Husband/Wife Support - What Are Your Thoughts?

Updated on October 02, 2012
S.J. asks from Cherryville, MO
22 answers

So my husband and I have been going through a tough time due to nothing other than my health issues. We have a great marriage, he is a loyal, hard working, my best friend, etc. But he is TERRIBLE at dealing with anything emotional. He is hands down the worst listener ( I still love him, but it is true) I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. On a daily basis, I have IBS so bad I make many trips to the bathroom, I often feel lightheaded, stomach pains, etc. Yes, I have been tested for many years for many things, and there is nothing else causing this. But that isn't the reason for my post.....the reason I am detailing this is for you to understand what I feel like on a daily basis. Picture having the flu. That is me, every day, mixed with deep muscle pain and fatigue. Sounds fun right?!

So back to my question - my husband is horrible (he admits) at being supportive or even listening. If I even begin to discuss what I feel like that day or that I am angry at feeling sick all the time, he clams up and gets irritated. He says he feels "attacked" even though I am clearly not attacking him or angry at him. For example, today, I was crying and expressing frustration that I am so damn sick at work and it makes it hard to cope....he immediately got mad because I was angry. He keeps saying "I don't know what to do so I don't know why you are talking to me about it"

So, do I give up and seek support elsewhere, or do I force my husband to deal with this very real issue and learn how to support me? I feel as if I do all of the things he expects of me as a wife (ie cook all meals, clean, laundry, child rearing, ON TOP of working full time), so he should be able to do this for me, to an extent. I do realize it has to be hard for him to hear about it all the time. But I also feel as if he took on the role of my supporter when he married me, and I would do it IN A HEARTBEAT for him.


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So What Happened?

@ Sara G - OMG, I couldn't agree with you more. I have suggested so many websites and books to help. He just won't read them. He thinks it is "gay" and cliche stuff and "isn't him" - says it will be fake if he comes home acting like those websites say to. If I showed him this thread he would KILL me for talking about this with strangers.....and I know him, he would feel even more attacked by "all these women telling him he's a bad husband" - I know that is not what we are doing....he would just say that.

@ Nikki - Yes, I have told him repeatedly I just want him to listen. He doesn't get why talking about it helps, so he doesn't really want to hear about it anymore. He says "you are sick, talking about it does nothing", no matter how much I try to explain that talking about it DOES help me, it doesn't matter....

@ Marda - he also refuses marriage counseling.

@AV - I have tried that exact thing. Just asking for a hug. He gets very uncomfortable and really doesn't want to do it. He says it is odd for him and then he will just give me this odd pat on the back type hug. It is very clear he is not "really" hugging me....he is just doing it bc I asked and he feels odd. That is how awkward he is with emotional stuff. So in the end, it doesn't really help me becuase I am standing there like a lost puppy begging for a hug he clearly doesn't want to give.

Sorry if I rambled above.....I guess what I need to know is how to best get my husband to communicate with me about this and to be the support I so desperately need. How do you get your husband to be supportive when you are going through something like an illness?

Also, part of what frustrates me is that whenever he has had issues (ie ADD, etc) I have been his number one supporter. I make clear I will do anything and everything to help. I do not feel that in return. I don't really buy into the "that's just how men are" thing, as I believe everyone can figure it out....but how do I help him figure it out?

Featured Answers


answers from Detroit on

S., I am sorry and you know I love you, but it sounds like you are the only one in this relationship. :(
You deserve better than that. I hope you get to feeling better!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Men want to FIX things, women want to LISTEN. It's how we are wired for the most part. He is THERE for you, BUT he can't FIX the problem and it makes him feel useless and horrible (i.e. "attacked").

You can tell him how to "fix" the moment - like AV said. That may help him feel better and be better able to help you. Men just don't do "helpless" well, and if they can't fix it, they feel helpless.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

I think that rather than trying to change who he is, your limited time and energy would be better spent seeking support from people who understand you and can lift you up and make you feel better and validated, not more frustrated. Funny story - my mom went to a support group for chronic fatigue syndrome many years. It was run by a woman with CFS who was so fatigued that she'd drift off in the middle of a thought and forget what they were doing. So that wasn't a great experience but my mom at least got a good laugh out of it. My mom has fibromyalgia too and my dad, as good a man as he is, just doesn't get it. She doesn't expect him to - she sets her boundaries, sticks to her own physical, emotional and mental limits and seeks support elsewhere.

