My husband doesn’t understand chronic illness. What should I do?
My husband doesn’t understand chronic illness.
When your husband doesn’t understand your chronic illness, it may seem ignorant from your point of view, however, unless he’s a dick, it isn’t necessarily the case.
The relationship between physical and emotional health is very complex. It’s a vicious cycle because both of them impact one another.
Some men don’t get this as easily as women do. We aren’t big thinkers…
I’m a man. Our nature is to fix things, and when we aren’t able to fix something, we feel useless.
It’s not easy for men to adjust themselves to their new situation and instead of doing so, they try to “fix” their partner’s health.
We choose the fix first, only after we begin to think deeper about the issue when we fail to repair it.
Fixing chronic illness is impossible. But it is possible to ease a woman’s life.
We aren’t as deep as you are lovely ladies. It doesn’t mean we are heartless, sometimes we simply struggle to express our feelings.
We have pride and getting touchy-feely isn’t easy for some of us.
We like to keep things short and to the point.
Most men don’t like indulging themselves in long, emotional conversations.
Bluntly put, we are doers, not thinkers. At least most of us!
Like most male species, I don’t dwell on my own emotions, but I’ve learned how to talk about her ones.
Sure, it was hard at first, but it’s doable.
He simply needs to:
- Believe you!
- He needs to listen to you. I mean, really listen!
- Educate himself about your illness.
- Do some of your chores without you asking him for it.
- Attend your appointments with you.
- Advocate for you at the hospital, GP’s, talking to her boss, etc.
- Be patient, no matter what.
But if he thinks otherwise, here are my 15 tips on how to support you. He will find them useful.
If you are a man reading this post, you and I know, we are doers. We don’t like to give up easily. It will be hard but you can manage.
It is a challenge, but we like them, don’t we?
I managed to support my wife through multiple attempts of suicide, her pleads to divorce her for my sake, and countless sleepless nights.
Dear fellow men…
If I have never given up on her during such a terrible time, you can manage to give her a little support.
If you’re a woman reading this article, I can assure you, that if your husband doesn’t understand chronic illness, it is NOT necessarily intentional.
He might be uninformed, scared, or else.
Unless it’s cancer, in general, men view illness as a one-off event. A person gets sick, they get treatment, they get better.
Again, it’s a fixing thing. They believe your health can be fixed…
Please forgive us ladies. It’s how we are wired.
Some men aren’t aware of chronic pain, and the persistent process of disease. It is an invisible illness.
Men are visual creatures, if we don’t see something it’s hard to believe.
I know, it sounds terrible.
I’m not ashamed to admit (I’m human), at the beginning I struggled to believe that her symptoms were real.
I couldn’t see them. But her pain never gave up. It kept coming and growing.
After seeing my wife (literally) crawl the wall from the severity of pain, it hit me, and it hit me hard!
I felt guilty for not believing her. I began to think how lonely she must have felt all that time.
Emotionally, I was absent.
Knowledge and experience…
It’s difficult for most men to learn how their partner feels because it’s outside their realm of knowledge and experience.
They will never feel what their woman is going through. Even if they say they know, they don’t. They are not women.
But there are ways to help men understand what to do when their women go through chronic pain and other symptoms.
I’d be more than happy with you giving your man to read the list below…
If your husband doesn’t understand chronic illness, there are things he can do, he simply needs to:
- Believe you!
- He needs to listen to you. I mean, really listen! You are the best and most accurate source of information for him. He won’t find any better. You know your body better than any specialist.
- Educate himself about your illness. I still learn about my wife’s endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and their impact on her mental health.
- Do some of your chores without you asking him for it. It must come from the man, it has more meaning.
- Attend your appointments with you. Even one of them is a huge help. It can be either – doctor ones, CBT, online webinars, real-life group meetings, you name it.
- Advocate for you at the hospital, GP’s, or talking to her boss. I remember organizing a meeting with my wife’s boss. It went well, it always does. When a man is present by your side, other male doctors and bosses take you more seriously.
- Be patient, no matter what.
Let’s expand on these 7 tips…
Soon after M was diagnosed with endometriosis, I learned that having such an unknown, strange, difficult to pronounce invisible illness was life-changing.
Adjusting to a new lifestyle and understanding what my wife was going through took a degree of patience I didn’t possess at the time.
But living with pain caused by endometriosis and fibromyalgia is a full-time job for my wife.
I couldn’t, and I never will compare my “struggles” to hers.
I have my health, I have everything I need to be happy. But not all men understand that.
People usually begin to appreciate their lives when it’s too late, when something terrible, life-changing happens.
When chronic illness gets between two people, even some of the strongest relationships may not last.
There is a number of divorces out there and the reasons may vary from couple to couple, but most of the time it happens due to a lack of support and understanding of the husband.
He isn’t informed well enough, or he was far too selfish to do so.
So, if your husband doesn’t understand chronic illness, he shouldn’t just give up and walk away. There are things he can do to help you and your relationship.
1. Believe you!
This is a difficult one to crack. Because if he cannot see what you are going through it will be hard for him to believe you.
Most of the time he might be at work or about. He has his habits, his life.
You cannot expect him to know everything or make him learn. However, if he loves you, he’ll happily do it if you give him some guidance.
