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Even If It's Not Chronic, I Want My Husband to Tell Me About His Pain

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Sometimes my husband takes my breath away. It’s not the sweet nothings he whispers in my ear (although that will do it too). It’s not flowers or chocolates that he (hypothetically) brings me. It’s not even when he does things around the house to keep it running and gives me a rest. You thought I was going to say that last one was it, right? Well, you probably did if you have chronic pain.

What takes my breath away is when he gives me glimpses into why he does all that. Why he is happy to help and run errands with me, go to doctors appointments, cook dinner, do laundry and work hard at his new job. It’s because he sees my chronic illness, especially my chronic pain, better than anyone. Many times, better than me.

This morning we were sitting at Starbucks. He was downloading updates on his computer. I was keeping an eye on my downloads while filling out an application for vocational rehabilitation to help me get hearing aids. Mostly we were chatting with each other about the randomness of life, appreciating that we truly are each other’s best friend.

He was showing me why his new wireless mouse was so ergonomically superior. I was teasing him about… oh… everything, while also taking the time to let him know that even though I tease his gaming, I actually do pay attention to his exciting finds, that I totally agree how ergonomic his mouse is, and explain that I know how a mouse like that is a vital tool not just for his gaming, but for general use of his computer. Then he tries to sell me on getting one, and I roll my eyes and talk about how much I love Apple’s trackpads.

In the middle of telling me about his coworkers, and his plans to do some construction to his work apparel, he started to mention how his shoulder pain he had been coming home with had decreased. But then he told me how he dealt with it even when it was more severe. He told me that when his shoulder hurt and he started to complain he would stop and think, “At least it’s just my shoulder. At least it’s not my entire body, like Julia’s.” I had to just squeeze his hand, look at him a second longer than necessary, and go back to listening to Taylor Swift so that I could contain my tears in the middle of Starbucks on a busy Saturday morning.

This was not the first time he had said something like that. Almost any time he starts to complain about a headache or anything, I don’t even get a chance to respond before he interrupts his complaint to put it into perspective. I want him to complain! Where his pain is in relation to mine is not ever important. Pain is pain, and it’s relative to ourselves, not what we witness in others. Any chronic pain patient will tell you that their pain threshold is much higher than normal. But we also appreciate that if you are not used to pain, then the pain causing you to complain is bad enough to take notice. If the world was relative to us, it would be a sad state of affairs indeed.

I never want to hog the spotlight in my marriage. I do not come home at the end of the day to hear about what happened in his to try and one up him. I wouldn’t be married very long if I did. I want to hear his complaints, be they physical or emotional, and try to be the one that can help him through it.

What struck me this morning, and indeed any time I thank him for really picking up the slack around our house and life and carrying it around for me, was the way I got to see the way he sees me. In and out of every day, I have pain and fatigue as my constant companions. If I give them the time of day I would never get anything done. I am still in the mindset that I was in for years before my diagnosis, that I’m not feeling any pain. That twinge was in my imagination. I might feel tired today, but I got nine hours of sleep, so really I’m fine. Can you hear Dory in the background? “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” Or if you are of my generation or older, the thoughts have always been, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” I am still trying to realize at my doctor’s appointments if it’s uncomfortable when the doctor squeezes a joint, that it is pain. I always thought it’s uncomfortable, sure, but before it was pressure – not pain.

If I let myself stop and think about the individual symptoms, and that means the individual locations of pain or the exhaustion or whatever, I will get overwhelmed and give up. I will not be able to get out of bed if I’m completely focused on, “What hurts this morning? That shoulder? Yeah, that’s my trick shoulder. The one that started it all. And how about that knee? But is that new arthritis pain, or is that the arthritis pain from dancing years ago that you had two surgeries for? And that general feeling of uncomfortable running up and down the entirety of both legs? That’s probably fibromyalgia. Nerve pain. Nothing can be done about that. Yeah, I can’t let my feet even touch the floor this morning because it’s just so hard!”

It’s OK that I don’t dwell on all that. It gets me through all the errands I have to do and places I have to be. Maybe not all of them as quickly as they should be, but slow and steady wins the race, right? It’s OK though, because I won’t get overwhelmed by all this pain and fatigue in the background. I won’t get overwhelmed because my husband acknowledges it for me.

He sees the hard work I put in, and he sees how it wears me down at the end of the day. He won’t dwell on it, but he’ll let me vent. Then he’ll say an off-handed comment that tells me he sees my exhaustion and validates my pain. That’s when he offers to pick up the slack, to make whatever I want for dinner while I unwind. I’ll look at him starry eyed and tell him that I can’t believe I have such an amazing guy as my husband, and how I appreciates that he does so much for me. He’ll smile at me and say, “You do more for me than you know. So, do you want me to make you that shrimp scampi?” That’s when I know it’s OK for me to let him do those day-to-day things in the house, and I tease him with, “Make it with more garlic this time!”

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Thinkstock Image By: MarinkaG

Originally published: July 5, 2017
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