I really think that finding a circle of support near you specific to your health issues will give you the outlet that you need and will take the pressure off of your husband. Caring is a skill, and showing you care in a way that is meaningful to you is not a skill that he has. Accept this and find what you need elsewhere.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Some people are just not able to cope with other people's emotions.

Guys are usually fixers. Your husband doesn't know what to do with your anger, he can't fix it, and so he's frustrated. Which in turn comes out as 'mad'.

If you can, do find a good counselor in your area and start seeing them. You do have a lot on your plate, S.. (I have dealt with IBS too, and understand those days when it seems like there's nothing 'safe' to eat... and how draining and profoundly disappointing this is. I also have some other health issues (not fibromyalgia) which can compound this and add to the pain.) Your husband has his limits, and seeking support elsewhere would create some space in your relationship for other, better interactions with each other.

Sorry you're going through this. I know you can be there for him, and it's hard when you feel like he's not there for you. He is just not able to, so it's good that you are ready to get support from someone able to give it. Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

He wants to fix it, baby, let him fix it! you need less stress in your life. Ibs is a combo of the physical and mental stress. He needs to fix the stress in your life. Let him fix the meals, do some laundry and give some baths while you lay down after work. He can't give you emotional support, let's see how he feels about practical support. Unless I miss my guess, he doesn't want to do either. But let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

" Honey, I have thought of a way you can help my condition. I know you are not comfortable being my counselor. So I need time to decompress on my own after work and I need you to _______. It would help my stress level and give me some physical relief. I am also going to find a free counselor at a local church. I'll go there 1 night a week and you can watch the kids and get them ready for bed. I am glad we can find a way to really try to change the way I feel and we can communicate in different ways. I love you and I know you have always wanted to have a way to help."
How about that?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I would look for a support group as someone else said or tell him you understand he can't listen but then you need an outlet so he needs to give you xyz time a day or week for you to take care of yourself mentally. I'm a bit abnormal in terms of being more of a "fixer" too when it comes to medical issues. My husband seems to have them constantly - fortunately nothing horrible yet - but he is like the woman who wants to talk about it a lot and after years, I'm the guy and I don't anymore. You start to feel so powerless and it's not a fun conversation and while maybe unfair, I start to think also "what do you want me to do about it? I can't fix it!!" So maybe a support group, some time to yourself which I'm sure he'd take if the situation was reversed and then another idea is to set a time for 5 min a day when he listens. I read about that for married couples in general when one spouse wants to complain or unload. The time limit apparently really eases the burden on the listener bc they know it's going to end vs if they're sympathetic, think the the speaker will be encouraged and keep going on and on and there's no escape! Ask him for 5 min a day (or 10). And sorry you're going through this.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

He's a man. He wants to fix things. He can't fix this. Telling him about it reminds him that there is f*** all he can do about it and that probably makes him feel terrible.

That being said, he should buck up and listen to you when you are feeling all woe is me.

I think you should find support elsewhere and expect him to support you. Perhaps if every other need for support is fulfilled by someone else, then your husband will find it easier to be supportive.

Also, ask for help if you need it. If you would feel better if you could rest and he did the laundry then tell him that. That gives him something he can do to help you. He can be supportive through his actions. You can get emotional support by complaining to a friend or therapist or on an online support group.

Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Hazel, about guys being fixers, and probably everyone else has good insight too, I haven't had time to read them.

My husband is uncomfortable with emotion, and hasn't been there for me when I'm going through emotional trauma (which isn't that often), so I can relate. I really think there are times you just need to go to your female friends, most (not all, but most) males really are biologically emotionally different from females, and they just aren't good at dealing with these things. They just can't help it. So if all the other good things you said about him are true, it's not ultimately really fair to expect something from him he is just not hardwired to be able to give.

That being said, I think you can train them, a little to give you what you want. Ultimately, all you want is an arm around the shoulder, a little "I'm sorry you're going through this, honey" from him. It doesn't take that much, but guys don't understand that. However, if he's at all willing, you can force him to put his arm around you and say those two sentences, and literally train him to do it. He will see that it's not that bad, and not that hard. And even when you've have to train him to do it, it will still feel good to you once he does it. It will get a lot less uncomfortable to him once he gets used to it. It's behavioral training -- kind of like a dog.

