My husband was told recently he may have MS. The symptoms have really taken a toll on him.. Lately, it seems as if all we do is argue. I love him and hate what's happening to him. How can I help?
Whenever there is a crisis or a trauma that enters into a marriage the potential for distance and conflict is high. When men experience an illness or a disease that threatens their ability to be a man it takes a powerful mental, emotional and spiritual. Much of a man’s identity is based on his able to do “manly” things. Provide, procreate and protect. When a man is less able to function as a man it can lead to a flood of emotions he doesn’t fully understand and doesn’t know how to express. Our culture says that if a man isn’t strong he isn’t really a man. Although we know that’s a myth it roots run deep in the minds of men and women. It’s normal for your husband to experience a wide ranger of painful emotions including fear, hurt and frustration and these are the core emotions that lead to anger.
Remember that both of you are still in the initial stages of dealing with this loss. Try to identify your own emotions. What are you feeling? This will help you as you interact with your husband. When your husband gets frustrated or angry look underneath that anger for hurt or fear. Instead of reacting to his emotions try “responding” to him with a sense of acceptance and love. A little gentleness is probably what you both need as you adapt to his illness. Sit with him when he is tired-depending upon his personality he may be comforted just by your presence-without much talking. You might ask him in one of his more tender times how you can best love him, what are ways that express love to him. Try to take time for yourself to rest, relax and rejuvenate you mind, body and spirit. Make sure you nurture your own support system. Talk with you female friends, go walking, listen to music, take time to read scripture that speaks of Gods love and grace for you. You heart will be calmed and strength will be restored.
We would also strongly encourage you to contact the local MS support group in your area. You will find men and women who are in the middle or have already gone through what you and your husband are experiencing. They probably have support groups available that will prove invaluable to you as you walk through the difficult valley. They can help you understand what “normal” looks like, what to expect, what kinds of community support and resources that are available to you, and perhaps even where to find the best care.
Finally, it is essential that you get a group of couples around you who agree to pray for you on a daily basis and with you on a regular basis. James tells us that “the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results” (NLB). We’re not being glib or “spiritualizing” when we continue to emphasize the power of prayer. It has transformed our own marriage and for over 30 years we’ve seen what prayer can do in the lives of many others.
Carrie Oliver, M.A., is an educator and a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver, Th.M., Ph.D. is executive director of The Center for Relationship Enrichment and Professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The Olivers have co-authored Raising Sons . . . and Loving It! (Zondervan). Visit Carrie and Gary at www.liferelationships.com.