Marital Alzheimer’s

I watched my grandma ever so slowly succumb to Alzheimer’s.  It started with what seemed like innocent forgetfulness or simply not paying attention.  Then one day I was riding in the backseat of a car with her and she turned to me and fearfully asked, “Who are you?!”  Almost from that moment on her family became strangers to her.

Grandma’s battle with Alzheimer’s was heart-wrenching, especially for her husband.  Grandma, in her dementia, accused the man who had faithfully loved and cared for her of horrible things.  She used ugly words and would say things that just weren’t true, as if she were rewriting their history.  She forgot her love for him.  She forgot their precious memories.  It was tragic, but at least we all knew it wasn’t really Grandma.

Since Alzheimer’s is supposedly hereditary, I began researching how to prevent it.  Now I park in different places in a parking lot, do crossword puzzles, change up the daily routine of getting dressed, eat certain foods, etc.  I continue to look for ways to combat or at least delay it.  I don’t want to put Neal through the painful things my grandpa endured.

Sometimes we suffer from marital Alzheimer’s.  Amnesia is one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s.  “Amnesia” is from the Greek, meaning “without memory.”  If we’re not careful, there can be a memory deficit in our marriages.

  • We forget what drew us to our spouse in the first place.
  • We forget the vows we made, the good intentions we had.
  • We forget that marriage is a commitment in which there are God-given guidelines.

So we make harsh accusations or rewrite history.  And then one day, after sleeping in the same bed with the same person for years, we wake up and ask, “Who ARE you?”

Perhaps you see some warning signs in your own marriage.  Do you feel disconnected?  Has intimacy become a distant memory?  Do you have a hard time recalling when you last held hands?  Thankfully, there are some ways we can prevent marital Alzheimer’s.

1.  Take care of yourself.  The better you feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the better you act.  Eat right and exercise daily.  Spend time in the Word.  Pray often.  Get rid of emotional downers like resentment, worry, or guilt by addressing them.

2.  Stay connected.  Invest quality time in your marriage by making it a priority and protecting it.  The empty nest syndrome can catch couples off guard.  Reconnect now so you’ll still know each other when it’s just the two of you.  Make sure a portion of each day includes face to face time without the interference of devices.  Ladies, this means we need to log out of Facebook or Pinterest when our husband comes home.  We don’t want him to think we’d rather spend time connecting with hundreds of cyber friends than with him.

3.  Take your vitamins.  Just as there are several vitamins and supplements touted to prevent memory loss, there are things you can do to boost your relationship.  Study the Bible together.  Attend marriage seminars.  Find out (again) what’s important to your spouse and invest in it.

4.  Change up your routine.  Is your marriage in a rut?  Change things up by doing something different and unexpected.  Dress up for supper (even if it’s pizza), light candles, or eat in a different room.  Meet your spouse at work for a cup of coffee.  Change your hairstyle.  Go visiting together and call it a date.  Be creative and think of ways to keep things fresh and interesting.

It’s heart-breaking to see someone in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.  It’s painful for those who love that person, too.  But it’s even more tragic to see a marriage succumb to forgotten love and lost memories.  Let’s embrace our marriages so we can enjoy healthy closeness and happiness from the altar to the nursing home.

Prayer for Today:  May we actively protect our marriages, Lord, by staying close to You and to each other.

*This post can also be found at

Photo credit:  Anna Dodgen

Author: Kathy Pollard

I'm a Christian woman, happily married to my best friend, Neal. We have 3 grown sons, Gary, Dale, and Carl, and 3 sweet daughters-in-law, Chelsea, Janelle, and Emily. Neal preaches for the Lehman Ave. church of Christ in Bowling Green, KY. We love the Lord and His church!

13 thoughts on “Marital Alzheimer’s”

  1. To me Alzheimer is about the worse to go.I never thought of it toward a marriage. I’m glad you brought out that thought because just like Alzheimer is one of the worse ways to die marital Alzheimer would be the worse way to see a marriage be destroyed. Thanks, Kathy for another thought provoking article. Ken


  2. I love this! I love it when applications are drawn from life’s little challenges. I have experienced this myself (though on a small-scale… not “advanced stage”) and I know it is all true. Thank you for the practical advice.


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