I always say I have the best husband ever. Today I'm having a hard time remembering why.
December 31, 2011 4:54 AM   Subscribe

Am I overreacting? I am emotionally fragile, recovering from a recent medical emergency, and I don't want my husband to be counting the hours he spends in our home office as time he spends with me. (somewhat long)

Am I wrong to be so angry with my husband? On the 27th I had emergency surgery because of an ectopic pregnancy. I wasn't aware that I was pregnant as my symptoms were not typical of pregnancy, but more like that of an ovarian cyst. We had an appointment to get an ultrasound on the 28th but the night of the 27th the pain in my abdomen became almost unbearable and we went to the emergency room. Once there, it was a series of discoveries. I found out I was pregnant, the ultrasound showed no egg in my uterus, they saw that I was bleeding inside, a surgeon was called to do an immediate laporoscopy.

I've been home for a couple of days now, and am surprised by how quickly my body is healing. I am able to walk around the house normally, and I have even been cooking, cleaning, and going out to do light errands. Because I was only bed ridden for about a day at home, and my appearance is normal, I feel like maybe my husband expects me to be totally fine, and he doesn't feel the need to put any extra effort into comforting me or helping me deal with the emotional repercussions of this experience. He has held me while I've cried, and he has been there, but there's also a kind of nonchalance to his attitude that makes me feel like he's moved on (and that's fine) and maybe he doesn't realize it will take me a bit longer. Really, I am only now just starting to process all of it, and I'm not finding it easy to navigate my feelings. My mood goes up and down and I have been crying at random times and I don't feel like seeing people because I feel as if they're seeing me naked or something. I just want to be at home and take it easy.

The night before last some friends had a dinner outing which we had been invited to a couple days prior, and initially (when in the hospital and on lots of drugs) I told him to go because I was trying to be generous and strong, and he's a much more social person than I am and really needs to go out regularly or he starts getting down. Yesterday, I felt differently, because I've been off of all the drugs and now a flood of emotions is always nearby and I don't feel good about being alone in the evening at home with this mess of intensity I'm feeling. I asked him to stay home and he said, "really?" (not in a rude way, he was asking sincerely). When I said I needed him, he was sweet about it and said of course he would stay. We ended up having a nice evening -- in which I cooked an iron rich dinner because I also found out I'm anemic -- and we watched a movie and cuddled on the couch. Just that proved to be extremely healing for me. It was just what I needed and I thanked him for it.

Last night he said he'd be home at a certain time and wasn't home until about two hours later, and I got a bit upset saying that I need him right now. I didn't stay mad for long and we had a nice enough evening.

This morning, when I asked my husband what the plans for the day was, I was ready to hear anything. If he'd said he had some work to do, that would have been fine, I was truly just asking. He said he was going to spend time with me so that later on I don't say that he didn't spend enough time with me, and give him a hard time about it. I know he has a busy week next week and is going to be coming home late and I guess he's trying to make up for it now by staying home? I felt very hurt by what he said, like he was just trying to cover his ass, and at the same time I'm struggling with a lot of guilt because of feelings of neediness right now. I don't feel terribly needy, but I feel a bit fragile and more sensitive emotionally than I normally do. I just need people to be gentle with me right now, and yeah, spending time with my husband would be nice but not if he doesn't want to spend time with me.

He has been working at his computer in our office now since he said that and I feel like he's counting the time he spends in the house as time spent with me. I've been in the kitchen listening to music and and cleaning up, and I found myself getting so angry as I was thinking about it all that I threw a vase and a plate, smashing them in the sink. I don't want to start the new year off with so much negativity. I quit smoking a few months ago and now I feel like buying cigarettes today. This is the first time I've actually had the urge to smoke. While most people are thinking of quitting bad habits, and looking forward to a better year than the last, I feel like I'm going downhill today and I don't know how to stop it.

Any advice on how to handle what I'm going through would be appreciated. I didn't really want to share such personal things on the green, but I here I am.
posted by seriousmoonlight to Human Relations (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Just let him see what you wrote here.
Also bear in mind you are dealing with hormonal upheaval and this will pass.
I am so sorry you had to go through this experience. It is very much a big deal for several reasons so don't diss yourself for taking it as such.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:09 AM on December 31, 2011 [18 favorites]

