Jewish Health

Relationships

We asked people whether they felt that the health condition they or their child were experiencing had an impact on their relationships. Most of them said it had, and talked particularly about the impact on a spouse or partner. Relationships with siblings, parents, children and friends were also often affected. A couple of people also mentioned their relationship with God.

Most people were married and many felt very grateful towards their partners for their emotional support during difficult times such as diagnosis, surgery or relapse. They valued their spouses coming to medical appointments, taking in medical information and providing calm and reassurance when they felt distressed. A couple of women with breast cancer or a BRCA mutation said how involved their partners had been in making decisions about treatment and surgery. However, some people were also conscious of the burden their condition had put on their relationships and acknowledged that it could sometimes be a cause of friction.
Several people stressed how partners and carers of those experiencing serious health problems also need support and attention. For some, having the condition in the family had changed relationship dynamics, both between intimate partners but also within the wider family. For example, less parental attention for siblings, or tensions between the needs of the unwell person and the plans and expectations of the wider family.
The two adults with Familial Dysautonomia (FD) felt undecided about whether they wanted to enter into a serious relationship. Cissie was conscious that she might need a lot of support from a future partner. Sam felt he hadn’t met the right woman yet and wouldn’t want to compromise his other interests.
Several people with Crohn’s disease thought their condition had particularly affected their intimate relationships. In the words of one man, “It makes you feel very unsexy”. Those with permanent partners sometimes felt apologetic about frequent nightly toilet visits and the restrictions they sometimes experienced with activities such as eating out or travelling. Telling friends or a new partner about the condition could also be awkward, though overall, most seemed to agree that being open about one’s needs made life easier in the long run.
Some people with Crohn’s were also more bothered than others about having to have ‘separate things’ at mealtimes. Riva was pleased that her family would try to match their shared meals to her needs to make her feel included. Hinda worried that her friends might find her impossible to please and think her special dietary needs were ‘made up’. Several people commented that there still seemed to be a lot of ignorance about Crohn’s disease.
Relationships with children
Talking to children about health conditions, particularly conditions that may be hereditary can be a sensitive and difficult topic. Many people said that they “didn’t believe in secrets” and discussed their health with their children. People who went through predictive testing to find out if they had inherited a particular gene sometimes talked about feelings of guilt towards their children - for possibly having passed on a ‘faulty gene’ - but also felt protective towards their own parents and shared information selectively – because they did not want them to worry (see Genetics and inheritance 1 and 2).
Last reviewed September 2015.

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