Men and compassion for sick wives


**As many of you know I suffer with Fibromyalgia. From belonging to several support groups (both online and in real life) I have made a very sad observation. A huge percentage of the women are divorced (with the husbands being the ones who left) and many of the others live with husbands who are not supportive or understanding of their illness at all. Some are downright cruel.

I know that fibromyalgia is a difficult illness to understand (even after almost 20 years of having it myself I still don’t fully understand it) but shouldn’t our spouse be the one person in the world we can count on for compassion and support?

So my question is for the men here at CAF… actually several questions. First off, do you have a chronically ill wife? Do you think you show her compassion and understanding? If you don’t (have a sick wife), how do you think you would react if you did? How do you treat your wife now when she has something simple like a cold or flu? What about a surgery?

In my own life I struggle with my husband not understanding my illness. But he is better than most of the husbands of the other women I know. I don’t know what else I can do, after 9 years, to help him be more compassionate and really “get” what I go through on a daily basis. I need advice from the other husbands out there!!!

Any ladies out there who want to reply please do… I know there are a few other fibro and CFS sufferers here and if you want to talk about your husband and his support (or lack of) that would be great too.


Ahhh an interesting post.

First, I will add my prayers for those suffering with a chronic illness and for you as well.

I got married a few months ago and our wonderful priest made a comment when he met with us the week of our wedding. It concerned the number of divorces initiated by men caring for sick women vs women caring for sick men. He said the divorce rate was higher with the men.

Now of course he had no facts to back up his claim - so let’s not be asking me to provide my sources y’all. :smiley:

But an interesting conversation all the same.


**Don’t worry, I won’t make you cite links and statistics… I think just a look at society in general will prove that you are right, or rather that your priest is right. Now, I wonder if something very obvious and well known (like becoming paralyzed or having cancer) is easier for men to deal with than something “invisible” like fibromylagia?

And thank you for your prayers.


Well, my father pokes fun at my mother to this day about her chronic illnesses, fibro, pseudo tumor cerebri, and many many after effects of steroid treatment, a whopping 15 YEARS after they have divorced and she has remarried.

“It’s all in her head. She’s a hypochondriac. She just wants attention. She’s lazy.”

Never mind that we all said our final goodbyes to mom more than a few times. It’s hard to fake being that sick.

He never did ‘get it’.

My own husband left, (left the state went across the country without telling me where he was) for GOOD, when I was 2 months pregnant with our 3rd, and diagnosed with cervical cancer. He said he couldn’t deal with it. But then again he was mad when I was in labor with our first and it conflicted with the world series being on…then we got home with baby and he seemingly couldn’t eat or find clean clothes himself. He was more concerned with how he felt about the fact that I wasn’t feeling my best.

I see this kinda thing with friends too. The husbands seemingly can’t deal with sick wives. I’m not sure why…I’d love some male insight.

I have to say, its probably the single biggest discouraging factor for me considering remarriage. I know my husband was probably the extreme, but still…a woman needs someone to lean on. I don’t see that trait in a lot of men these days:shrug: Feel free to prove me wrong;)


A long-term illness can often make or break a relationship. It can either greatly increase that bond, or it can break it. A long term illness can often really change a person. Change the person, then you effectively change one person in the marriage. It may also put a large strain on the other person to increase care.

Granted, I’d say that is one problem with thinking a marriage is 50-50. It could very well swing all over the place. I think though, for those who it strengthens the bond, you will probably find the person who may on the harder end of the 75/25, finds great joy in that 75. For those who may break down undergoing that 75 may realize they may be putting in a lot of work for someone they don’t know.

Part of the problem I’d say is that divorce is easy, and the fortitude in sticking to marriage I don’t think is very high on the values associated with most people who get married (not that there isn’t that desire, it just isn’t something one is fully expecting.)

Personally I don’t have a wife, nor one with a chronic illness, but I do have chronic health problems myself with kidney disease. I’ve thought about the whole thing myself. I probably would be able to stick with my wife in that situation, but I’m in a bit of a special situation, I’ve gotten a perspective myself on the emotions that can creep up and an idea of what support entails. Of course, everyone is different, but at least I’ve frame of reference.


While I am a woman and a wife :), I am also disabled and get moreso every day.

I thank God each day for my husband and my son. They are a pair of compassionate men, who never complain when I need something - how many 17 year olds will happily put socks on mom? I can no longer reach to put socks on, DH ususally does it, but, he was gone the other day -so, DS just did it. It is those little things that mean so much.


