Meg Luce: Your relationship in sickness and health |

Meg Luce: Your relationship in sickness and health

When I was growing up, we had a little brass bell shaped like a lady with a big fancy skirt. My mom let us take the bell to our bedrooms when we got sick. When I was holed up in my room feeling rotten, I could ring the little brass bell if I wanted 7-up or soda crackers or if I was feeling lonesome. My mom would come upstairs and give me a few minutes of attention before getting back to her day. She gave each of us four kids the same treatment, making us feel we had a lifeline when we felt the worst.

After a recent bout of illness, I was thinking about the importance of having someone there for you. I still have the little bell from childhood, and the best part of getting sick was when my husband told me I could take the bell to the bedroom and ring it if I needed anything.

I hear many stories from my therapy clients about sickness, tragedy, and loss. What amazes and inspires me is how people show up and help each other through the tough stuff. People often survive hard things with the help of their relationships. They say, “I couldn’t have gotten through it without him.” Or “She kept me from losing my mind.”

These aren’t people with perfect relationships. Like the rest of us, these are people who get crabby and take each other for granted at times. But they find that their most precious asset in times of hardship is their partner.

Maybe you weren’t lucky to have a mom like I had growing up. Perhaps you never got the message that it was OK to send a signal for help or support. You may also be unfamiliar with offering support to someone who is hurting. But even if you didn’t get the message about support in childhood, you can learn to do it as an adult.

If you’d like to become more interdependent in your relationship, ask yourself: Can I allow myself to lean on my partner for support? Can I let my partner count on me? It may feel strange if you didn’t grow up doing such things. But, even if it feels a little weird, you can go ahead and offer and ask for support anyway. Is it giving or receiving that you find most challenging? Practice the one that is hardest.

You can practice by giving yourself a small objective. If you are someone who has a hard time asking for help, go ahead and ask. Here are some ideas to say to your partner.

– Will you give me a five minute back rub?

– I’m running late. Would you mind making me a quick bite to eat?

– Will you listen while I offload some stress?

If you are unaccustomed with offering your shoulder for emotional support, you can slow down and do it anyway. Here are some examples.

– Hey, do you need a hug?

– Would you like to talk?

– You okay?

Giving and receiving make all the difference, especially during times of sickness, loss, or uncertainty. If you haven’t done so already, you can create a relationship where, like ringing a little bell, you can ask for and receive love and support. In sickness and in health, your relationship is your lifeline. So make it sturdy and strong.

Meg Luce, M.S., is a Marriage and Family Therapist in Grass Valley specializing in helping couples create satisfying relationships. You can find her contact info at

If you haven’t done so already, you can create a relationship where, like ringing a little bell, you can ask for and receive love and support. In sickness and in health, your relationship is your lifeline.
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