As Baby Boomers continue to age, the rise in incidence of serious illness affects nearly every family – especially if you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation. When you or your spouse develops cancer, heart disease, stroke or another chronic illness, it can change every aspect of your lives together. How to talk meaningfully with each other about the situation is a common concern. Do you wonder how to have deeper and more meaningful conversations with your spouse after such a serious illness?

Dialoging with your partner in the midst of a health crisis often reflects rather typical differences between men and women – particularly in what they want from each other. Whereas a woman may need to be heard and understood, a man may be intent on finding a solution to the problem. The result is that, even though your partner wants to be supportive when you are sick, you may be surprised to find that it is difficult for him to talk with you about your deepest thoughts and worries. This can lead to conversations that are not authentic and that make you feel your emotions are being discounted.

After her surgery for ovarian cancer, Ella thought that her partner acted in ways that downplayed her anxiety and angst. Intellectually she knew that the operation had gone well and her prognosis was good. But she was depressed and needed to express her negative feelings. If she was going to feel better, she knew that she had to begin dealing with them. “He didn’t want to talk about my fears and even withdrew from his own emotions. It upset him when I felt scared or cried. All he could focus on was my being fine and us getting on with our lives.”

Serious illness can lead to unique struggles in your communications. In the next few days, we will consider possible reasons why you may be having trouble talking openly and honestly with your partner. You can then put these issues on the table so that you both can see what is going on.

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