3 Ways Your Partnership Can Thrive Through Intense Hardship
by Aisha Patterson



June 9, 2021


7 Minute Read


3 Ways Your Partnership Can Thrive Through Intense Hardship

Courtesy of Aisha Patterson

“Through sickness and in health” are words often uttered in matrimonial bliss. It is a declaration that no matter what befalls your spouse you will still love them, honor them, and be committed to walking this journey of life together. In this season of Black Love on OWN, episode 4 offered many ways in which couples have had to sacrifice. Whether it was Shireen taking the leap to move from the East Coast to the West Coast at eight months pregnant for her husband’s career or Renece putting her professional dancing aside to create a life with Ephraim, marriage comes with give and take — but the ultimate sacrifice can come when it’s a matter of life threatening matters, like Shelitha & Rodney or Ledisi & Ron.

Or me.

My husband and I began dating at 16 years of age and have had tons of experiences together. Nine years married, raising children together, we thought we knew each other well. However, on November 18th 2020, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer at the age of 30 and at that moment we both changed. My husband DJ and I sat across from a lovely nurse that told us that the lumps in my breast were positive for cancer. 

When I began chemo a month after being diagnosed, I got physically sick with headaches, nausea, fatigue and then random surprises that interrupted my entire day like blood clots and nose bleeds. DJ was responsible for caring for me, our four children, and his business–a weight that he didn’t carry alone prior to then. While I was dealing with my own emotions, he was deep in the trenches. He became the mom. He did it all while I was at the mercy of my bed and trying to recover. Reality began to set in day by day and so did the stress. We were snappy and walked around like ticking time bombs. Say the wrong thing and verbal guns were drawn with voices raised.  

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For the first time in our 13-year relationship, we had to intentionally relearn each other. The only rule was that we had to be open-minded and dig deep to understand the other person’s perspective and their needs because sacrifice — without resentment — requires understanding. 

    1. Put your relationship third. 

You can’t pour from an empty cup and when you love through an illness like mine, the cup runs dry fairly quickly. If you don’t pour into yourself first, you won’t have anything to offer your spouse, friends or family members, etc. 

      • Implement a morning routine 
      • Do more of something you love on a regular basis 
      • Start an intentional self-care routine 

If you’re spiritual, keep God first, then yourselves, your marriage and, after that your kids, family/friends, and other responsibilities. We are  both clear on that order and we are able to operate at a level of overflow instead of scarcity. That mindset, communication, and the willingness to improve your relationship will give you the fuel you need to love through the sacrifices. 

  1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.  
    Communication and the willingness to act and make change is a powerful thing. It revolutionized our relationship during this time. Clearly communicate your needs, boundaries and requests to your partner. The purpose is to let it out so: 

    • Your partner knows and understands from your perspective. 
    • Complaints and negative feelings toward your partner don’t fester and turn into an explosion or more on that. 

    Make it a point to address things as they happen and deliver your words soaked in love. If one of you is offered a new job across the country, ask the other how they genuinely feel about moving. When going through the process of having children, identify who is in need of sleep and when. Think of it like keeping a room clean. Imagine all this mess until you start putting things where they actually go. Communicating makes space in your mind so you aren’t stressed.  

  2. Make an intentional time to connect. 

Date nights may be a challenge when you’re loving through illness, postpartum, grief, etc. So, look for ways to connect throughout the day. For example, take a hot bath together, play a card game, or watch a nostalgic movie that you both used to enjoy. If you feel the most at peace when you’re both walking on a trail, put walking dates on your calendar. 

Be flexible and choose an activity that you both enjoy and get filled up from. Look at your relationship through the lens of dating one another again. Whatever you do, be together and do so intentionally. Enjoy life as a unit as much as possible. 

Watch the new season of Black Love on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) every Friday at 10/9c. Seasons 1-4 of Black Love and the official after show, After Love are available on the free Black Love+ App for Android and iOS, as well as YouTube.