2. He needs to listen to you.
Your husband doesn’t understand chronic illness, and so he really needs to listen to you.
Like I said already. You are the best and most accurate source of information for him.
There are books out there explaining on average what endometriosis and/or fibromyalgia are but none of them is dedicated precisely to you.
Every woman is unique and every woman experiences chronic illness differently.
I said once to one of my wife’s doctors that he may have a piece of knowledge about her illness but I’m the expert on my wife.
My wife isn’t the same as you. You are both unique and both of you have different characters, different pain thresholds, different emotional states, different environments.
So the best source of information he will ever get is from you.
He won’t find any better. You know your body better than any specialist.
So again, he needs to learn to listen to you. Period.
3. Your husband has to educate himself about your illness.
I still learn about my wife’s endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and its impact on her mental health.
Every day is different, I learn something new.
When my wife wakes up, she gets up and the cycle begins.
The cycle of thinking about the future she can’t predict, thinking about the past she can’t come back to, and thinking about now that she tries to control.
All three equally affect how she perceives pain.
Aside from reading books or articles like this one, I’ve learned from experience how stress impacts pain and vice versa.
I’ve learned that all chronic illnesses originate from childhood trauma, my wife included.
If you would like to learn more about it, I urge you to read the book “When the Body Says No – The Cost of Hidden Stress” written by Dr. Gabor Maté.
Personally, I’ve learned from watching my wife over the years what anxiety and depression are.
Both of them affect her chronic conditions, and in return, chronic pain affects how she feels.
Living with chronic pain brings a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. In time depression is inevitable.
Anxiety is simply thinking about the future that you cannot predict. Even though you can’t see the future, constant worrying and thinking about it makes you eventually believe that it’s real.
Depression works in a similar way. You think about the past you cannot change. But thinking enough times begin to blend with your reality.
Tell your husband that over time he’ll gain experience and life will become easier…
4. Your hubby needs to do some of your chores because even the little things aren’t impossible to be accomplished when you have a flare-up.
But it must come from him, you cannot tell him to do it. If he decides to help you, it will have more meaning.
Of course, do nudge him now and then or he might not do it otherwise.
I remember times in the past when my wife had to ask me to do something because her pain was so unbearable she couldn’t move.
I did it, of course, every time she asked but what made a big difference was when I began to do it myself.
One day I read a blog post from a woman with endometriosis.
She explained how she felt when her husband cleaned the bathroom and prepared for her lovely, bubbly, filled with essential oils bath.
That was romantic, beautiful, helpful. He had no reason to do it, yet it came from him. She did not expect that from him and that was the very point.
I felt ashamed but at the same time pumped up. The same day I began doing stuff for my wife.
Unexpected, from the heart. It made her feel loved and thankful, benefiting me in the long run. Our marriage blossoms to this day.
The little things matter.
5. He should try and attend your appointments. I did, I still do it for my wife. They can vary…
It can be either – doctor appointments, CBT, online webinars, real-life group meetings, you name it.
If your husband attended even one of them you know what a huge help it would be for you.
Only when I accompanied my wife to the doctors did they begin to take her seriously listening to my story.
It only confirmed what she was going through.
Otherwise the usual happened – they blamed all her symptoms on stress and anxiety. Rubbish!
The reality was that anxiety and depression were the consequence of how she felt.
I also organized a meeting with my wife’s boss. When your man advocates for you, it makes your life better, and in return, his.
That brings me to another point…
6. He should advocate for you at the hospital, GP’s, work, etc.
When a man is present by your side, other male doctors and bosses take you more seriously.
Unfortunately, the world still isn’t fair.
Women aren’t treated equally as they should. I strongly disagree with that and fight against it to help my wife.
If your husband doesn’t understand chronic illness it’s because he doesn’t get involved enough.
He needs to remember why he married you in the first place. What made him want you, what makes him love you.
Chronic illness doesn’t define a woman. You may have a chronic illness, but you haven’t chosen this.
You suffer, he doesn’t. He should try and get involved more. By advocating for you he’ll learn more about your condition.
7. Patience is a virtue. He needs to be patient, no matter what.
There will be difficult times along the way. You both may have experienced this already. But that’s life.
There’s no rush. I know he tries to fix your health but a chronic illness by the very definition is chronic, long-lasting.
He cannot fix you, you aren’t broken!
You have an illness that causes you various symptoms such as pain, fatigue, brain fog, confusion, anxiety, depression.
Your husband needs to be patient. Things do get better. It’s about finding what works and what doesn’t, what triggers your flare-ups, and what helps them disappear.
In a nutshell, it takes time.
So here’s a quick recap of what needs to be done if your husband doesn’t understand chronic illness.
He has to try harder to:
- Believe you!
- He needs to listen to you.
- Educate himself about your illness.
- Do some of your chores for you.
- Attend your appointments.
- Advocate for you.
- Be patient, no matter what.
Wishing you both well, I hope you found this post helpful.
See you at the next one!
Hi, I’m Lucjan! The reason why I decided to create this blog was my beautiful wife, who experienced a lot of pain in life, but also the lack of information about endometriosis and fibromyalgia for men…