For Better or For Worse? Hmmmmm……not so much.


Did you know the divorce rate in this country is at 55%? That means that of the twelve weddings I went to last year…. more than six of those marriages will end up in divorce. Did you know the number one reason for divorce is financial related? And they say love conquers all….I guess not.

Divorcee. That’s another classification I fall into. You all know that term, it is on every medical form. On top of every medication and ailment you suffer from, they need to know your marital status. I remember the first time I circled it, I immediately became sick to my stomach. I have moved into the classification I never thought I would, I was divorced.

Nobody gets married with the intention of getting divorced. Nobody spends that amazing, amazing day thinking it will end in such devastation. And the most interesting thing about divorce is that nobody really talks about it – the process that is. How hard it is, how much marriage defines you as a person, how the life you know will never be the same. Regardless if it’s your decision or not, it’s a loss. And similar to any chronic illness, the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance will apply. As follows:


First, you will not want to tell anyone, you will be too embarassed, you will continue to wear your wedding rings and you will feel as if you failed and people will not look at you the same. This is denial. Once you wake up to reality, the anger sets in. I mean eventually you do have to start telling people and once you do…sheessshhh, does the buried anger come out!


You will be angry…really, really angry. At him, at yourself, at his family, your family, his friends and your friends. Pretty much anyone involved. This stage will last for awhile. At this time I highly recommend talking to someone, because it’s during this stage that the numbness denial has been allowing to take place, wears off.


Then while your still angry, you might start to bargain, make deals with yourself to justify what has happened, if I didn’t do this, if he didn’t do that, none of this would of happened. None of it is true, things happen, divorce happens. It happened to you. There is nothing to bargain about, stuff happens. Divorce happened to you.


Then, just when you think things are starting to look up, out of nowhere, depression kicks in. And when it does….it hits hard. You won’t feel comfortable in your own skin, there will be maybe 3 people you want to be around and you won’t know who you are every morning. You will stare at the mirror and say to yourself “when will I ever be back, will I ever be me again.” I remember sitting in my therapist’s office with a pit in my stomach that never went away (the only benefit was the loss of appetite which gave me my 21 year old body back). I asked him, so, “when will this eternal pit in my stomach go away and when will I have a life of normalcy again.” He looked at me and said, “in about a year.” I asked for Xanex immediately, he immediately declined. He told me I needed to “feel” this as part of the process. I told him I “feel” enough in my life (thank you Lupus) and this is not one of those things that need to be a part of it.


At some point, one day when your not paying attention, you will wake up and just go on with your day. You won’t worry about where your spending Christmas, what you are doing this weekend while all your married friends are home with their kids or if you will meet someone. You will just get through the day. Because after all, IT IS ONE DAY AT A TIME. WORDS TO LIVE BY. And I promise, each day you will get a little bit of you back.

Every day I hear about unhappily married couples, friends, colleagues, friends of friends complaining about their spouses, complaining about their marriages. I’ve been told how lucky I am to be divorced. It is then that I tell them divorce is the hardest thing I have EVER experienced in my life. And when I hear of couples divorcing now, how I still get that pit in my stomach that was there for so long not too long ago because I empathize with the pain they are going through. So no, divorce isn’t something you should be fantasizing about, because it is lonely, it is scary, it is draining and it is hard. Really, Really hard.

I admire anyone who leaves a relationship because life is too short and because they deserve better and want a better life for themselves and their child. I also don’t judge those that choose to stay in their “unhappy” marriage, because honestly, despite what people may think, that is easier. Emotionally, financially and in aspects you wouldn’t even think because if you stay married, you fill yourself with other interests and you get to keep your life as you know it.

So, why am I writing about this? Because I know Christine has captured a large audience with her words and while most of us focus on our ailments and challenges that come along with our illnesses, I find marriage to be one of those challenges. Marriage is hard in the best of circumstances, when you have an illness that makes you tired, unpleasant and angry most of the time, well, marriage gets even harder. Add in the divorce process with a stress induced illness, and divorce can put you in the hospital. It can make you the sickest you have ever been. It did for me. The only thing that got me through it was my 2 year old son. I needed to get strong for him.

