Is love enough to keep our marriage intact?

A columnist's wife worries about their future together as her HD progresses

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

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After my beloved wife, Jill, and I left a recent party, she was a little shaken up. When I asked why she was upset, she said, “Do you think love is enough to sustain a marriage?”

I said, “Yes, of course.”

She said, “Did you know the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research conducted a study, published in 2014, that showed nearly one-third of married couples with an ill spouse get divorced?”

I wasn’t aware of that, but I told her we wouldn’t be part of that statistic.

She said, “Well, did you know that the data show that the likelihood of divorce increases when it’s the wife who’s sick?”

Again, I acknowledged I didn’t know that fact, but repeated that we wouldn’t be included in that statistic.

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“OK, you say that now, but what will happen in the future? How can you say we won’t get divorced? How can you guarantee you’ll take care of me when you don’t know how bad I may get?” Jill, who was diagnosed as gene-positive for Huntington’s disease in 2018, said. “I don’t want to be in the advanced stages of Huntington’s and suddenly be alone. I’d rather know now while I can still make arrangements for my future care.”

I didn’t want to repeat myself, but I didn’t want her to think I was upset, so I sighed, which is my “I’m frustrated, but not mad” reaction.

She added that she read about another study published in the journal Cancer that found that married women diagnosed with serious diseases are six times as likely to get separated or divorced compared with married men with serious diseases. The study was from 2009, but the numbers are astounding.

I sighed again.

“The study found that 21% of seriously ill women get divorced compared with only 3% of seriously ill men,” she said. “It’s obvious that a wife developing a serious disease causes many husbands to divorce.”

I reminded her that none of the people in those studies were Carlos and Jill Briceño. I didn’t know what else to say. I supposed there really wasn’t an answer I could give her to prove my permanent love for her.

After we got home, I hugged her and said, “Jill, you are my past, my present, and my future — whatever that may be. I don’t care how Huntington’s affects you because you are still you, and I love you. I have signed up to be your husband, and that is my most important job.”

So yes, my dear Jill, love is enough.

Note: Huntington’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


Annabelle avatar


Wow! This wrinkled my heart.

That's my fear BUT in my case it's my child with HD? I am a mother of an undiagnosed 25+ year old and her paternal dad and grand mother passed from HD. He was never part of her life but I am seeing some signs that she may have it.

My husband (her stepdad) has been so amazing through the "finding-out" process (we recently found out about her biological dad and grand-mother) but I find myself asking that question: "IS LOVE ENOUGH" to hold my marriage together if her symptoms get worse. Everything is such a scary thought! Trying to stay present and living the NOW. :) Much love to you and your family.

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

I know the decision to get genetic testing is not an easy one, but it is the way to see if your child does have it or not. My heart goes out to you all, in the meantime, as you wonder and worry about if she has it or not. As for your marriage, trust in the love that you and your husband share and living in the present is a great and healthy way to live life, in general, so I hope you are able to continue to do that in the days ahead. Wishing you all the best, as well.

Karl Miran avatar

Karl Miran

As the husband and caregiver of a woman with HD, I regularly find Carlos's articles to be insightful, thought-provoking, and helpful. This most recent article is one of his best. As usual, the headline is the key. "Is love enough"? Well, an immature "puppy love" might not survive the challenges of this disease, but Carlos and Jill clearly have developed a deeper commitment over the years.

In addition to his faith, I assume he has a good community of friends, both inside and outside the HD community to support him, now and in the future.

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Thanks for your kind words. Honestly, I am the most blessed man alive, as Jill is a wonderful, beautiful, courageous, and remarkable woman who deserves the best, and so her love for me inspires me to be a better, more giving and unselfish man. She is my hero. I hope what we share inspires other men and women to be grateful for their spouses and to up their game, so to speak, so that they be better for the person they love, no matter what the person is going through and that they become the heroes that this world needs more of. And when I say hero, I mean someone who has courage, who is unselfish, who is there to serve. Jill has taught me that is the best way to be, and that is what I aspire to be each day. And, yes, Jill and I are blessed to have a good community of friends and family.

Patty avatar


Wow! Your words are exactly what I needed to read, right now. My husband and two of his siblings were diagnosed, after all showing symptoms, this past year. Yesterday, was a tough day. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Carlos Briceño avatar

Carlos Briceño

Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I am saddened by the positive diagnosis of your husband and his family members. I will keep you all in my prayers.


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