How a Health Crisis Can Affect a Relationship, for Better or Worse


Research has shown a link between a decline in health and marital problems, Tara Fields explains why.

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Tarek and Christina El Moussa have been one of the most beloved couples on HGTV. The couple has talked publicly about their fertility struggles and Tarek’s cancer diagnosis, which are both health issues that can take a serious toll on a relationship. Now, sadly, the co-hosts have announced they are separated.

Health problems “can be extremely stressful,” says Tara Fields, PhD, a marriage therapist in Marin County, California, and author of The Love Fix. (Fields hasn’t met the couple.) “They can be opportunities to strengthen your relationship, or [they can] blow it apart.”

So what can a couple do to make it through such a stressful time?

Remember that this can be a chance to grow closer, says Fields. If your partner is sick, support him or her by going to the doctor’s visits. “If you’re the one who is ill, allow your partner to take on new roles and care for you,” she says. And when the dust settles, let your partner know that he or she is your hero, for all they have done for you.

What’s more, both partners need to make sure they’re in touch with their own feelings, Fields adds: Consider any unresolved issues an illness may dredge up. “Sometimes without you even knowing it, [a diagnosis] can trigger a lot of fears,” Fields explains. “It’s important for couples to take that moment to honestly talk about their fears.”

“You either grow together, or you grow apart,” she says.