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Surviving Your Spouse's Chronic Illness -- A Compassionate Guide

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The Bottom Line

This book will help those who are coping with a chronic illness realize that they are not alone in their feelings. The author says it is a "compassionate guide" and it is.
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  • McGonigal shares what it takes to become a mentally healthy well spouse.
  • Author shares from personal experience.


  • The section on address, etc. of support groups may be dated.


  • Create balance between love and independence.
  • Take time to pursue the things that renew you.
  • Get away regularly.
  • Create a life apart from the illness.
  • Develop a strong support network.
  • View the experience as a spiritual journey.

Guide Review - Surviving Your Spouse's Chronic Illness -- A Compassionate Guide

Surviving Your Spouse's Chronic Illness: A Compassionate Guide
by Chris McGonigle, Ph.D.
Paperback, 238pp. ISBN: 0805055738
Henry Holt & Co., Feb. 1999

It can and probably will happen to all married couples. One spouse will get sick. Very sick. Since nearly half the U.S. population has some form of chronic illness, this book can help spouses cope with this stressful experience.

Chris McGonigle honestly shares her own personal experience as a well spouse for 15 years. She also uses the quotes of many others who have coped with an ill partner.

The well spouse will have to learn how to cope with many feelings and realities. These include anger, denial, guilt, fear, isolation, grief, money problems, sexual fears, spirituality issues, and parenting concerns.

Chris says that reaching out for help is one of the hardest things people have to learn to do as well spouses. Her book can be a big step in getting that help. It has 10 chapters and a section of addresses and websites of organizations that can also offer support.

The ten chapters include looking at diagnosis, denial, communication, sex, money, anger, parenting, spirituality, why stay, and partings. In sharing her own story and thoughts, Chris also gives solid, useful advice that she has gleaned from others who have traveled or are traveling this journey.

If communication in a marriage breaks down during the illness, the relationship will suffer too. Statistics indicate that 75% of marriages dealing with a chronic illness will eventually fail.

Note: The 75% statistic is taken from several sources.

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