So in closing, my words of wisdom for those married or divorced:

  • If you have a good partner, be sure to say thank you to them every day.
  • If you are going through a rough time or a divorce, align yourself with people who have been there, done that. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT talk to your married friends who are “unhappy”, but would never consider nor think about divorce. They will try to justify their situation with yours and that they understand your pain – they don’t. They don’t even have a clue.
  • Find a good therapist. Divorce takes time, there is a lot of emotion and if there is medication that can help with the pain. Why not? We take medication for all our other pain, why should this be any different.
  • Most importantly, remember that this is temporary. You will find another partner, things happen for a reason, you will come out stronger and happier in the end. Be proud you chose not to settle and there IS someone out there who will want you. Sick, not sick. Kids, no kids. As my mother always told me, “there is a lid for every pot.”. Don’t be too hard on yourself for picking the wrong lid the first time around. And with everything else, learn from your experience and be sure the next time…the lid fits just perfect. 
  • Lastly, take your medication, take care of yourself and surround yourself with good people. Positive people. They will be the one’s you will never forget and will be your friends for life. They will be your rock during the most difficult and scary time in your life.


Article written by guest writer, Denise Cunningham

Denise was married for almost 5 years with a 2 year old when her marriage ended. Her marriage put her in flare that landed her hospitalized and out of work for more than 3 months. With the support of amazing friends and family, she regained her health, regained her sense of self and learned more about who she was in 1 year than the almost 32 years prior. She has since re-married, as apparently there are men who are ok with a sick girl and a child. And not only is he ok with it….he is the full package, he makes me crazy, but his my “lid.” Her now 5 year old son has the best of both worlds with HAPPY parents who are better friends now divorced than married and 4 parents instead of two. She is a “real” life friend of Christine Miserandino and loves to provide strength and inspiration to those when they need it most.

  • Rebecca Chandler Bilot

    You are right. She is lashing out because of the pain. The pain is making her angry and she us lashing out in anger. This anger is because of a loss. A pretty big one. She is losing who she thought she was, she is angry at everything that disease had taken from her. She needs to grieve. Because she seems to not see that she is grieving because of a loss you may want to acknowledge that her loss must be hard. My husband had an idea that even though corny symbolically asked me to say goodbye to Becky the DHS worker, a job I loved. That allowed me to grieve, but I don’t wallow. So you’re right she doesn’t have the right but she might be so caught up in it she can’t see it so you might have to help guide her to that realization.

  • Bryan Root

    I want to clarify the statistics on marriage someone could
    look at this and think 55% of first marriages end in divorce but only slightly
    over 30% of first marriages (for both partners) end in divorce. 30% of the
    population are not stable and are the grass are greener minority and have multiple
    divorces that spike the overall divorce rate to over 50% for all marriages. I
    just don’t want young couples getting married to look at these loosely used
    statistics and think they have less than a 50/50 chance when it is close to 70%
    will be successful.

  • flibbit

    I don’t share the optimism offered by others. My wife was diagnosed with fibro in 2001. We suspect that she had it for several years before being diagnosed. Since her diagnosis, we’ve stopped having any form of sex. She says she can’t have vaginal sex, and she doesn’t like the alternatives. She stopped working, she stopped cooking, and she started being hypercritical of EVERYONE in our lives. It is just too much. Even members of her own family pull me aside and say, “I don’t know how you do this”.

    We’ve been married for 43 years… 16 of them with fibro, but I am just not sure how much more of this is “doable”. I get it, she hurts, all the time. But, that does not give her the right to inflict pain on others.

