Living With Someone Who Has Ra

Question

Asked by Rachel

Living With Someone Who Has Ra

My husband has RA. He is mad at the world and feeling sorry for himself. He is vey hard to be around at times and is very depressed. Does anyone have any advice on the best way to deal with this? I want to help, but don't know how. I ask if he is okay and what I can do to help and he snaps at me. I have learned to stay away and not talk at all, which is very unhealthy. Has anyone experienced this before? What can I do to make things easier for him? Thanks so much.

Answer

You don't mention how long your husband has had the disease, but if he's fairly newly diagnosed, his emotions are normal. Not pleasant for the people around him, but normal. You might want to check out our section for people who are newly diagnosed, which has a number of posts dealing with different aspects of having the disease, including how it can affect relationships. But back to his moods. Getting this diagnose means you need to grieve the death of health just as you grieve the loss of someone you love and it may help you to read material on the stages of grief developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (shock, denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance),. It's also normal to get in and out of these stages throughout your life and when you have a chronic disease, every time there's another loss of ability or another flare, you go through the whole process again. And then there's the thing men have about being strong, the provider, etc., where illness becomes weakness and therefore an assault on their masculinity. I don't pretend to quite understand that, but it's something I've seen over and over again.

Depending on how long you've tried to reach your husband and have been rebuffed, you may also try blunt honesty. Chronic illness takes a toll on a relationship and can be a contributing factor to divorce. Clearly your relationship has been affected already and you may want to put your foot down, telling him that you're a team, but you can't be a team unless he starts talking, that you're there for him, remind him that you have a history together that means you can face this together - and that it's far better to do it together than alone - and tell him you're concerned about the impact his grief is having on your marriage. Obviously, it's a bit of a balancing act to put your foot down, yet not give him an ultimatum - because ultimatums never work - but perhaps it's time to remind him (and yourself) that there is a marriage there that needs attention, too. Besides, things can get to be too much about the disease, so it becomes just about pain, illness, doctors' appointments, sadness and depression and getting to a place where you and he can get to feel normal as husband and wife together can be a big help. When's the last time the two of you went out to a nice dinner together? Or see a movie? Or laughed together until you couldn't breathe at something one of your children or pets did? Or danced in the living room?

Counseling would be a good idea, but your husband may not be too receptive to that. That doesn't mean that you can't go, however - you're probably having a reaction to this, as well and it might be beneficial for you to talk to someone about it. There are two of you in this team and in many ways, you have the disease, too. It may be a good idea for you to get some counseling for yourself if your husband is not ready for the two of you to go together - try talking to your doctor about the issue or if you belong to a church, talk to your minister. The Arthritis Foundation may be able to point you to resources in your area, such as support groups or your husband might find help online. RA hits women more often than men, which means most places, including this site, can be a bit estrogen heavy, but there've been a couple recent posts from one of our male users, Booboo711, on RA and being a man who has RA (his posts are here and here). Your husband might enjoy those and perhaps consider sending Booboo711 a message to start reaching out. Talking to other people who have the disease is an important aspect of starting to move out of the misery in your head. As well, you might want to check out HealthCentral's Chronic Pain site which has several high profile male posters and if you go to Yahoo groups and do a search for "men rheumatoid arthritis" it appears that there are several groups talking about chronic pain, which naturally includes rheumatoid arthritis. There may also be groups they are for spouses of people who have chronic pain who might be able to help you with some of the issues you face.