Maybe you're having an acute stress response (with loads of hormones like St. Alia said)? The whole situation sounds pretty traumatic and your brain is probably surging with adrenalin and you're physically and emotionally upset... and it probably doesn't take much to trigger the plate smashing anger and tears. Maybe try to accept where you're at right now, know that everything will be fine and ask for as much cuddling as you need to.
posted by misspony at 5:10 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Stop cooking and cleaning. If you're acting like everything is fine, he'll treat you that way. Let him handle to tasky stuff--in my experience, men like doing things more than just sitting and listening (your husband may be different, of course.). Let him take care of you--not the other way around.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:12 AM on December 31, 2011 [13 favorites]

Everyone processes their emotions differently. It sounds like you gain strength from cocooning, being at home, sharing quiet intimacy. Maybe your husband finds solace in friends, activity, busy-ness. It was your body and your physical trauma, to be sure, but the pregnancy and loss are his experience as well, and his needs have to be met too. You need to both talk honestly about what you are feeling and what you need from each other.

It sounds as though maybe there are some communication issues at play here that aren't necessarily about this surgery/pregnancy/loss.

This morning, when I asked my husband what the plans for the day was, I was ready to hear anything. If he'd said he had some work to do, that would have been fine, I was truly just asking.

If you felt as though you wanted him to be home all day with you, then why didn't you say so? You asked him to decide what the day would consist of and then were disappointed in his answer because you had a scenario in mind and his answer didn't match it. He cannot read your mind.

You may be sending mixed messages, too. Earlier you seemed ok with the idea that you were cooking & doing light errands while he was not by your side, and today you are resentful and angry that he is in another room while you are washing dishes. It's the same situation, but the feelings are very different. Without you talking directly to him, he may have no idea that you feel differently.

Any advice on how to handle what I'm going through would be appreciated.

Talk to your husband.
posted by headnsouth at 5:15 AM on December 31, 2011 [30 favorites]

I feel like he's counting the time he spends in the house as time spent with me.

I suspect it may be more that he considers this to be time when he is on-call for whatever you might need or want.

If you don't ask him for anything, he'll do whatever is next further down the priority list, such as doing some work via his computer.
If you ask him for something, he'll stop what he's doing and do his best to be there for you.

It sounds like he is making himself available, but he's not a mindreader - you'll have to tell him what you want.

(Also, I think that for many guys, Quality-Time Mode is something for happier days, and it gets outranked and overridden by Do-Something Mode during emergencies and difficult situations. So it wouldn't surprise me if Quality Time isn't naturally occurring to him in this situation because it was set in motion by emergency. He reacts by making himself more available to Do Something)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:06 AM on December 31, 2011 [22 favorites]

This morning, when I asked my husband what the plans for the day was, I was ready to hear anything. If he'd said he had some work to do, that would have been fine, I was truly just asking.

From the rest of you question, it sounds as if maybe you were actually waiting for him to ask you want you wanted, and then got frustrated when he didn't ask. That's why you broke the plate and the vase.

You are indeed sending a bit of a mixed message - from your husband's point of view, the conversation earlier probably seemed to go okay.
posted by carter at 6:07 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

You've gotten some good advice already, but I wanted to add that some of what's going on for you emotionally could be related to having had general anesthesia with your surgery (I'm assuming that they would use a general for that type of surgery).

I had general anesthesia for the first time a few years ago for a surgery that wasn't at all emotionally loaded and was shocked at how distressed I was for days afterward. Even with a local anesthetic it can take a while to shake off the adrenaline released under physical stress.

So yes, maybe you need to work on voicing your needs to your husband, but please also cut yourself a little slack -- you've been through a big thing physically as well as emotionally, no matter how quickly your body is healing.
posted by camyram at 6:28 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't mean to be glib, and maybe this makes me a bad husband too, but I honestly can't tell from your question what you need from him that he's not providing. And if I can't tell after you were so straightforward in writing, I'm betting he can't either.

Echoing that he's not a mind-reader; tell him what you need. If you're just upset that he's NOT upset, as you allude to, well... that conversation might not go so well. It sounds like he has and will continue to comfort you, and the earlier comment was born out of frustration.

So yeah. Talk to him. And realize that it's okay to overreact and be a little unreasonable after something like that. I'm sure he's not holding it against you, assuming that you'll do the same.
posted by supercres at 7:33 AM on December 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

You and he both have been through something very large and traumatic. You both need time to process it and deal with it. Your hormones are going to be crazy for a few months. That's just how it is. Sometimes, getting on the pill can help stabilize you. You may also want to consider anti-depressants for short term use.

You lost something. He also lost something. He nearly lost you. It might be helpful for him to talk to your doctor on his own and get reassurance that if he gets you pregnant again, you won't die.