  • I’d be interested to know what the divorce rate is for couples where at least one partner has a chronic illness. I’d imagine it to be higher than the average. If financial stress can kill a relationship I can’t even imagine what the stress of dealing with one of these illnesses everyday can do to those marriage vows.

    I’m currently in a 5 yr relationship that’s akin to a marriage, but I’m sure that it’s different in many ways. The threat of losing him, of not having those vows to keep us together feels too real some days. Especially when things aren’t going right in the *ahem* bedroom 😉 or when I haven’t gotten off the couch in 5 days, or washed my hair in 10. It is a daily struggle, but in the end I really hope that love can conquer this. At least for us.

  • Denise

    Thank you everyone for your comments. And for those it helped, I am truly grateful. Please know I write with no judgements, I provide guidance based on my own personal experiences. My parents have been married for over forty years…..that takes just as much strength and I admire them for that. So yes. Some of us are fortunate to have found that true partner in life, for other, it took more than once. Thanks again for all your support!

  • Been there and done that. The end of my marriage was a nightmare in some respects and a great relief in others (the kids and I spent weeks laughing at nothing, because we used to get yelled at every time we laughed, it was a sign of freedom.) I am now dating (8 months so far), the most wonderful, caring, considerate man on earth. Sorry for everyone else who suspected he was out there and always hoped to find him – I now have him and I’m not giving him up!

  • Michelle

    When one gets married, they make you confirm, “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse,” but by looking at the statistics, I wonder if most listen to their own words falling out of their mouths. I was married before and forgave a lot until his hand hit my face. Sorry, but I cannot forgive that. I was healthy then, luckily. Today, I am not healthy, but I fully feel and empathize with those in a marriage while sick. The emotions you go though, in loving someone, not wanting them to see that dark side, but it comes all the same. After a decade of being sick here, I have so much to say to so many here.

    @emily I read your stories all the time. I read your blog. You live something very difficult and I say that without comparision to me or anyone else, it’s just tough. I know you wish for something else, so do I, but sometimes we are so busy surviving today, especially being sick, that we cannot see if tomorrow would be better any other way. I know you love your husband and your son, so I wish that wish for you, that it comes one day.

    @juliann aka the sick chick Not everyone is in a marriage that is workable. Sometimes even if the other peson sticks around, it doesn’t mean you must stick it out to be miserable too. On the other hand, I agree with you that too many give up way too easily and forget what marriage is all about. That brings me to my point; even if you are willing to give it your all, if they give nothing, or worse are emotionally abusive, do you stick it out for the sake of the marriage? It takes two. If one cops out, does it leave you a choice in the matter?

    @Dianne I agree your husband has a lot of work to do on himself, however antidepressants are known to kill libido. Your husband may not know which med is the problem, but it appears he sees a correleation between med and life change. Maybe you should consider if you still need the antidepressant that may be inpacting your libido. Of course you most likely need some meds just to live, but I’m not sure you need all of them and why not look at the one known to be a culprit in your problem? Perhaps you and your husband could agree to meet in the middle somewhere….you work on reducing the med that is impacting these feelings and he works on making healthier life changes to be around for you after you do.

    @the rest of you I had a tear in my eye for each story, then I ran out of eyes and there was a puddle on the floor. I’m not crying at you, but I have lived most of it and God it hurts. I had hoped no one else felt like that. It’s hard to accept how common this is.

  • that’s a really good post one should admit as for description of circumstances and the result shown in a friendly way but the reason not everyone should face the same as It is my first marriage and we do live happily because of some deeds needs compromise on both sides and some needs a really good Health too.

  • I did not go through any of those stages when I divorced. The main thing I felt was relief. I realized I had married someone who was not right for me – cold, verbally abusive, not in the least supportive. I admitted to anyone who asked that I had made a mistake. But I am possibly the exception rather than the rule.

    I was extremely fortunate that later I found a partner who was appropriate for me. We have been married over 14 years. We treat each other with respect, something that I have seen lacking in way too many relationships. I don’t think either of us can even imagine spending our lives with anyone else. Again, maybe the exception rather than the rule.

