When ill, we are less self-confident; the situation is worse if the disease deeply affects our appearance and our femininity. As a result, the relationship with our partner is in serious danger. Some women shut themselves away, other ones wholly depend on the partner, or get very aggressive. Restoring a state of balance and serenity is hard work, but some consideration may help with the matter.
Let’s be honest- we always want our partners to understand us at once. We think that they “must” know what we feel when we are in trouble even if we don’t speak. We want them to put in our shoes, to empathize with us all the time. We suffer a lot if they don’t recognize the psychological complexities of the situation we are experiencing. We are disappointed when their words can’t reassure us. Why don’t they understand we feel so desperate for our appearance? Why do they get annoyed with our sudden change in mood? We may spend hours and hours on speaking about our feelings with our friends, but we ask our partner for an “a priori” understanding. We often ask ourselves: “Why can’t he understand what I need?”.
We complain and we get resentful and disheartened; eventually, we blow out and attack him fiercely. And here, we become angrier and angrier because we realize that he hasn’t noticed we were feeling so badly. The first piece of advice is quite banal: we have to learn to communicate with him. He is not in our mind, he doesn’t have any telepathic skills, and most of all, although he can’t understand you at once, he still loves us. We have to be humble- if we want understanding and compassion we must speak and ask for help. Being in an ill woman’s shoes is not easy at all for a man who has a different body, and, most of all has a wholly different concept of it.
Culturally, men are less used to dealing with emotions and their emotional language may not be as complex as the female one. They may be very sensitive, yet they may find it difficult to express their inner-self. Often, they don’t use any words, but they take care of us, they are loving and caring. If we think they don’t understand us, we have to speak with them- we have to explain how bad we feel, tell them what we need, and what they have to do to help us.
A lot of couples start a therapy when they are can’t bear the above mentioned psychological dynamics; they are exhausted because they have been fighting for long time. They keep on accusing each other, they don’t communicate, they just argue: the woman tells she feels neglected, the man that he is criticized all the time. Who is right? This is the only useful question to answer to favor a new development of the couple; looking for the “culprit” will end in failure.
First of all, change your attitude: the key point is that you have to express your emotions and you have to learn to argue, as well: it means to understand that you are not one against the other, but you are a couple, you are together. What does “a good argument” mean? The charge to the partner: “You always do like this and you never do that? is an example of bad argument. “This makes me feel bad” is an example of good argument. Charges keep the war alive (it leaves corpse behind; often we say something we repent of, but we can’t erase), whereas sharing our sufferings with him means we are looking for attention, consolation and help. It is a gentle way to tell him we rely on his care and it favors mutual cooperation: the couple gets stronger and healthier.
Don’t tell him: “You are wrong”, but: “I am not well, take care of me, please”. Your partner will feel closer to you. And he won’t have to defend himself from any charges, he won’t bring up all the efforts he has made. On the other hand, if I speak about myself, I don’t want to look for the ultimate truth, but I want to tell him I trust him, and I think he will understand me and my point of view. I know he will take care of me because he loves me and he is interested in what I am experiencing. This is the ultimate truth in a couple’s life: tell how you feel because he just want you to feel better. This is true for both of you.
Something very meaningful may affect the couple’s balance during the disease. When a moment of crisis occurs (and the disease is a very critical moment in someone’s life), projecting negative feeling out of our inner-self may be an easy way of defense from the fear and the anguish. So, the partner becomes a sort of scapegoat: I throw all my dissatisfaction, disappointment, sadness of the disease on him in order not to feel an inadequate and second-rate woman- I try to reassure myself and safeguard my self-esteem, as I convince myself that he is the problem. It is a way to go back to normal, to deny the disease. The conflict which breaks out in the couple, hides all the anger, and the frustration of the diagnosis. It hides the fear as well- the fear of losing the partner and his love, the fear of being alone while he may start a new life with another healthy “perfect” woman. That’s why a lot of women who suffer from PCOS become enraged and denigrate their partners.
A short (individual or couple) psychotherapy may be very helpful to break through this dangerous block by learning how to communicate without conflicts and how to express needs and requests. The man will be able to translate and understand his partner’s inner world without being criticized. A new balance has to be restored along with a new intimacy, not to feel alone any more.