We were sick and tired (figuratively and literally).
Being flu-ridden and homebound mere months after our wedding made me question whether our marriage would make it after all. We glared at each other over the hems of our tissue-strewn blankets and said little after accusations over who drank the remaining orange juice and chose the last movie.
You really don’t know someone until you’ve seen them at their worst—at that point in our relationship, this was ours.
When we said “I do” in sickness and in health, it seemed we both assumed one spouse would be sick and the other healthy. Perhaps an amendment should be made to the traditional vows: Do you take this man in simultaneous sickness …
Neither of us could care for ourselves, let alone each other. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, being together in sickness sucks the fondness right out.
So instead of sympathy and love, our words were filled with contempt, and later … regret.
When you’re sick and tired together
When I’m not feeling well, I tend to fall toward the emotional side of things. Issues I would normally let slide (i.e., someone chugging the last of my OJ), become a cause for tears, sharp words, and arguments. Can you relate?
But let me remind you (and me) of what you already know—sickness is no time to battle it out. When you don’t feel well, your emotions run high and anger triumphs over common sense.
And it’s not just in physical sickness. Lately, a certain virus outbreak has my husband and I spending more time than usual in close quarters. Add the stress of us both working full-time jobs, homeschooling kids who don’t want to be homeschooled (back at ya, kid), and a hefty amount of unease and worry, and that early marriage flu experience looks like an amateur.
Mental and emotional stress is a sickness of its own.
So, if one or both of you is under the weather (physically or otherwise), let me offer a few tips from my failure.
A lot. Sickness makes me tired. Being tired makes me cranky. Any questions?
Sometimes I have to let other things go to make room for rest. Personally, I have strong issues with clutter. For example, I’m constantly picking up after my kids and throwing their stuff in baskets I have dedicated to each child. (Then said child, with much sighing and grumbling, takes said basket to be put away.)
But when I’m not feeling well, things tend to look different. Stacks of mail pile up. Baskets don’t get filled.
But it’s OK. Rest is more important than no clutter.
2. Count to 10 before responding.
When I’m sick and tired, my temper tends to revert to 12-year-old me: quick temper, quicker tongue. But as an adult, my words can cause more damage than a sassy preteen’s.
So, I try to take a deep breath and count to 10 (or five—whatever I can muster) before responding. Illness does not justify me speaking harshly to my family. Take it from me, calm those nerves first so you don’t lash out.
3. Take a break.
I’m an introvert. I need space and quiet to recharge and be a good human again. And when I don’t feel well, I’m a super-introvert (without the cool cape and power to fly). I just want everyone to leave me alone. And if I’m not careful, this leads to the mom of the house (me) acting more like a child.
Right now, with all four of us cooped up together, every member of my family needs this—introvert or not. Not only do we take breaks, we give each other breaks. Space and quiet to take a nap if needed. Or read a book in the tub, bedroom, outside, wherever. Time to veg out in the way that helps each of us recharge.
4. Say “thank you.”
Last night, after I had a stressful day of working from home and pretending I can do this homeschool mom thing at the same time, my husband took over dinner duty.
Y’all, it was 100% my love language.
I thanked him profusely. I maybe made it a little awkward even. But with that off my to-do list, I felt a little less stressed. And as he chopped and pan-fried, we chatted about our days.
Often when my husband does something for me, I (wrongly) think, But shouldn’t he be doing that anyway? Why do I have to thank him?
My husband’s love language is words of affirmation. When I show my appreciation, it expresses my love in a way he naturally understands. Even if your spouse does something minor, like pick up an extra can of coffee on the way home, make sure to say, “Thank you.”
5. Help where you can.
On the occasions my hubby and I are sick and tired at the same time, there are still small ways I can help. Like, grab an extra juice when I head to the fridge for my own. Or give him the remote and don’t complain about watching Die Hard. Again.
Being sick and tired stinks—figuratively and literally. But showing love and patience with those around me makes it a little easier.
It’s the trying times that show what we’re made of. No, not viruses, but fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (verses 25-26).
Even when we’re sick. Cough, cough.
Oh, and don’t argue about orange juice. It’s not worth it.
Copyright © 2020 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Lisa Lakey is a writer and editor for FamilyLife. Before joining the ministry in 2017, she was a freelance writer covering parenting and Southern culture. She and her husband, Josh, have been married since 2004. Lisa and Josh live in Benton, Arkansas, with their two children, Ella and Max.