  • Lara

    thank you very much for your insight.

    I have a family member is going through it, and it’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and judge the situation.

    I now see that she has a long way to go to be healed, no matter who did what to whom, it still stinks.

    A helpful guide would be a list of what TO or NOT TO say someone going through it. Just like we all know what we’d like to hear from people when we don’t feel goodl, but look marginally well.


  • Catie Foster

    This was good for me to see today – thanks for posting, and to Christine for tweeting it as well. My story is similar, in that it ends in divorce. I was diagnosed with Lupus in April 2004 after my third miscarriage. Somehow, my twisted lupus brain decided that my husband didn’t sign up for being with a sick person somewhere after my 4th or 5th miscarriage. Even though he stood by me through sick and thin, by the 9th – I had dug a cavern so deep between us that no bridge would cover the gap. I realize now that I had made a decision for him that was not mine to make, and that I owed him the respect to let him love me – in sickness and in health. But, I had so much trouble loving myself in sickness that I couldn’t allow myself to do that. So – we got divorced. I’ve since continually worked on accepting myself as a sick person, apologized to him for making that decision and driving him away, against his wishes. And, I have thanked him for counselling me when I tried to do it again in my current relationship. I called him in tears one night, in pain (physically and emotionally) and he simply said – “Let him love you.” It was in that moment that I realized what I had done to him and to myself in our relationship. I’m thankful for the realization, and that we’ve both been able to move ahead with our lives in emotional health. Its hard enough to face life with Lupus every day, even harder to accept ourselves as “whole” people.

  • another good one Denise. Thanks for sharing this story with the greater chronically ill community on if more than 1/2 or marriages end in divorce- that also means that certainly applies to those of us who are sick. thank you for your honesty.

  • Thank you for posting this. It’s so common that people take it for granted and so devastating personally and financially that it takes a long time to have a life again.

    I’ve been there, had a 13 year relationship that ended because my ex was the one sane enough to say “No more.” But I was useless in that first year and went through every one of those stages.

    You’ve given support to everyone who’s ever been through it by posting this. And you’re right. Somewhere out there is someone new who’s going to take me for who I am and love me as I really am, strengths and diseases and all. When I’m happy in my new life and everything else is going well, that’s when a pretty cat lady is going to notice “Hey. He is really, really cool. I love him and I love his cat, they’re both adorable. I want to be part of that beautiful life.”

  • Janet

    Denise, I loved your article. Thank you fro sharing from your first hand experience and thanks most of all for being a friend to christine.

  • Barbara Morris

    I reposted this today on Facebook…also helped another chronic pain neighbor move on with this same idea:

    An old man once said, “There comes a time in your life when you walk away from all the drama and those who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, but getting back up is living.”

    Yes, I have had chronic pain/conditions for 6 years and probably for life. Acceptance and forgiveness (do NOT forget to forgive YOURSELF) are beginning rules along with the baby steps). If I had to choose, I’d choose physical pain/disabilities instead of Mental or Spiritual pain/disabilities. Most physical chronic conditions have a mental/spiritual tagalong…and working with/accepting all three have led to the healing I’ve obtained. Many friends have passed out of my life…and that’s how it’s meant to be. Accept each season…and keep growing however you can.

  • Juliann aka The Sick Chick

    I’m sorry, but there are some of us who stay married not because it’s “easier” but because we believe the vows we made are permanent and binding (even if legally they are not). But I feel like you have branded us as cowards and also written us off as unsupportive friends.