Good luck with it, I feel your pain. I hope you start feeling better soon!!

p.s. Maybe you can p.m. some of the guys on this site and ask their advice.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

Two things come to mind -
I think AV is spot on - tell your husband what you need from him. Be it a hug, or the dishes done. Men don't do well when they feel helpless - directing them to tangible tasks helps them to help you.

Also, find yourself a support group - for yourself to connect with people who really do understand and can share what you are going through.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

LY S., sending you great strength and Super Human coping skills.

(Sorry no advice, hurts my heart to think of you hurting this way)


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Give him a fix. "DH, I need to get this out. And what I need from you is a hug at the end of it because it would make me feel emotionally supported." Sometimes men just need to know, or know "this is a vent. all I need is you to listen and not feel like you have to fix it."

I had to explain to DH that "I'm sorry" was a woman's way of sympathizing with someone. He was starting to take it as a bad thing and would get angry at me for trying to express sympathy for whatever he was dealing with. After we had some heated discussions I even said, "I'm....insert whatever expression of sympathy or empathy required here." Which made him laugh.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

He is one of those creatures who focuses on fixing things and does not know how to just listen and be supportive. This is typical of many men. I urge the two of you to get into counseling so that you can learn how to interact with each other.

I recommend learning Non-violent Communication. Here is their web site. Their is also a very good book.

Here is something that my daughter and I learned to do. We seemed to be arguing all the time. Now she tells me before she starts to talk that she just wants me to listen. Then I know to not try to fix whatever is bothering her. I've learned how to just listen.

At first this was difficult to do because I am by nature a fixer. With practice we both got better at letting our needs to known so that we could be supportive of each other.

Try, when you're not in need of support, talking with your husband about what you actually need. Sympathize with his need to fix things. Let him know that you know it's difficult to just hold you when you're in pain as you also tell him that is all that you need.

Perhaps practice when you're not so desperate feeling. Say, I'm feeling a bit sad right now. Would you just listen to me talk or would you just hold me. Tell him what you need when the pressure to have him do it isn't strong.

After your SWH. Sounds like your husband has some deep seated issues surrounding feelings. He needs some serious counseling. Go together to learn how to deal with this.

Part of why you're having so much emotional pain is that you think that he should be something that he's not. Work on accepting him as he is. Find other ways to feel support. Is he supportive in non-emotional ways? Does he help with the housework and the kids? Focus on what he does do. Ask him for help in specific non-emotional ways. Get emotional support from girl friends and family members. Find a support group. There are many fibromyalgia and IBS support groups.

You go into counseling to learn how to deal with fibromyalgia and IBS. Both are very painful illnesses and are also made worse by how we deal with life on an emotional level. You need professional support as much as you need your husband's emotional support. You must find a way to have support outside of your husband.

I'm not suggesting marriage counseling so much as personal counseling. You have two very painful illnesses. The counseling would focus on how each of you can deal with the illnesses and their effects.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I'm not sure your husband can or will change, unless he really wants to.
My husband's not as bad as yours, though like many men, he's not great at just hearing me vent. Men are more fixers than listeners, to them it's all about a solution, hence the "I don't want to hear about it because there's nothing I can do to change it" attitude.
This is why our girlfriends are SO important! We need other women in our lives for this very reason. When I need a shoulder to cry on I don't automatically go to my husband, I call my BFF, all listening, all sympathy, no judgement. When I dealt with the sickness and death of a very close family member last year my husband TRIED to be supportive, but it was my friends and other female family members that really helped me keep it together.
I think maybe the best way your husband could support you is by giving you a break sometimes. For example, I imagine something as simple as him taking care of the kids/dinner when you don't feel well, or even better taking them out for the day so you could have some quiet and rest would be VERY nice for you and he would feel like he's actually DOING something. Does that make sense?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Was there something unclear about "in sickness and in health"?
Just because your husband admits that he is not a good supportive listener does not excuse him from unexcusable behavior.
He needs to put on his big boy pants and he also needs to realize that this is NOT ABOUT HIM and whether he can "solve" your problem.
To answer your question, yes I think he should WANT to learn how to be a better more supportive husband. Like any skill, it can be learned if it doesn't come naturally. At the very least he could read some books about reflective listening and how to support someone with a chronic health issue.
You might want to let him know that if you can vent for say 20 minutes a day, the other 23 hours and 40 minutes will be a lot more peaceful. The alternative is to have stress and tension between you all the time, all because he can't listen.
He has the ability. Help him find it.
ETA Could you show him this thread? Maybe he needs to see in black and white just how unsupportive he is being. As suggestions are being made ie. counseling, books, support groups, etc, they are just as quickly getting shot down with a "He won't do that." I feel for you, I can only imagine that he shoots down your suggestions just as fast. You could ask him if there's ANYTHING he can imagine doing to be supportive. Baby steps, right? I'm so sorry you have to go through this essentially alone.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Hi S.,

I just was discussing something similar with my husband. I was angry and looking for emotional validation and he became defensive. He's very emotionally supportive and into psychology but oddly enough, he doesn't understand this topic. I found this short article I thought was relevant:

Maybe since it's more of an objective source he'd be open to reading it. Good luck to you!

