Top 5 tips to Protect your Marriage when your Child is Hospitalized

Top 5 TipsThink back to your courtship.  There was one sweet moment where “I really like him, and I hope he likes me” turned into “I really like him AND he really likes me“.  Was it a kiss? A phone call? A date? A touch? Just before that wall came down, did you feel nervous, anxious, self-conscious, or  depressed? Now think about how you felt after that moment – happy from head to toe, excited, giddy, loved. He already liked you when you were feeling nervous.  You just didn’t know it yet.

When your child is born with a congenital heart defect, the stress pushes you the wrong way through that moment. He still loves you, but it’s hard to feel it. You feel anxious, depressed, scared. Follow these tips to get back to feeling loved:

  1. Confide in each other.  He knows exactly what you’re feeling because he’s feeling it, too.  Blogs and networks are great, but no one gets it exactly like your husband.  Share the regrets, the what-ifs, the guilt, the anger, the hope, the fear.  Start with, “Do you ever feel like….” OR “Sometimes I just wish…” Or “I’m sad”. Sharing keeps you connected.
  2. Recognize how he EXPRESSES his feelings. Stress elicits a “fight or flight” response.  We feel angry and isolated when our partner reacts in unexpected ways.  Don’t assume your husband isn’t hurting because he reacts differently to the stress.  Start with, “When we’re at the hospital, I feel so [claustrophobic, helpless, sad, tired, anxious] and it makes me want to [stay there 24/7 even if it means neglecting everything else, OR get out of there because I can’t stand not being able to fix it. I need to go for a run or do…something!].” Knowing what he’s feeling is better than assuming he’s feeling nothing.
  3. Cut each other some slack. Use your empathy.  Neither of you are at 100% right now.  Be extra forgiving. Defuse fights.  Start with, “Wait, wait.  I don’t want to fight with you.  I need you and I love you.  Can we just skip this fight? I need a hug.” It won’t solve the problem, but it will let you skip over the silly fights that wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t both so stressed.
  4. Apologize when it’s your turn. You’ll be immature, or mean, or grumpy, or nit-picky. Be quick to apologize. Start with, “Sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking.  Will you forgive me?” Take back mistakes early and move on. There’s no time or energy for dragging it out.
  5. Make time for sex. Under pressure, sex seems to be optional but it is absolutely essential.  He needs it to de-stress.  You need it to recenter. Start with, “Hey,….”

You can thank me later 😉

I know it’s scary. Feelings will get hurt. I’m not saying you should be a victim.  I’m saying, the sooner you break down those walls, the sooner you’ll be facing the challenge together instead of alone. It’s almost like you’re both PMS-ing.  Expect it.  Adjust for it – be nicer, more forgiving, and more forgetful of past wrongs.

What else works for you? Leave me some comment love and let me know what I left off the list.


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11 Thoughts to “Top 5 tips to Protect your Marriage when your Child is Hospitalized”

  1. Patti Creek

    Very Good information.  Even though these things are really common sense, I think most people in this situation “forget” about each other’s feelings and let the stressfulness takeover.  One thing I feel I need to mention is that you seem to have taken God out of the equation.  The parents need to make a conscious effort to PRAY TOGETHER for their strength and for their child.  That alone can make all the difference in the world. 

    God Bless,

  2. Returning the favor of visiting my site a month or so ago. What a great post this is! One hopes it never happens to them, but it certainly could and it would be so easy to forget each other while focusing on your child.

  3. Ann

    Hey Nanette – it’s my first visit (got your link after you visited my bamboo forest yesterday 😉 Great post! I’m looking forward to checking out your site in greater detail!


  4. Hats off to you, Nanette. What a great thing to start this blog. I’m very lucky and never had to think about it, but I’m sure you feel so very shocked and lost when something like this happens in your family, and often hospitals only confuse you more – it’s great that you go to all this effort to help people to cope!
    Sending positives vibes,

  5. Will do – thanks for visiting. I’m looking forward to meeting more of the nestwork 😉

  6. not yet, but I’ll add it to my list. Thank you for commenting, Patty. I’m always happy to hear from you 🙂 Glad Laurie is doing well.

  7. Anonymous

    That’s a great list – and I think it probably applies in any stressful situation. It’s important to stay as a team.

  8. Patty

    During our 3 months in the hospital with Laurie, I noticed a HUGE divide regarding marriage relationships among couples with a critically ill child. Either you are able to work through the trial and become stronger and more united, or you drift apart, direct anger at your partner, and become completely overwhelmed. I’m sure there might be some middle ground in there somewhere… but most marriages fit into one of those two categories.

    I think having a child with a major medical need has been one of the most stressful challenges of my life so far. One thing I have to constantly remember is that Kevin and I are on the same team. We both want what is best for Laurie! It’s no one’s “fault” that Laurie was born so early with a congenital heart defect. We can’t control it. However, we can control our attitudes and our actions!

    Those 5 tips are great. Kevin and I also tried participate in fun activities together – away from the kids. Go on dates. Take time to just enjoy each other. Escape from the hospital and go for an ice cream cone. Find someone to watch the kids so you can have some alone time with your spouse.

    Way to go Nanette for starting this blog! Have you posted anything on Pulmonary Stenosis yet? 😉


  9. Mamaslittlechick

    Thank you for joining Mama’s Little Nestwork! Make sure to stop by during the week and comment on our featured bloggers! Welcome to the Nestwork!

    Mama Hen

  10. Anonymous

    I think these are great tips for remembering to cherish your partner, regardless of what the stress is in your life. I am finding expressing why I am in a grumpy snit extremely helpful.

  11. nan

    Wow, it is very good post.
    Thank you, 🙂

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