**Thank you for sharing that… I have a friend with chronic kidney disease and I know how hard it can be. Prayers for you…

the one difference in my own personal situation is that I’ve been sick since my early teens. So my husband met me when I was already ill. Maybe a man who had been through health problems of his own or had shown compassion for a sick family member already should have been on my list of “what to look for in a husband”? I just pry that I can help my husband understand. I know it is hard on him. I know he has to shoulder a lot of the responsibility. But I bust my butt every single day to go above and beyond what I should be doing. I am already giving 110%… I honestly don’t know what more I could do besides miraculously get better:(**


So how do you think you got so lucky?:wink: What contributed to your husband’s compassion? Was it the way he was raised? His faith? Do you think it is because your disability is so visible? I already know why your son is so great… he has a great example in his father:)


Does the wife’s disposition play a part?

If the wife suffers w/ grace and dignity, is the husband more likely to be compassionate?

If the wife is a complainer, is the husband less likely to be compassionate?


I am married to a woman who has two serious medical issues. I would like to think I’m compassionate and helpful, but you’d probably have to ask her. I try and anticipate her needs and do what I can to allievate her pain. I make sure her medications are ordered and available before she runs out, I encourage our children to understand her issues and help out on days when she can’t do everything. I go to the doctor with her on “big” visits and always try and be there if she wants to talk.

She doesn’t want to talk, or share her feelings, and I try and respect that too. She doesn’t want to ask for help, she doesn’t want to seek more medical assitance and, even though I disagree, I respect her decision and support her.

Her illnesses have had huge impacts on my life as well, but I never bring that up; I just try and bear them as best as possible without adding to her suffering.

I would do so much more, but she pushes away in all aspects of our marriage. I feel helpless to do more and I am frustrated with my own lack of ability to help her.

Sometimes a chronic illness draws a couple together; sometimes it makes the healthy partner run away. These are well known. Sometimes, however, it makes the sick partner withdraw and seperate from the marriage - even if it is only in their attitude - and the healthy partner is left alone. That’s not what you were looking for, I suspect. You want only stories of men who are horrible and men who are remarkable. I’m not being negative here, that’s just how I read your request.

Sometimes, that’s not how life works, though.


Perhaps part of the problem in marriages is misunderstanding of what “support” really means.

I have had this miscommunication in my marriage at times. Women sometimes want support in the form of words, small kindnesses and affection. Men sometimes see support in the form of working, paying the bills, doing chores.

This is probably over-simplified and gender stereotyping but perhaps some problems stem from that?


Very much the way he was raised. My FIL is a fine man and his love for my MIL is something you can see, and DH was supportive and amazing when it came to the disability even before he was baptized or entered the Church.


Despite being only 43 I have a life threatening heart problem that causes intermittent extreme fatigue and means that I have to be very careful about activity and stress. My DH is wonderful, very caring and does a lot of cooking and housework when I’m not well. He will wash my hair for me, bring me breakfast in bed, treats me so well that I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve him. I think he’s actually an angel in disguise!! Apparently the last time I had a general anaesthetic I ‘raved’ about how wondeful he was to all the nurses and Drs! He was very embarassed!
I sometimes think (when I’m down - I also have an anxiety disorder and depression) that one day he’ll get fed up and leave me, but really I know that the only thing that will separate us is death. He does get tired and stressed and I try to be as supportive and helpful as possible when I’m well. I also try not to complain, although I’m not always successful! Being around DH also means that I keep more of a grip on my emotions - epecially dealing with depression and am less likely to give in to ‘self pity’ as a result - I also take my medication and look after myself to keep well. Reading Elizabeth Leseur’s My Spirit Rejoices has also helped me. She was a Catholic married to an atheist who endured her ill health with such fortitude and faith that after her death her husband converted and became a Priest. Inspirational!


I’m not real familiar with this disease but it sounds, while not life threatening, like it could be a real damper on a marriage. I’ll say a prayer for both you and your family.

I’m married with 3 sons and 1 on the way… don’t know the sex of the 4th yet though. My wife has a chronic problem with her voice in that sometimes it just won’t work (the guy who draws Dilbert has the same problem). I’ve worked to be very compassionate about it but there are times I admit it’s difficult. Not because I can’t understand her, that is never a problem, but because of the Psychological and Self Assurance problems it causes from time to time. She is very creative, has taught at the college level and don’t presentations at work… she can’t do that well anymore and it truly gets her down often. Not to the point of depression or anything, but listening to the same complaints when you are tried yourself sometimes requires great strength to show your love rather than your frustration.

