When the Bug Bites—How to Deal With a Not-So-Sick Spouse

Someone sick in your house?

Wife taking sick husbands temperature
Photo: Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

When a catastrophic illness or accident strikes a sick spouse or a family, it is truly heartwarming to see how couples support one another with patience, love, devotion, and dedication. They are shining examples of living out our vow of "in sickness and in health."

Yet, let a flu bug knock her for a loop or a bad cold bring him to his knees, and all that love and patience for a sick spouse seems to fly out the window!


We talked with other couples dealing with the minor illness of a spouse and we've decided that few of us are adequately prepared to deal with a sick but not-so-sick spouse.

Suggestions and Hints for Dealing with Your Not-So-Sick Spouse

  • Develop a "survival kit" with lots of his/her favorite movies, magazines, and an e-reader or a couple books. Include the remote control for the tv/DVR, a supply of water and juice close by, and a "feel better" note.
  • If you have to "abandon" him/her, make sure there is plenty of juice easily found in the kitchen, set out some soup (can or package) with the pan, bowl, and spoon sitting close by. Sick spouses can never find anything even if it is where it always is. Be sure a landline or cell telephone is within reach.
  • When you are home and available, resist the temptation to give your sick spouse a bell. The sound of their voice yelling for you is far more pleasant in the long run than the continual tinkling of that darn bell. Besides, if they have a sore throat, they won't call for you as much.
  • Pampering him/her with a meal in bed? Present it on a tray with a place mat and a flower. Even a fake flower will do.
  • Don't forget to plump a pillow now and then.
  • A cool washcloth laid across a forehead can make you appear like a guardian angel. Or purchase a Chillow pillow. We love our Chillow!
  • Tease a bit by drawing an open-mouthed monster on a grocery bag ... cut out the hole in the mouth and request that soiled tissues be tossed in the mouth of the bag.
  • If he/she says "leave me alone"—then do it—but secretly check on your spouse.

More Tips

The key to dealing with a sick spouse is tolerance. We don't want to be ignored, nor do we want to be smothered with motherly care. We learned by trial and error the importance of giving your spouse space, and to not overdo the pampering bit, but to show genuine concern.

One way to show that concern is to keep the lines of communication open. There is a tendency to let that slide during an illness, but this is one of those times when communicating with one another is super important.

Although none of us like to think about having to deal with a major illness, we believe the little colds and flu bugs are a way of helping us learn how to deal with the more serious illnesses that may come our way. So think of the next round of flu as a learning experience.