As a Sandwiched Boomer, you may find that when you have faced a serious illness, your recovery can be easier when you have the support of family and friends. If you find that they have trouble talking with you about concerns and feelings, think about some of the reasons that these conversations are difficult. When you can identify and understand the bases of the problem, you can work to get past them. Here are some common causes of communication that is not open and honest:
Your spouse may be in denial about the seriousness of your condition because he himself needs to believe that everything will be ok. He is motivated to use this kind of coping strategy in an attempt to minimize his own sadness and fears, as well as yours. If he fails to admit the complexities to himself, he cannot discuss them frankly with you.
Naturally, it is painful for your partner to see you vulnerable and distressed. His reaction to this is generally to try to talk you out of your negative feelings in a misguided belief that, by being overly protective, he can take away your suffering. When he does not allow you to express your candid feelings, you may feel frustrated and misunderstood.
As in other circumstances, your husband wants to fix everything when you instead need him to listen and provide support as you unburden yourself. You can gently remind him that what you want is for him to be quiet and focus on really hearing what you have to say. Let him know that since you have professional caregivers who are working with you to solve particular problems and issues, you are not counting on him to do this.
Your partner feels threatened, fearing that he could lose you. When he sees how difficult the process is for you, he pulls back emotionally to protect himself and cover up his anxiety. Unfortunately this feels like rejection to you, further complicating your own emotional reaction.
The added responsibilities of taking care of you and the house in the midst of his worries about your health may be taking a toll. Feeling exhausted often overcomes caregivers and resentment builds. The challenges both of you are facing may lead to negative feelings, including anger and guilt.
Do any of these scenarios resonate for you? Tomorrow we will consider some more possible impediments to sincere and straightforward communication with your significant other.