Helping spouses and significant others understand
It’s a well known fact that men like to fix things.
When the women in their lives have a medical complaint, they feel it’s their duty to fix it – or at least offer a suggestion or two about how it should be fixed. After years of indoctrination, cajoling, and gentle encouragement, my husband still has a tendency to offer a quick fix when all I need is his understanding. Just last week, I told him I was hurting; his first response was, “Did you take something for it?” Nurture isn’t his nature, but most of the time, he can be coaxed into it. And that’s good enough for me.
How do we teach the men in our lives to be good nurturers? First, we need to tell them what we need (besides fixing). Something like, “I appreciate your suggestion, but what I really need right now is for you to put your arms around me and hold me.” I’ve found that if I give my husband something to do, he doesn’t feel as helpless. You can put your significant other to work by asking for a shoulder massage, showing him where to place his hand on your stomach to ease the pain, or requesting that he call out for dinner.
The trick in any close relationship is to keep talking, even when you don’t feel like it. My husband gives me a hard time when I don’t tell him what’s going on. He feels left out when I keep it all inside. I think a lot of us do that because endometriosis wears us out. We get so sick and tired of it, we’re absolutely certain those around us are also sick and tired of it. As a result, we sometimes put up a protective wall and stop communicating. Our loved ones don’t know why we’ve withdrawn. All they know is that, for whatever reason, we’ve cut them out of our lives. In our house, my self-imposed isolation has often resulted in a defensive and angry spouse. I might be the one who’s not feeling well physically, but I’ve wounded him emotionally. These days, when I need to withdraw from the world for a while, I tell him first. He takes it upon himself to screen my calls.
Like parents, spouses and significant others don’t want to see you in pain. They sometimes go to extreme lengths to avoid seeing you suffer. One friend’s husband dealt with it by denying the existence of endometriosis – hoping that if he didn’t learn about it, read about it, or talk about it, it wouldn’t be real. Her solution was to bring him to the endometriosis support group meetings. He soon learned that endometriosis was very, very real. Soon after, he began accompanying her to doctor’s appointments. Eventually, he became more empathetic and understanding.
Gentle, well-timed “education” can also help spouses and significant others understand the life-changing disease you’re dealing with. More about the educational process in a moment.