    To me, the idea of leaving a marriage because you are unhappy or feel you are “settling” for something less than what you might get elsewhere is exactly why we have a 55% divorce rate. As a society we don’t treat marriage as til-death-do-us part anymore and we also always think that the grass is greener on the other side. But at the same time it’s not my place to tell people to stay in a marriage they want out of, so while I will encourage people to do everything they can to work things out I know it takes two and often the other person is not willing to stay either. So yeah, I’m not the sort of person to stand up and cheer on a friend who wants out, but if that is the only advice they ever hear, they’ll have no other perspectives and so divorce will be inevitable. Please don’t paint me as some kind of weak person who doesn’t have the guts to do what *you* think is right. It often takes more guts to put in the effort to make it work out than to walk away when things aren’t going well.

    (I realize that many people have no choice in their divorces, if their spouse leaves there’s nothing they can do about it. I’m only addressing the point about consulting with friends when you are the one thinking of leaving.)

  • Bruce

    Marriage is nothing if not the vows which we take when we become betrothed: in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse. What an absolute bundle of rot, all of it.

    Be a husband who is the main family provider and then becomes severely and chronically ill and find out just how much those vows ever really meant to your bride.

  • Diane

    Jenni, I have the opposite problem. I lost my libido about 6 years ago. Not only have I been sick with chronic migraines and fibromyalgia for the past 37 years and osteoarthritis in my thumb joints over the past year, but my husband is also sick. He has congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy, along with obstructive sleep apnea and about a dozen other problems. He could literally die any day. He’s supposed to be on oxygen 24/7 and on a cpap at night but refuses to use them. He still smokes and has been drinking more and more over the past few years. He also weighs over 350 lbs. The only cure for cardiomyopathy is a heart transplant, but he’s not eligible because his health is too poor and he still smokes and drinks and he has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and needs to lose weight. I’m in pain every day, and take MSContin, muscle relaxers, antidepressants, and antianxiety meds so I can sleep. I’m depressed because I’ve been out of work for about 18 months and he’s pressuring me to apply for disability. But if I go on disability now I’ll only make about $700 a month… not enough to live on if I lose him. I want to work as long as I can. We haven’t had sex in nearly 6 years because I have no libido. I’ve talked to doctors, shrinks, and nobody has been able to help. He thinks if I go off my meds everything will go back to the way things used to be. He doesn’t realize that the way things used to be before the doctors at the Stanford Hospital Pain Clinic set up my treatment plan, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t function, most days I couldn’t get out of bed or took care of my 3 kids while lying on the couch all day. Before this treatment plan I had migraines every day for over 18 months, and couldn’t imagine living another year feeling that bad. Never mind he’s on so many prescriptions it takes 2 plastic shoe boxes to hold all the bottles. He’s also very jealous and suspicious. He thinks that if I’m not having sex with him I must be having sex with someone else, which is ridiculous and adds to the problem. I can’t seem to get turned on by a guy I know doesn’t trust me. He’s mad at me right now because I slept all day yesterday. I was in so much pain that all I could do was try to sleep through it, but when I told him that he said it was irrelevant. I’ve been divorced twice and this is my 3rd marriage. The first time I was 16 and had 2 kid by 19, when he left me with the kids and an eviction notice and moved to Texas. Shortly afterwards my 2 year old daughter was murdered by a child molester, and he took my 6 month old son. My son is 30 now and I haven’t seen him since he was a baby because my ex kept him hidden from me. I found them 3 times, and every time I did, he moved. My 2nd marriage lasted 8 years and produced 2 boys, and he had his mom hide the kids and kicked me out while we were staying with his mom. My current (and last, no matter what) husband got me a lawyer and helped me fight for custody of the kids. We won custody and got married 16 hours after my divorce was final. We’ve been married for 19 years, but I can see how unhappy he is. I’ve gained 80+ lbs and feel unattractive, and we live in a small town where the job situation is terrible. I’ve been trying like hell to find a job and my unemployment benefits are about to run out, so we’ll be living on his disability payments with a kid who has 1 year of high school left. I don’t know what to do anymore. Does anyone else have this kind of libido problem? Any solutions? I don’t want another failed marriage… I’ve been preparing myself mentally and emotionally to become a widow since the cardiomyopathy diagnosis. Three years ago the doctor told us that people with his condition have a 50% chance of living 5 years and a 25% chance of living 10 years, and maybe that is part of the problem. Have I been withdrawing emotionally in anticipation of losing him? I have to admit, sometimes I think of just ending it. I’ve got enough drugs to end my misery and pain. But then I think of my kids, and realize I couldn’t do that to them. I just hurt so bad right now I can’t even think straight. I’m gonna try to sleep. Thanks for being there.