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answers from Jacksonville on

I feel for you. Have you asked your Dr. or Nearby Hospital about a support grp for your illnesses, or even gone on line to see what might be out there in your area ? It's something both of you could really use, and hubby probably hasn't been faced with this kind of thing befroe ,so,..., he's not sure what he is supposed to do or say. Guys aren't necessarily the world's greatest at listening either, but, give him the benefit of the doubt.
He may very well feel bad for you but, doesn't know what to do to make it better. Have you tried asking him for help with anything around the house, helping more on bad days with the kids when he comes in from work, breaking the things that need to be done between both of you? Instead of you trying to be Super Mom all the time. I mean ,marraige is supposed to be a partnership,....., Just food for thought,.... C. S.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

I like the suggestions that you find a way for him to actually "fix" something to do with your situation.

Give him a tangible thing laundry, dinner (even if he orders pizza), check homework, put kids to bed...whatever...he will feel better that he is fixing it...

My husband knew I was dealing with anxiety...and he asked point blank what I was anxious about...when I told him he immediately started helping me with some exposure therapy to overcome the phobia. he needed to be able to work towards fixing it.

I talk with my girlfriends about the unfix-able stuff...just to vent...and save the stuff my husband can help me with for him...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I would recommend locating a support group and asking your husband to attend. Also, seeking some martial counseling, possibly for communication and support.

Ask him, if the shoe was on the other foot, how would he respond or what would he expect of you?

He might not understand the disease. Ask him for some patience and to be understanding. Get him a book about understanding, communication, fibromyalgia, being supportive husband.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

Men-oy. Hire an "ear", hubby can't fix you so he doesn't want to hear it. Take Laminaria Japonica (Kombu) for your tummy-I know this works-I have used it. Start hiring some help with the housework-maybe he'll perk up when he sees $175/week cost for the housekeeping alone. Do the children need tutors? That's another $75/hr +/-. a couple times a week. I hope the housekeeper cooks-otherwise you could be looking at a few hundred additional dollars/week-just for someone to be there on weeknights. I had a perforated colon and was puking and crying on the ground and my (soon-to-be-ex) husband had to wash out a paintbrush before he would take me to the hospital, where he did nothing to advocate for me. Let your husband see how much money is needed to do what you do-and you have got to , first and foremost, address your health issues-period-no excuses, you are of no help to anyone unless you're alive and thriving-take care and!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Joplin on

He is hurting deep down because he cant fix it. so he takes it out in anger. he is not mad at you he is mad that he cant help so why talk to him about it. my husband is loving caring great guy. but even when i am sick he doesnt know what to do. when the kids get sick he looks at me like what are you gonna do. lol. i really believe he is listening but just wants it all to go away. he loves you and doesnt want you sick

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

I would look for a fibromyaliga support group. If you can get him to go he would probably see a lot of men there also.

I call it the John Wayne Syndrom in men like your husband. A man has to do what a man has to do. And the ole boys club is the only place I feel comfortable. The whole attitude kinda pi$$es me off. They act like their little johnson is gonna fall of if they are empathic and listen without getting angry.

Instead of being so understanding about his lack of support it's time you made him see that being a loving husband is more than going to work and bringing home a paycheck. He needs to be supportive of how sick you feel and to help you when you need help. I hate ultimatums, but maybe it's time to tell him he needs to go to counseling with you because you need his understanding and empathy or you will be seeking that understanding and empathy from other people.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think the reason he does this is because he feels so badly that he can't do anything to relieve your suffering. I don't think it's necessarily anger but frustration over not being able to help you. The more you talk about it, the more he is reminded that he can't help you. He knows you feel awful; he doesn't need to hear it day in and day out. That's why he feels "attacked."

Try dealing with him with empathy, rather than anger.

1 mom found this helpful
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