Illness and Divorce

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2004

I am 31, my wife is 27. We've been married for 6 years. We have two children, ages 4 and 1. My wife was diagnosed with endometriosis shortly after the birth of our last child.

Thanks to the priesthood and some surgery, the spread of endometrial tissue seems to be under control. The doctor says she should live a full life although she is probably infertile and shouldnít have more children even if she still is fertile.

She has chronic pain that could be controlled with medication, but she prefers to endure the pain. Because of the pain, she doesn't feel up to doing many of the things we once did together such as tennis, camping, even sex.

The other day she shocked me with a bombshell suggestion. Since she believes her health is affecting my enjoyment of life, she suggested we divorce so I can marry someone who's more fun to be with and who can give me more children.

She asked me what I'd look for in a new wife and even suggested a couple of names as her replacement!  She says it's okay because our temple marriage will bring us back together after we're both dead. I've told her that I'm not interested in remarrying and that a larger family isnít essential.

I'm deeply hurt by her suggestions and her willingness to let me abandon her when she needs me most. The inability to share activities we once enjoyed is no where near as important to me as her companionship, helping her shoulder her burdens, and sharing what we still have and can have.

How can I get over the pain of her suggestions has given me? How can I get her to take her medicine so she can better enjoy life?


Her Man


Dear Her Man,

You came to the right place for the answer to this question.  I have Multiple Sclerosis, and have had for 14 years.  I am definitely no fun!  I have an assortment of aches and pains most of the time.  I donít have the energy to go anywhere, except for use on the basic necessities.  Often I hide in a darkened room, because light often triggers a migraine. 

I too, gave my husband the option of getting out.  It was one of the hardest things Iíve ever done. I did so because I didnít want him to feel trapped, because he got a raw deal.  That didnít mean that I wanted him to take me up on my offer.  I was desperately hoping he would not.  Yet, I had to open the door and let him be free if that is what he wanted, because I was no longer a companion, but rather, an albatross-of sorts.  I did not want him staying out of duty.  That gets old and ugly fast!

He was shocked, so I explained why I had made the offer.  Unless there is something desperately wrong with another part of your marriage, I would definitely say that, that is where your wife is coming from.

She is also grieving the loss of her ability to please you, have children, and have fun.  She is more than likely slightly depressed due to the losses and the pain.  Check out the article below to see if she has depression.  If she does get her the medical care she needs.


Major Depression

Depression is a brain chemical imbalance that can be treated by a doctor.  If depression is left untreated it deepens until despair completely takes over and results in suicide.

Eight out of every ten people will have an episode of major depression at least once in their lifetime.  Generally, just getting out of the house or taking on a challenge, can cure minor depression.  One must force oneís self into doing things even though the depression makes one not want to do so.  Little by little one can come out of it over a period of 2 or 3 months.  Seldom will depression go away on it's own.  Forced activity and perhaps drug therapy are needed.

I do not know the reasons why your wife has opted to endure the pain, but I understand if it is because there doesnít seem to be anything that works for her or the side effects are worse than the pain.  Her depression and grief may have caused her to give up on herself and her ability to be your wife.  If she will not deal with meds, which should really be a second line of defense, then choose to go with your first line of defenseÖThe Lord!!!

Your first line of defense included: 

Just incase your sweetheart is in a major depression, I copied the criteria for depression from my DSM IV, the psychological bible of mental disorders.  Please look at the criteria below.  If she qualifies as having depression, please take her to your regular physician and get her a full physical, to rule out any physical disorder.  Tell your doctor of your suspicions of depression. 


Major Depression Criteria

A.     Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the

      symptoms is either:

    1. Depressed mood or
    2. Loss of interest or pleasure

1.      Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, feels sad or empty or appears tearful.

2.       Marked diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all activities most of the day nearly every day.

3.      Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain or decreased or increased in appetite nearly every day.

4.      Insomnia (not being able to sleep) or hypersomnia  (sleeping all the time) nearly every day.

5.      Psychomotor agitation (excessive motor activity associated with a feeling of inner tension.  The activity is non-productive and repetitious.) or retardation of motor activity.  This occurs nearly every day.  This is not merely feelings of restlessness or being slowed down.

6.      Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.

7.      Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.

8.      Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

9.      Recurrent thoughts of death (not just a fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

  1. The symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
  2. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (drug or alcohol abuse or medication, or a general medical condition such as hypothyroidism).
  3. The symptoms are not better accounted for by bereavement of a loss loved one.  The symptoms persist longer than two months or are characterized by marked functional impairment, a morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, suicidal ideation, psychotic symptoms, or psychomotor retardation.


As to how you can get over your pain?  Get outside yourself and get into her shoes.  She loves you and wants the best for you, but she doesnít necessarily want you to go away.  It is the grief, loss, pain, and probably depression talking.  As you can see, this isnít really about you.  So donít allow Satan to tear you apart.  He just loves adding salt to a wound.  He is real and he really wants you to be even unhappier than he is.  DO NOT allow him this leverage in your life!  He will destroy you!  Heís poison has already started its damage.  So stop this line of thinkingÖNOW! 

Use your first line of defense, your love of your wife and your trust in God, to whole heartily and make this marriage work!


Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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