"Divorce itself requires some level of self-reliance, and for someone exhibiting symptoms of a chronic inflammatory disease like lupus, it can be an impossible challenge to acquire the support necessary to make it through the process unscathed."
Disease can be a devastating aspect of life. It breaks down the one aspect of us that we need to rely on at all times: our bodies. It breaks them down, forcing us, as individuals, to deal with our own mortality and forcing those we care about to watch us face these battles. During some fights with illnesses, your spouse is right there by your side, supporting you in any way possible, and in others, it puts a strain on the spouse, creating distance and making both spouses question the strength of their relationship and marriage.
One of the many difficult diseases to create the divide between spouses and spark a divorce or separation is lupus.
What is lupus?
Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs, according to the Mayo Clinic. Due to how many parts of your body it can inflame, including your blood, brain, cells, joints, kidneys, lungs, and skin, it is no wonder why it’s a lot for a person to handle and a lot for any spouse to process.
According to “The Lupus Book: A Guide for Patients and Their Families” by Daniel J. Wallace, reports suggest that within five years of the diagnosis of lupus, nearly half of the marriages have ended in divorce. The emotional changes that the disease creates and the various coping mechanisms that the spouse employs, in regards to the mood, appearance, or behaviors of the ill spouse, make it taxing on the relationship.
It’s also a disease that is difficult to diagnose, due to how it masks itself in its symptoms, as other ailments. It’s most distinctive sign is a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks, according to the Mayo Clinic. When it is spotted and diagnosed, families are forced to the realities of uncertainty in their futures and for some, in their own relationships.
How lupus affects relationships
The person they have chosen to love and take care of above all others has a condition that they previously did not have, and for some people, that’s difficult to overcome. For them, they can feel like all of the facts hadn’t been disclosed prior to signing on the dotted line, creating a sense of guilt and entrapment.
The guilt is in response to having any negative feelings regarding an ailment that a spouse is going through. For some people, it’s not like they want to feel trapped by their spouse’s condition. They just do and have a difficult time handling it for themselves.
These people can sometimes find themselves spending so much time taking care of their ailing spouse, children, and household as a whole, that the entire dynamic of their marriage changes. It suddenly becomes a doctor-patient relationship, where a spouse feels that they need to do everything for the spouse with lupus, until it becomes too much to handle. They run themselves into the ground with no one to lend a hand, and they feel trapped and alone, as a result.
To outsiders, they may view these individuals unable to deal with a spouse’s illness as deplorable, but they are not in the relationship. They do not know what both of the individuals are going through. In dividing the relationship, the spouse suffering from a severe condition, like lupus, is able to remove themselves from those that are unable to support them, and find support and comfort elsewhere.
Support and celebrities
Those that suffer from lupus will require support. Despite being difficult to handle, lupus is not contagious, not even through sexual contact, according to The National Resource Center on Lupus. For women in particular, only 4 percent had major problems with sexual contact, due to lupus, according to a survey detailed in “The Lupus Book: A Guide for Patients and Their Families” by Daniel J. Wallace.
There is a gender disparity in lupus itself. According to Web M.D., 90 percent of those with lupus are women and 10 percent are men. Furthermore, it is a disease that approximately affected 1.5 million people in the United States. Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Nick Cannon, Seal, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, and Toni Braxton, as well as athletes like Tim Raines, have all dealt with their own bouts with the disease.
Through celebrities fighting their own fight with the disease, awareness is often raised, helping those that suffer from it on a regular basis. The Lupus Foundation of America not only looks for new and innovative treatment options to manage the symptoms of the disease, they also care for and support those impacted by its brutality.
Planning for the future
The brutality of the disease does affect all who encounter it, not only the one diagnosed with it. It makes planning for the future a challenge, due to the way its symptoms can debilitate the individual and the lives of those that care and support that individual. Expectations of these relationships can be damaged, as a result.
Many spouses enter marriage with specific expectations within all facets of their relationship, and chronic diseases can put a serious damper on what they had hoped for. In changing the circumstances of the relationship, couples find themselves often getting buried in tension and unable to communicate efficiently with one another, resulting in divorce.
Divorces involved with any type of illness are never easy. Divorce itself requires some level of self-reliance, and for someone exhibiting symptoms of a chronic inflammatory disease like lupus, it can be an impossible challenge to acquire the support necessary to make it through the process unscathed. Finding an attorney who is up to the challenges of the situation and understands that a medical issue should not doom one’s legal, financial, or custodial future is a necessary strategy in moving forward, while battling this challenging disease.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.