Marital and romantic relationships are strongly impacted by dialysis and kidney disease.

The development of a chronic illness may place strain on existing marital roles, especially if the healthy spouse becomes the caregiver and possibly the main financial contributor. Patients with kidney disease often express concerns over becoming a burden on their families, since they may become more dependent on their family members. The inability to work may also force a further shift in roles, particularly for men, who often feel the need to be the main financial contributor in the family. Women, who often feel a greater responsibility to take care of the household and children, may also feel the burden of changing roles if they are no longer able to fulfill their previous responsibilities.

Additionally, the healthy spouse is affected psychologically as he or she tries to deal with the uncertainty and illness of their loved one. They can be subject to the negative emotions of the patient, as well as depression and anxiety in their own right. Sometimes, spouses and partners of kidney disease patients have more difficulties than the actual patient because they may feel helpless in the face of illness, developing feelings of anger or even guilt. While it is important for patients to do as much as possible by themselves in order to maintain independence and prevent families from becoming overburdened, family members will feel better if they feel like they are able to do something to help the patient. It is important to remember that kidney disease affects more than just the patient, so spouses and patients need to communicate with each other to talk about how they feel and what they need from the other person.

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Above image by Leon Brocard. Licensed under CC BY 2.0