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 toll. Much of a man’s identity is based on his ability 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, its’ roots run deep in the minds of men and women. It’s normal for your husband to experience a wide range 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 your mind, body, and spirit. Make sure you nurture your own support system. Talk with your female friends, go walking, listen to music, take time to read scripture that speaks of God’s love and grace for you. Your 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.