As a former counselor I believe I’m much more compassionate than most and have been told that by many people over and over… and I still find it difficult at times so it’s not easy.

That being said though she is my wife, I took a Oath before God. I pray that we never have to experience what you guys are going through and I pray that if something like that did happen that He would give me the Grace and patience to deal with it because it’s His power that gives us the strength and love that we need.

As I said in another thread, Sacramental marriage isn’t 50/50, it’s 100/100… the total giving of yourself. Christ calls us to love our wives as He loves the Church - take a look at your Crucifix, He is calling us to nothing less than that. I and most of us fail at that quite often, but that should be our goal. It’s sad that more people don’t realize that. A major problem is of course our societal influences. When most of the people we know or are friends with tell us, well I couldn’t do that, I would just leave… sadly we often start to believe it.

I will end on one other point… there are times when the man is the compassionate one. My father in law’s second wife is cheating on him and has no desire to work on or fix the marriage nor to stop. He has taken care of her for years from multiple suicide attempts and other psychological issues. He is doing everything he can for the kids but she doesn’t care… I fully support him in a divorce and getting their kids. The extra sad part is that she is a Protestant Deacon…



Hi Malia;

The only personal experience I had, was watching how my dad treated my mom as a woman who dealt with chronic depression. His family told him to leave her on several occasions (this was told to me by my older sister after they passed away) and he always stuck by her. I don’t know looking back as a kid, if I understood compassion, but I definitely know saw my dad take care of my mom, from the home’s financial needs, to hiring a maid to tend the house. My sister’s resentment of my dad not ‘putting our mother away,’ was that she was often left taking care of me, in her teens…all too often. I think that my dad didn’t believe in divorce, he was a very conservative Italian Catholic man, and just believed that those vows are to be taken seriously that two people make to one another on their wedding day.

I think looking back, I admire him–and it was compassion that had to have kept him going, taking care of my mom. She never came to church with us, that I can remember…was often in bed most of the day…on occasion she would bake cookies with me, or take me swimming. But, for the most part, I spent time with my dad…I think that what his family thought was that my mom should have just snapped out of it. Like you say, depression, maybe like your illness, it’s often not understood, or met with as much compassion, as say someone with cancer.

I will keep you and your husband in my prayers, Malia. I guess my question to you is, if he met you when you were ill…did he show compassion then? I would imagine he did, otherwise you wouldn’t have married him. What do you think changed, over the years?


You might find reading about Borderline Personality Disorder helpful in understanding your Father in law’s second wife - not suggesting that’s what she has, but it sounds familiar in some ways.


I’d think that I’d be more worried that my wife would not be too compassionate for me were I to be gravely ill.

Seriously though, what’s with the “men are pigs” attitude I’ve been seeing on this board lately?


My hubby is the more compassionate one probably in our relationship. When I get the stomach flu he sits in the bathroom with me and rubs my back and holds my hair back. When he gets the stomach flu I don a mask, use loads of disenfecting hand wash and leave him alone in the bathroom (but I do fetch him gingerale and cool washcloths…)
I know that if I were to become chronically ill he would be a rock. He is just like that though. Totally giving and infinitely patient. Honestly, I so wish I were more like him.

On the other hand my Mom has fibro (although hers is not very severe, she has only occaisional flare ups and is fine most of the time). When she was diagnosed my Dad was not very understanding. He still isn’t really.

I think it probably depends on the person.


I am not married so I have no first-hand experience with general illness and how it’s dealt with much less chronic illness, but I have seen how society today has denegrated the role of men in relationships – I’m generalizing and in no means being case specific to any previous posts. But if you look at today’s society, men are not expected to be true gentlemen any longer – if they hold a door for a woman, they’re chastised, “I can hold my own door”; the feminist movement is constantly saying, “Women don’t need men. We can do it all ourselves”; et cetera. The men I have dated in the last several years have been prime examples of the denegration of men. It was a pure joy to find a truly honorable, Catholic man whom I have been dating since last year.

I know this isn’t an exact answer to the OP, but I think what’s happening in society is definitely filtering into how our men are being raised and therefore how they relate in a marriage. AGAIN, I’m generalizing.



My wife is the more caring one in our marriage. That said, she’s also the one with the chronic disease. She has Rheumatoid Arthritis.

The new drugs are great, but the fatigue really gets her down. I try to be compassionate. I have to remember to shift gears when she is sick - put her first, no matter what.

Are men just less nurturing? Less serving? I don’t know. If I asked her, she’d definitely say that I had a ways to go.

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