No one likes being sick, but it happens to everyone from time to time. Sometimes it's a cold that passes in a couple of days; other times, it's a broken bone that includes months of recovery. Occasionally, it's a much more serious illness -mental or physical - with long-lasting effects.

Whatever the case, dealing with illness in marriage is never easy. However, when your spouse gets sick, it creates an opportunity for a little extra service in your marriage. Magically, this selflessness can bring you closer together than perhaps you've felt in a while.

Here are five things to try the next time your spouse is feeling under the weather:

1. Show a little empathy

Empathy has been defined as "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another". Your spouse needs to know you care about them, you hate seeing them suffer and that you will stay by their side every step of the way.

Your empathetic words and actions will lift your spouse, encourage hope, and help them endure through long (and sometimes very boring) days. Ask, "How are you doing?" and then just sit and listen. Offer words of encouragement, such as, "You are so tough. I'm proud of you. You're going to get through this". Try asking if there's anything you can do that will make him or her feel more comfortable.

When your sick spouse feels like you understand their challenges, that you will take care of them, and that everything is going to be okay, their burden will become much lighter. Your empathy won't magically make your spouse better but it will change how they feel in here (I'm pointing to my heart, here). Your empathy will let your suffering spouse know they have a true companion and best friend who will be with them through any challenge.

2. Be their greatest strength

It can be hard to stay strong (emotionally and spiritually) when you are physically sick, weak and in pain. Although your spouse may appear to put on a strong front, inside that may not be the case.

You can be your spouse's greatest strength through this sickness. You know them better than anyone else. So, be their shoulder to cry on, their chef to fix fancy chicken noodle soup and their lover to offer hugs, kisses, and plenty of cuddles. You are the one who can hold your spouse and tell them everything will be okay. You can offer hope and encouragement. You can be cheerful, optimistic, and strong - so they don't have to be. When you are strong for your spouse it is empowering. Your strength will re-energize your spouse and give them strength to carry on.

3. Show a little more patience

It's true. Your spouse may be a bit grumpy. Or bored. Or tired. Or, in the case of a tonsillectomy, hangry. Sometimes sickness breeds moodiness and tempers are more short than usual. Give your spouse a break. He or she simply doesn't feel like being their normal, more positive self. So, remember, supporting your spouse includes showing a little more patience than normal (or a lot more!).

Have you ever heard the saying, "patience is a virtue"? Well, it's true. Patience is a virtue. It's a virtue that can be cultivated with practice and more practice, and more practice. Don't snap at your spouse if they are grouchy. Don't complain that you are doing so much for your spouse and they aren't showing much gratitude. Just be patient and give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. Put yourself in their shoes, and be grateful that you are feeling as well as you are!

4. Do a little more

It takes a lot of work to keep a family going - especially when there are children involved. And unfortunately, when your spouse gets sick, the amount of work that needs to be done grows exponentially. If your spouse is sick, step it up and do a little more.

Play the role of super-hero and forget about yourself for a few days. Try and serve your spouse in any way possible. Think to yourself, "What will make their life easier? What can I take off their plate? What will make them more comfortable?" Make dinner (or maybe go pick it up!), fold the laundry, put the kids to bed, run to the store and grab medicine, write a love note, change the sheets on the bed, etc. Doing a little more will will help your spouse a lot - and it will show them how much you love them.

5. Remind them how much they mean to you

Whenever I'm sick, I quickly remember how much I need my wife and how much I appreciate having her by my side. It's interesting that I also feel the same way when she's the one not feeling well. It is often in those moments that I realize how much she does and what big shoes she fills. In either situation, my appreciation and love for her grows. Whether we're on the giving or the receiving end, that's the magic of service.

So, if your spouse isn't feeling well, give them a little extra love and let them know how much they mean to you. Be positive, be grateful and be happy. Hug them, hold their hand, rub their back, kiss their cheeks and let them feel how much you love them (runny nose and all).

Oh, and a quick word to the sick spouse..

Sorry you are sick. You probably have noticed your spouse doing an inordinate amount of little things for you. Be sure to express appreciation for all they are doing.

  • Smile whenever they walk in the room.

  • Say, "Thank-you babe," all the time.

  • If you are up for it, shower. Often.

  • Try not to whine. You can be tough. You can also be real. Just try not to whine.

  • Tell your incredible spouse, "I love you," whenever possible.

Sickness doesn't have to be such a negative, discouraging thing. See it as an opportunity to nurture your marriage, express appreciation and grow closer together as husband and wife. Now, go wash your hands and try not to spread any germs!

Editor's Note: Originally published on Aaron and April's blog Nurturing Marriage. It has been republished here with permission.

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