Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist who specializes in helping clients deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

When one person in the family has chronic illness, it affects everyone—changing relationships and routines, needs and expectations, and more. Here are Dr. Gary’s helpful insights about 10 common emotional challenges you and your loved ones may face.

Getting Enough Quality Time?

It’s important to keep the spark in your relationship despite the constant demands of your busy lives and your chronic illness. Quality time is an opportunity to be reminded of why you’re together in the first place and to enjoy each other’s company. Here are some ideas for building more quality time into your relationship … Read More >>

Accepting Help From Others

When a parent has a chronic illness, household routines, including the chores, can get disrupted. Mom or dad may have trouble holding up their end some days, or they may have to modify their activity level. Kids see that something is different. Even small changes in routine can leave them feeling scared. As a family, have a conversation about how mom or dad is feeling and what this means for … Read More >>

Assuming Positive Intent

Are there times when your first reaction to the behavior of your partner doesn’t match up with the actual situation? In other words, is it possible that at times you might make an assumption about what your partner intended because you jumped to a conclusion and then reacted accordingly? It’s only human. But you can learn to avoid the trap of assuming the worst about your partner’s behavior … Read More >>

My Partner Is Noncompliant!

If your partner is living with a chronic condition, are they taking care of themselves? When you love someone, you want the best for them. But nobody likes to be told what to do—even if they probably need to be told what to do. Be a supporter, a cheerleader, and throw in some tough love when you need to. However, keep in mind that your partner has the right to make his or her own decisions about physical and mental health … Read More >>

When the Conversation Gets Uncomfortable

We’re all human. And we don’t always speak or act out of our best selves. As a result, hurt or angry feelings can result. When a partner lives with a chronic condition, sensitivity can be high on both sides. Sure, it’s important to talk things out. But it can be hard to listen when you feel like you are being criticized, or if your partner is describing an experience, or feelings, that are just too painful to listen to. So how do you stay in the room when you want to run for the hills? Start by reminding yourself … Read More >>

Helping Kids Answer the “What’s Wrong With Your Mom/Dad?” Question

One of the things that parents who are living with a chronic condition often tell me they dread is when their children are asked difficult questions—or hear unkind comments—about their chronic condition. You are dealing with enough health issues as it is, right? How do you also handle the effects that living with your chronic condition has on your child’s life? Here’s how to have that conversation … Read More >>

Finding Middle Ground

When talking with couples, I often feel like I am the mediator between two people who have two different views of treatment—sometimes polar-opposite views. But they have the same goal—for the individual with the chronic condition to be as healthy, and live with as much quality of life, as possible. How are you and your partner feeling about your treatment? Whether you agree, somewhat agree, or just plain disagree, it may be possible to find a path that you can travel together. It starts with … Read More >>

Is It the Message or the Delivery?

Communication is more than the words we use to get a message across. It’s also about how we say those words. So it’s not just the message, but how that message is delivered. For example, saying, “I’ll get to it as soon as I can” means one thing if it’s said with a smile, but it means something entirely different if it’s barked out in a raised voice. But a misdelivered message doesn’t have to wreck your day. You can recognize what’s happening and choose how to react … Read More >>

How “Fuzzy Bunnies” Can Help Keep the Peace

When tempers flare, an argument can take on a life of its own. And take you and your partner along for the ride. Especially if your chronic condition means you aren’t feeling your best. Yikes! We’re out of control here. Call in the fuzzy bunnies! “Fuzzy bunnies” is what you might call a tension-breaker. A phrase that you use to signal that it’s time to lighten up and stop an argument before it does real damage to your relationship. To put the fuzzy bunnies to work … Read More >>

The Gift of Listening

We’re all guilty of not always giving our full attention to the person who is talking to us. But think about the consequences for your partner, for you, for your relationship. Not listening, over time, can drive a wedge between you. And if you or your partner are struggling with a chronic condition, then listening and being listened to can have even greater importance. Listening is a gift you and your partner can give each other every day. Here’s how … Read More >>

How has chronic illness affected your relationship? Share your experience by commenting below.