As a Sandwiched Boomer, when you are counting on the support of your partner to cope with a serious illness, the barriers to straight talk that emerge may surprise you. Understanding what motivates your husband may make it easier for you to initiate more frankness into your conversations. Yesterday we outlined several possible grounds for difficulty; today we discuss two more.
Not surprisingly, your spouse is unable to fully comprehend what your illness is causing you to give up – feelings of control and invulnerability, your self-identity as a well person or expectations of a disease-free future. Consequently he may expect that you will be over your upsetting emotions sooner than you are. It’s up to you to explain to him the depth of your losses, both present and future.
It may help to think about how you would react to a decline in your partner’s well being, were the tables turned. It could easily threaten your sense of stability and change the role you play in your marriage. Blaire found herself pulling away from her husband in fear and anger. “Since my husband’s heart attack I hold back on love. It’s self-protective. He’s not taking care of himself – he won’t lose weight or stop smoking. I’m afraid I’ll lose him to an early death.”
Facing a serious illness together leads to a complex set of reactions by both. This makes it even more important for you to reveal your feelings to each other, openly and honestly. As you begin to accept the difficulties in your conversations, you will also become aware of the positives that accompany the health challenges you have met together. Coping with a major disease often leads to a new perspective – with a greater appreciation of the preciousness of life – and a sense of increased intimacy with your partner. As you continue to move forward, your emotional closeness will be reflected in the deeper conversations that you share.