As a married woman, the first thing I do is introduce my husband to people when we’re at functions or gatherings, and vice versa. At the last For Grace “Women in Pain” conference I attended, where I was honored to be a part of the panel, I saw something I didn’t expect to see.
I was incredibly nervous and — as in my previous speaking engagements — my husband Alan accompanied me. Not only for moral support but because he’s proud of me for having the courage to talk about my experiences, battles, triumphs, and losses.
But after the conference was over we were able to visit with some of the ladies who also brought their husbands along. The husbands struck up a conversation with Alan while I talked with the other wives, but I still tried to listen in on the men’s conversation, curious to know if they were going to be applauding our journey or complaining about it.
What I heard surprised me. The other men were telling my husband that he should be proud of me, because what I was doing was amazing and not everyone could get up there and be so open about their experiences.
They gave him their phone numbers and said if he ever needed to talk they would listen, because it’s tough having to deal with everything. As men they want to fix things and when they realized they couldn’t fix their own wives they felt like failures.
These men were opening my eyes to something completely new. I’ve always given my husband all the credit in the world for everything he does for our family, but I never thought about how my being sick affects him. I only thought about how it must affect our daughters and how I have to hide it from them so they don’t see the pain in my eyes and feel like their mommy is broken.
I noticed a difference in my husband that day, almost as if he needed to hear that other men went through what he goes through and they are getting by, one day at a time. None of them said it was easy or that it was just a phase. They even told us about their experience with disability and how they waited 3 years to win their appeal (we’ve been waiting for almost 2 years). But that’s what I liked about them, they didn’t give us false hope. What they gave us was their support and a genuine desire for friendship.
Often times our spouses get forgotten, whether it’s a wife or husband of a pain sufferer. In my experience from being at my doctor’s office on a weekly basis it’s usually filled with female patients and the only males I see are the husbands who are there accompanying them.
According to the Lupus Foundation, 90% of individuals affected by lupus are women. The Arthritis Foundation states that 70-80% of people affected by rheumatoid arthritis are also women. And about 80-90% of fibromyalgia sufferers are women, too
All spouses, family members and friends would benefit tremendously from forming a “club” or support group. Because it will not only help them cope and lean on each other, but in turn they will be better equipped in helping us pain sufferers as well.
It always helps when you find someone who’s going through the same struggles you are going through. You form a bond and it doesn’t always have to be about the “situation” your spouse or partner is in. Sometimes just having someone to talk to can help you get through a tough day.
(Editor’s note: According to our Women in Pain survey, nearly 9 out of 10 women with chronic pain who are married said their husband was always (45%) or usually (44%) supportive of them. Only 11% said their husbands were never or rarely supportive.)
Arlene Grau lives in southern California. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, migraine, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s disease.
The information in this column is not intended to be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or tr toeatment. Only your doctor can do that! It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s personal experiences and opinions alone. It does not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report or Microcast Media.