Suffering from an illness not only affects the running of your social life, but can also have a major impact on your relationship. Chronic illness is the main concern, as this incorporates conditions that you suffer from for a long period of time. Such illnesses include heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Having a chronic illness can result in your energy decreasing, and may involve the use of medication or surgery. However, with the desire to maintain and improve your time together, and the help of your partner, such illnesses can be prohibited from deciding the fate of your relationship.


There is typically an initial stage of shock when you are diagnosed with a serious illness, followed by a feeling of numbness. It can take some time for the true meaning of how this illness will affect you to sink in, particularly if you currently feel in good health. As time moves on, and the symptoms worsen, you begin to realise just how much the illness will shape you and your relationship. This can be a scary time, and can cause some couples to grow apart, the illness often acting like a barrier between them. For some, however, this can bring them even closer together.

What affects can an illness have?

The affects will vary according to the type of illness. However, there are some common themes:

  • Fatigue – An illness can cause your energy levels to drop rapidly, and this can affect your want for romance and to be with your partner.
  • Pain & Stiffness – Chances are that an illness will cause you some form of pain and stiffness, and this can limit the time you spend together.
  • Depression – People who suffer from an illness may find themselves feeling depressed.
  • Medicinal side-effects – Certain medications you are required to take when you have a chronic illness can affect your energy levels. You should check with your GP to be sure if this is the case.

Caring for your partner

As an illness develops it may be the case that your relationship feels less like that of two people in love, and more like that of a patient and carer. Unless you work to change things this may continue to the end. Try all you can to maintain your relationship, by allowing each person to express themselves in an individual manner. Also, try to keep discussions like they were before the illness, and ensure your discussion does not constantly become that of a patient and carer.

Sexual desire

The level of sex you can achieve will depend on the condition, but even disabled people, many of whom typically assume their sex life has come to an end, can fulfil their sexual desires. By working your way around the illness you can ensure that both partner’s sexual desires are met. By communicating what you can do, you can make sure that your relationship remains that of a sexually active couple.


Below are some tips to help maintain your relationship:

  • Communicate – Talk about your fears and anxieties. This will help to ease your worries, and bring you closer together.
  • Individuality – One of the worst things about an illness is that it can cause you to lose your individuality. Try to maintain as much independence as possible.
  • Relax – Enjoy your time together, and try to forget about the illness.
  • Sex – Have a look at the tips provided in the ‘Sex & Chronic Illness’ section, in the Common Sexual Problems area.
  • Enjoy your time together – Try to keep things the way they were before. There will be changes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun together.

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