Right now you are totally focused on yourself, which is perfectly natural. But if you continue trying to use him to fill all of your needs, you will drive him away. You will lose him. You cannot dictate how someone loves you. He is doing the best that he can and he is doing amazing compared to how many men would be.

Involve your friends and your family in this tragedy. Talk to husband about it first so he isn't blindsided and then let everyone know that you are going through a difficult time. Let others in to your life so that he isn't the only person you are depending on. You want to love him, not suffocate him.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by myselfasme at 7:56 AM on December 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

Can you vocalize to him *why* you feel you are needing his support and *what* you need from him in terms of support?

I'm probably in the minority here, but I am female (FWIW - no kids though) and I'm also not sure what you need from him. You had a scare, he was with you through it, you're okay now and he's giving you room to convalesce at your own pace. Whatever missing piece there is to fill in between that and what you need is up to you to provide.

Like, had you been trying to get pregnant, and it's difficult because you lost something you didn't know you had? Was there a point where you thought you were going to die, and that's why you need comforting? Are you the type of person who doesn't cope well with health issues, and need some extra support?

Honestly the tone of your post reads as pretty dramatic - is this how you normally are? If not, keep that in mind when interacting with people. "I'm not feeling myself lately" goes a long way to letting people know where you're coming from, and if you say something hurtful or omit to communicate something, it gives a heads up that there's something else going on with you.

But yeah, as the other commenters said, talk to your husband.
posted by AV at 8:13 AM on December 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would especially say that this:

He said he was going to spend time with me so that later on I don't say that he didn't spend enough time with me, and give him a hard time about it. I know he has a busy week next week and is going to be coming home late and I guess he's trying to make up for it now by staying home? I felt very hurt by what he said, like he was just trying to cover his ass, and at the same time I'm struggling with a lot of guilt because of feelings of neediness right now.

makes perfect sense and is not at all unreasonable of you. And I also suspect that your husband has no idea that saying this in this way made you feel bad. You should tell him! It is useful important information for him to have, and there is no reason why you should keep it to yourself.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:49 AM on December 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

It is possible for my husband to provide everything I need or want, and yet to leave me unsatisfied. When I am distressed, I need for him to understand my distress and share it; to be distressed with me and for me. Otherwise, I feel as if he doesn't care.
However, he is not me. And although that is obvious logically, it is very hard, emotionally, to let him be his own person.
Recognize his love and accept it.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:52 AM on December 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry for your loss. I've also suffered an unexpected ectopic pregnancy/miscarriage, and if you want to talk about it, feel free to message me. There's really no "right" way to react regardless of the circumstances, so please cut yourself some slack for feeling more fragile and needy, even unreasonable, after an event like this.

Everyone deals with something like this in a different way - my (former) partner took it much harder than I did, and it was hard for me to really get a handle on how to be there for him (and for him to be there for me). The two of you need to communicate how each of you is dealing or wants to deal with this, and then be understanding and compassionate and compromise if it's not the same - if he needs to stay busy and you need to be cuddled, then find the middle ground. Even in an extremely difficult time, each individual needs to be supported and comforted in their own way in the relationship. The first step is talking about it.
posted by sm1tten at 8:54 AM on December 31, 2011

It sounds like you want him to react to this in a certain way, and you feel hurt when he doesn't react the way you want or expect. And you can't just tell him how he's supposed to be reacting, because then it's not genuine and you feel like he's just doing it because he has to and not because he wants to.

Sometimes I fall into a similar pattern, but unfortunately I've found that that sort of thing is not a basis for good communication. And yet, a sweet gesture from your partner doesn't feel quite as sweet or loving if you had to tell him to do it. If you have to keep asking your parter outright to buy you flowers, it kind of feels like just buying yourself flowers after a while.

I've learned to just try to open up and really tell him what I want, even if it makes me feel needy. I have learned to be very specific. "Could you please come sit with me on the couch right now?" Or, "I have had a hard day and I could really use a fun night out, will you take me on a date?"

My husband wants to make me happy, but he is, alas, not a mind reader. I think our relationship is better now; he's less confused and I am happier, and we feel like we can pretty frankly discuss our needs. He is also a smart fellow, so since I ask him to do certain things pretty often, he has picked up on this and started doing some things just because, not because I asked him to. I grew up in a dysfunctional family so approaching things this way was really very...novel for me. It's still something I work on and find myself falling back into old habits. (And it does work both ways, he has his own peeves, requests, etc., that I accommodate and try to incorporate into my future habits and behavior.)

I think being specific is pretty important.

