Lyme Disease Can Spell Divorce on Unsupportive Marriages


  • Lyme disease is a condition caused by the bites of infected ticks.
  • To an unsupportive marriage, this disease can cause problems in the relationship and have even led to divorce.
  • This disease also has had an effect on custody decisions.

Many health conditions put a strain on a marriage, that many marriages simply are not equipped to withstand. The stress of the situation coupled with the financial burden of medical costs can allow for conflict to surface.

The relationships allow these conditions to have a role in the relationship. It can feel like there are three people present in the marriage, and for those that feel that way, it can be too much to bear.

One of the diseases that is being highlighted in the news recently for its effects on marriages is Lyme disease.

Understanding the disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, and it is transmitted through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Typically, symptoms include headache, fatigue, fever, and a skin rash called erythema migrans. Fatigue, as an early symptom of the condition, is a component of what has been referred to as the acute sickness response, according to the Diagnostic Microbiology and Infectious Disease Journal. When Lyme disease goes untreated, the infection can spread to the heart, joints, the nervous symptom, and brain, which could lead to cognitive degeneration.

In 2015, Lyme disease was the most commonly reported vectorborne illness in the United States. It also was the sixth most common nationally notifiable disease, but does not occur nationwide. Lyme disease is concentrated heavily in the northeast and upper Midwest.

The symptoms of the disease have been known to overwhelm those who have it. The CDC recommends checking in with your doctor and making sure you, as an infected individual, stay well-informed about the ins and outs of Lyme disease.

They also suggest sharing your feelings with family and friends. However, if your family and friends do not provide the support that you need, they suggest finding a counselor who can help you find ways of managing your life during the difficulties of Lyme disease.

This type of support needed when battling the disease is the reason why so much marital conflict surfaces. Those who are not going through the disease themselves do not always know how to give the support needed for someone battling a difficult health condition.

The case

This is what affected the marriage of Yolanda Hadid and her husband, David Foster. Hadid, a former Dutch model and star of the reality television show, “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”. Hadid was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012, and according to People magazine, symptoms like joint pain, insomnia, exhaustion, and anxiety were a daily problem for her. She had issues walking and could no longer live the life that she once lived.

She felt her relationship changing, as she was living with Lyme disease. Hadid felt that Foster, a music composer and artist, was feeling unhappy with the changes. She was no longer able to be by his side for the parties and events that they would attend together, and because of the disease, she felt him getting impatient with her recovery.

Hadid and Foster separated in 2015 and divorced in 2017.

Isolation and doubt

The decrease in quality of familial relationships is known as a risk of Lyme disease. Many who suffer from the condition can isolate themselves, in an effort to not place the burden on anyone else. Not only can this level of isolation decrease treatment options for the disease, it can be a contributing factor to divorce, according to Connie Strasheim’s “Insights into Lyme Disease Treatment: 13 Lyme-Literate Healthcare Practictioners Share Their Healing Strategies.”

Because of how the symptoms manifest themselves, doubt can be cast on the validity of the diagnosis, causing those to question the necessity of treatment. There are even cases, in which a child has Lyme disease and treatment for the disease is used as a weapon in divorce cases, according to “Coping with Lyme Disease” by Denise Lang and Kenneth Liegner.

In these instances, one parent is painting the other parent as neurotic in their insistence that a child is sick. They insist that this claim makes that parent unfit and thus they deserve custody over the parent seeking treatment for their child.

This type of behavior can have damaging consequences not only for the parent/child relationship, but the long-term co-parenting relationship, as well as the custody case. If the Lyme disease diagnosis is proven by medical professionals, then the other side has the ability to argue that they were not doing what is in the best interest of the child, by arguing against treatment.

With both parents and children adversely affected by the symptoms of Lyme disease, it is important to find the support system necessary that fits your needs and encourages the treatment necessary to combat this disease. With marriages facing the strain of this medical condition and heading for divorce, it is important to continue to communicate what you go through with individuals that are receptive to supporting you through the worst of it.

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