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Relationships and Disability

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Kim Forcier, a private practice counselor in San Antonio, Texas, talked to the MS/Cancer Support Group about potential problems between spouses and their partners who need caregiving.

Forcier has worked with many couples dealing with new ways of life because of illness, brain injury, or stroke. She noted that couples can work together to overcome difficult life situations.

When a person has significant health challenges, it becomes a huge part of his or her life. There may be certain things that person can’t do and that affects every day life. It is easy to get caught up with what you can’t do.

However, your health doesn’t have to define you,” Forcier said. “Focus on what you can do and put your effort in to that.”

One sign of a healthy marriage is when both partners have some independence and to have separate interests. Through their individual activities, spouses have something to share with each other. People who have physical restrictions can call a friend or listen to a recorded book to have something new to discuss.

Forcier continued to say that if a person feels loved and respected, he or she will be a happier person. Couples show love through five ways, and these love languages are from the highly acclaimed book, "The Five Love Languages," by Dr. Gary Chapman. Forcier recommends for couples to read this book and use the online tools at

Affirmation: “This may be the easiest one to do and many marriages lack this. Use your words to build your spouse up; talk about how he or she looks today; ask about his or her day. Let your spouse know you care about them and about what they are doing,” Forcier said.

Quality time: Spend time one-on-one with your spouse with no distracting television, computers, or cell phones. Specify a time for just the two of you.

Gifts: Presents don’t have to be expensive. A person who responds to gift giving will enjoy the smallest of presents.

Physical touch: Take the time to physically reach out to your spouse.

Acts of service: Cook a meal, get the car oil changed, or write a note to your spouse. Even little, unexpected acts can show your spouse you care about them.

“Every time your spouse does something that makes you feel loved, acknowledge it. Your partner needs to learn that meant something to you,” Forcier said. “Because your partner knows that was special, he or she will want to do it again.”

 “Make your marriage strong. Make sure you are a team. Challenge yourself to find something positive to do or say,” Forcier said.

 Forcier said if you are experiencing serious health issues you should maintain hope. This is important for your health and for your marriage. You are re-defining what normal looks like. You may have a new normal. Be flexible and shift your focus off yourself.


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