I'm sorry you've had such a rough time, and I agree that you certainly have licence to be shaken up and upset and fragile right now.
posted by Arethusa at 8:56 AM on December 31, 2011

Keep in mind that a couple days ago you were pregnant, now you are not. The hormones that were being released because of your pregnancy are now shutting down in this postpartum phase. I think you should talk to your doctor. This could be postpartum hormone adjustment affecting your emotions.

Also, you know that soup commercial where the woman calls the soup lady and says, "I can fit into my skinny jeans!" and the soup lady says, "Hooray", then another woman does the same thing, gets the soup man who says, "Okay", and then the woman asks to speak to another woman? I think women are emotionally different than men and reaching out to your female friends to deal with your post-surgery feelings of fragility would be helpful because they will be able to relate better. Developing emotional resilience is sometimes about asking the right person to help meet your needs and right now I suspect your girlfriends will be better at meeting those needs than your husband.
posted by eleslie at 9:23 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your comments. There is a lot of wisdom in all of your words and I've taken it to heart.

To clarify exactly what was upsetting: him saying that he was going to spend time with me so that I wouldn't say later on that he didn't. I took this as him meaning that I had given him a hard time earlier and he was going to make sure I wouldn't do that again. Not make sure I was okay. Not spend time with me because maybe I needed him, but make sure that I wouldn't have the right to get mad at him. It was hard to hear this because I already feel like I'm asking a lot of him every time I need him to comfort me, and I feel guilty about that.

I realize now that it's true I've been sending mixed messages. It's difficult because I've been so moody and sometimes I feel great and I feel like I'm almost back to normal, and then a few hours later I'm sobbing. I don't really know what to ask for except his understanding that I feel like a crazy person right now.

A bunch of you have mentioned husbands not being mind-readers. Thank you for the reminder. I am guilty of forgetting that more often than I'd like to admit.

Was there a point where you thought you were going to die, and that's why you need comforting? Are you the type of person who doesn't cope well with health issues, and need some extra support?

Honestly the tone of your post reads as pretty dramatic - is this how you normally are?

Very good points. Yes, yes, and sometimes admittedly, yes.

I've always had a fear of surgery (even having blood taken makes me uneasy) so I reacted very strongly when I was told I needed to have an operation. I basically had an anxiety attack (I have a history of anxiety disorder which has been under control for the past few years but I still struggle with it from time to time). Since I was freaking out and so adamantly rejecting the idea of having an emergency operation, the two doctors present (and my husband who happens to be an MD), all made sure I knew the gravity of the situation and said that it needed to happen within a few hours or it could be fatal. That convinced me to get on the table, and yeah, as far as me being dramatic, every moment leading up to the anesthesia I was thinking "I'm going to die". This is what I'm processing more than anything.

camyram, as far as general anesthesia causing stress on the body, I wasn't aware of that, but it makes sense.

Thank you all for your thoughts. I did talk to my husband and actually read him my post and the responses that were up so far. He admitted to not knowing what I wanted and said he felt like a bad husband. I didn't realize that he was struggling with not knowing what to do and that he is also dealing with stress from work and is trying to manage it all and keep things positive for the both of us.

It's hard to always remember how important communication is, but yes, that's what was needed and even though I thought we were communicating there was a lot being left out.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 9:28 AM on December 31, 2011 [12 favorites]

Good for you! :)
posted by carter at 9:49 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

General anaesthesia totally does a number on you, physically and psychologically. Pain meds, if you were taking any, do too. The rollercoaster of hormones, piles on. The shock of finding out you were pregnant and then were not, is also huge.

Your mood swings are totally normal. Feeling fragile and over-dramatic are, too. I had surgery last year, planned, non-traumatic, and was completely thrown for a loop by how emotionally debilitated I was after. I also have anxiety issues and suffer from depression, and it brought both of those to the fore.

It sounds like you might also be dealing with post traumatic stress. If you find over the next few weeks or months that you don't seem to be shaking it, it really is worth your while to look into therapy. Any time you are in a situation where you believe there is a real chance you could die, you are at risk for PTSD. Throw in a history of anxiety disorder and the risk is higher.

Anyway, all this to say that how you are feeling right now is totally NORMAL. Including sometimes feeling pretty great and sometimes feeling angry enough to smash things. You really do need to sit down with your husband and spell this all out to him, all the feelings. I wonder if the fact that he is an MD makes his approach to this very clinical: the physical stuff is over, therefore you are fine. In my experience MDs aren't so hot at the emotional and psychological stuff. He may be focused on the physical effects as a doctor looking at a patient and forgetting about the emotional aspect of his wife looking for support from her husband.
posted by looli at 10:57 AM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read up on miscarriage. You lost a baby. This is a big fucking deal. You are dealing with it totally normally.

