talk bubblesI am sick today, fighting a chest infection, struggling to breathe… and I thought it would be a perfect muse for today’s post about marriage relationships.

Being sick is lousy and can be challenging for marriages. Rarely do spouses talk about how they want to be treated and cared for when they are sick until someone does it “wrong” and expectation, often unspoken are unmet.  It is a classic time for wanting your spouse to read your mind and know what you want or need without you having to ask.  I could tell you a story from clients* I have worked with, but a personal anecdote fits even better.

As many of you know, I am a cancer survivor and I have battled with debilitating chronic illness for 10 years. In the last year, I have begun to string together more well days than sick days, thanks to some very good doctors, naturopaths and supplements.  But, then there are days like today, where my compromised immune system is overtaken and there is little to do but ride it out, snuggle on the couch with my puppy Bella. At least, I can get some reading done and lower the stack of books on my table!

My hubbie and I have already had tense words and sharp glances this morning. My being sick today is a huge inconvenience because when I am struggling to breathe, little else matters.  And rarely does this happen at a convenient time.  Schedules need to be shuffled, plans changed and this level of illness is usually accompanied by steroids, moods swings and struggle on my part to accept the reality and just get through it.  In times like these, I wish I was more pragmatic like my hubbie.  He is steady and even keel no matter what he is dealing with…me on the hand, not so much.  I am a feeler, a great trait for a counselor/coach- but not for being level headed and rational while sick. I feel more like the toddle on the verge of a tantrum…this is not what I wanted for today!!     And in the midst of feeling lousy, I wanted him to read my mind and know I needed some extra TLC.  He was headed out the door for a meeting… Recipe for tension!

Can you relate? Think of a time when you were sick. How did you want to be treated taken care of and did your spouse or significant other know your preferences?  Are you the “dote on me” or “just leave me alone” kind of patient?  What about your spouse?  And more importantly have you actually talked about it?

Unspoken expectations are often at the root of many marital disagreements. One thing hubbie and I have learned, through much trial and error, is to be willing to ask for what we need from each other when we are sick.  As the one who is sick more often, I have learned that he can’t read my mind!  I need to ask specifically for some extra TLC or some space and help depending in what I need at the time.

Read the fine print: As one wise woman once said “askin ain’t gettin” so we need to be prepared that our needs may not be met at the moment we want them to be.

mom is sickLife presses in, kids need to get to school, work beckons and usually the list is longer than the day.  Juggling, shuffling and reworking the schedule is easier and goes far more smoothly of we are clear about our desires, needs and yes even expectations.  I encourage you to have a “when I am sick/not feeling well conversation” at a time when both of you are healthy and the energy behind the requests are less urgent.  This usually goes far better than when discussed in the moment when we are feeling lousy and emotions are high.

Being open and honest plus a whole lot of patience and grace really helps!!  Just a few thoughts to help you (and me) have good relationships in the midst of tough days.

How do you handle being sick? Do you and your spouse talk about your desires, hopes and needs when you are sick?  How do you deal with being disappointed when they are not met? 

Any words of advice or tips that have worked for you in the past?

*to honor privacy:  client stories are never about one specific client, but an amalgamation of many clients I have seen though the years.

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