  • rose fultz

    I had 5 kids prior to meeting my husband and he had 3. We were both about 40 years old. He was fun and witty and our love was strong enough to endure the teenagers growing pains. A year after we married I had to have a complete hysterectomy which threw my body into total shock. Shortly after that I had to have my gall bladder removed. Shortly after that I started having unexplained pain from the lower back down my legs and feet. Drs. couldn’t find the problem so I went undiagnosed for years. I think he doubted there was really a problem until they told me I had bone marrow cancer…it turned out to be abnormal but not malignant. That’s when they found out that I had Mixed Connective tissue disease and Lupus. I was in too much pain to keep my job so I had to wait for SS disability to kick in and so did the money stresses. I was scared and he became a jerk and stopped paying the bills…3 months behind and I told him if he couldn’t carry me when I needed him the most then I didn’t need him anymore. He was more than happy to move out and away from all the issues that go along with body malfunctions…and the depression, confusion and trying to understand all the unexplained aches and pains and fatigue. It’s been over 3 years and I am happy that I don’t have to feel bad for feeling bad.

  • My husband and I are have been married for 7.5 years but we are living a war not a marriage. The good thing is that we are on the same side though. We are too busy being sick, trying to figure out how I will I pay for my pain meds tomorrow, or even Tylenol, and raising a little boy. Who has time to even analyze if we are happy or not?

    I pray every day that things settle down for us as it has mostly been a life of living Hell for over four years now. Maybe then we will get to enjoy, hopefully, an actual marriage.

  • @Bekah, you are very fortunate… when I started getting sick, my ex started acting more like I was a child than his wife… he stopped wanting me anywhere near him, I spent 12 years with very little sex… I actually found when I was in this other relationship a couple years ago that having sex again, finally (!), helped me to have more energy, helped with pain issues, and of course with stress and depression! What I wouldn’t give… 🙂

  • Divorce is awful. I’ve done it twice now. The first one was when I was very young, he became abusive, when it became life threatening, I left. Got a restraining order, and stayed angry at him for years.

    The second one still really hurts. I became sick shortly after becoming involved with this man, gradually… it was a couple years after we married when I had my major collapse and became too sick to work much.

    So, he treated me worse and worse, because I was sick (on top of his own issues), and eventually left me for a younger, healthier woman. They moved in together, unbeknownst to me, while he and I were separated but still in marriage counseling. They married two days after our divorce was finalized.

    I have no idea how, being sick, I will ever meet anyone that will accept me, and will be the kind of man I need. I haven’t been on a date in nearly 2 years, and I’m on several internet dating sites. The one guy I was seeing a couple of years ago was all for being with me despite my illness, though initially he saw me during a good period… I told him what it was like when I crashed and he said that was fine, he would be there for me, but then when I did start going through a bad patch, he had no patience and broke up with me. I am just tired of being alone…

  • Barb

    My husband is so burnt out by all of my stuff, I fear that this will happen too one day.

  • Yep, it’s hard. While we are no where near divorce, my illness puts a strain on things. My husband is understanding, but he is starting to be resentful about the lack of attention in the (ahem) bedroom. I want to want to have sex, but honestly it;s the last thing on my mind. Like ever.

  • Awesome. My divorce initiated my original flare up. I was also married for almost 5 years with a 2 year old at the time. I was off work on a cane for six months, and I had a nervous breakdown. They committed me. Worse time of my life. Thank you for sharing. I rebounded just fine and so will others who read your story!!