It is OK for you to act however you want, to grieve for your loss. You seem like you are working really hard at trying to hold it all together. Honestly, it may be too soon even for that. You've gone back to regular life already (cleaning, cooking, etc). These things are comforting - I went to work too two days after my miscarriage because I was physically fine - but honestly I was dead inside and it took me months to get over it.

I even give you permission to be even more of a mess right now than you sound like you are. It is going to be hard for you for a long time. I don't think you will be able to stop sliding downhill for a while. When this is all fresh and new, it is OK to go down, stay home, be fragile. Go with it. Most women heal just fine after an angry loss period. Suggest you buy some books on miscarriage and read about how other women have dealt with your kind of loss - this story is so common but nobody ever wants to talk about it.

If you have friends you can be honest with, tell them. Also tell them you're not ready to see them. When you've lost a baby, it is OK to ask your friends to bring you food and leave it on your doorstep. It is OK to ask them not to call for a week, but then call you to ask how you're doing later. It is OK to ask them to clean your house while your husband is at work. Be needy, ask for what you need not only from your husband but from your mother, your sister, your friends, your coworkers, anybody you feel comfortable with. If you don't want to make the calls, ask your husband to do it for you.

This is a time when the community can be there for you. One thing I really regret about my miscarriage is how much I kept it to myself - I wish I had been honest, once you are honest other people can share their experiences of loss with you. I found this so comforting once I was ready - especially hearing from women who had also suffered a loss.

My husband wasn't as supportive as I would have liked either. He was grieving for the loss too, nobody is perfect when they are grieving. Your husband will also need support during this time. It is totally normal for him to feel like a bad husband and not know what to do. I am not sure if all the open, honest communication in the world can fix this right now. You will both need some time, and maybe some space.

I am so sorry for your loss. Feel free to memail me as well. I miscarried six years ago and I still remember how raw and awful it felt - and I went naturally and didn't nearly die like you did. It's a lot to take in.

Hang in there.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:59 AM on December 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

My deepest sympathy to you. You found and lost something potentially wonderful that you didn't even know you had or might want and it was shocking and painful and you are left with the aftermath of surgery as well as the swing of hormones and all this is storming inside you. No wonder you feel beat up and fragile. I think you are also dealing with some grief; I believe we always do when we lose something of ourselves to an accident or illness or a tiny malfunction in a process that can work perfectly every time -- except this once -- and it is costing you, physically and emotionally, a great deal more than meets the eye.

If it is possible, please seek out some writings of women who have had this experience. The stories women tell of their own experiences can be a great solace. You are right in feeling that you need to be understood but I am suggesting that your husband is not going to be able to supply enough understanding to completely support you through this all by himself. He cannot be a woman and know what you feel. He obviously loves you and wants to do anything he can to help. However, what he has experienced is not what you have experienced. It is your need and your grief that is crying out with tears and anger and acting out by throwing things and keeping score of the hours he logs with you, even questioning their authenticity. As you say, this is not what you want to be doing and you are writing because you know that and have lost your way a bit in this sorrow.

I hope you give yourself good care and patient pampering for your body and that you will seek out and find some accounts of the journeys other women have made through this sorrow to help you, to act as solace to your mind. Turn to art, music, nature and all such comforts for your spirit and give yourself time to heal. A husband who tries to understand and readily cancels a dinner date to spend the evening staying close and cuddling is very wonderful. Be glad that he can give to you much of what you need. But remember that no one person can be all things to another in life and certainly not in a time of great need.

My very best to you. I hope for an end to your sadness and a stronger and happier you for the future.
posted by Anitanola at 12:18 PM on December 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: carter, thank you :)

looli, yeah, I've been thinking about getting back in touch with my therapist if things don't improve somewhat soon.

the fact that he is an MD makes his approach to this very clinical: the physical stuff is over, therefore you are fine.

So true, and I don't hold that against him. I know that certain things that frighten me or make me squeamish often do not even show up on his radar. Although there are moments when I'd love for us to be on the same page emotionally, when I really think about it, I'm so glad he is the way he is, because we balance each other out in the end.

crazycanuck and Anitanola, I have visited a few sites where women have shared stories of similar experiences and you're right, it has been extremely helpful to read them. I will keep reading and searching online, seeing as so far, here on Askme, and elsewhere, the internet has proven to be an ally in my healing process.
posted by seriousmoonlight at 9:16 AM on January 1, 2012

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