The well-known marriage vow is, “‘Til death do us part,” but fatalities aren’t the only things in life that could possibly drive a relationship apart. You could suddenly find yourself caring for your spouse emotionally and financially after an unexpected injury or illness.
The physical, financial and psychological stresses of being unable to work can be taxing for the healthy spouse in many ways. Unfortunately, you can’t consult a crystal ball and be clued in on all the good and bad that will happen in the future, but you can be prepared in the event of everything in between “‘Til death do us part,” and “‘Til your spouse gets hurt or sick and can no longer do his or her job.”
Being the Breadwinner is About More Than the Bread
Dealing with an injury is tough, in addition to all of life’s usual responsibilities. So if your spouse is suddenly struck with an injury, the day-to-day financial and care-giving responsibilities may shift to you, the healthy spouse, for a period of time. Come up with ways to get by on your usual budget in the event of disability, and be understanding if you’re the main source of support during the adjustment period.
Trim the Non-essentials from Your Budget
As painful is it may be, you may have to suspend some luxuries in the event of that aforementioned belt-tightening. Sit down and evaluate what needs to go for now—music and TV streaming costs and gym memberships, perhaps—and what is absolutely essential—your mortgage, child care, insurance—so you can make room for additional medical expenses and financial considerations, if necessary.
Once Again, Be Understanding and Adapt to Change
It’s important to remember that the psychological toll can vary without much of a warning. After all, the disabled spouse will be going through a huge adjustment. They may feel the guilt of having to fully depend on someone else. Resentment may build up, due to the shift in responsibility and power dynamics in the relationship.
Understand that while the disabled spouse may not be working, he or she is dealing with a major change and disruption to his or her life—which may include dealing with pain, and even getting used to pain being a part of his or her day-to-day life. Give him or her time to cope with that adjustment in both his or her head and body. A major part of healing is having a good support system, after all.
Prioritize Income Protection
Disability insurance can definitely come in handy to replace a portion of lost income when your working spouse is unable to bring home an income. While you may have coverage through your employer, it’s important to know just how much income it would replace.
Keep Your Eye on the Future
Life may turn into a delicate balancing act for now, but you should also remember that it probably won’t be forever. You and your family will adjust to the new normal eventually, so don’t let this time become lost time when it comes to your long-term goals.
Try to find an alternative to emptying out your pension, 401(k), savings accounts and kids’ college fund. Exhausting all your resources in a panic today may be something you end up regretting in the future. Consider making a back-up income protection plan to stay ahead of bills and other financial responsibilities.