your spouse does some things for you without complain. Does he bring home your favorite ice cream? Throw in a load of laundry? Never expect you to iron or serve a five course meal? Write down all of the things you notice he does that you don’t usually thank him for and give it to him as a special appreciation note.
Women, get out of the grandma section of underwear and buy something red, black or anything that doesn’t have waist bands wider than an inch. Stop being so self-conscious.
Text message him something daring or outrageously romantic that you would have said when you first fell in love. Back before text-messaging existed.
Design some simple home-made coupons for something he would enjoy but typically wouldn’t do because he feel he needs to take care of you or just spend time with you. For example, “Good for 5 guilt-free hours with your friends watching baseball.” Don’t even make him feel badly for doing things you can’t do like taking a hike or going for a roller coaster ride.
Perfect marriages will never exist, but a even a marriage that has an illness can be a huge blessing and not just a state of survival. Romance comes in many ways. I remember loving my husband more than ever the night I couldn’t not move because of a rheumatoid arthritis flare. I “slept” sitting on the couch and he spent the night on the floor beside the couch to comfort me every time I screamed from the pain.
Love comes in many forms. One of the books I’ve bought all the couples in my life is “Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs” by Emerson Eggerichs. It talks a lot about “love languages” and how men feel loved when they feel respected, while women want to feel loved with emotions and words. Oftentimes we are offering our spouse what we desire rather than the “love language” they need. Being aware of all of the small ways we can show each other love and respect add up to romance when you least expect it.