Feelings are stupid.
December 26, 2012 8:46 PM   Subscribe

How do you take care of a sick significant other without feeling resentful?

My husband has been sick for more than a week with general cold symptoms - sore throat, cough, runny nose, congestion, headache, swollen glands, etc. We just got back from visiting my family for the holidays - left on Friday, came back today and he was pretty much sick in bed the whole time. In that time, we barely talked - he hasn't been up and about and most of the times I checked on him, he was sleeping.

I've gotten him a humidifier, neti pot, medicine, soup, juice, etc. I made him matzo ball soup. I offered to take him to the doctor and called around to find a place that was open where he could go. I eventually called my sister who is a doctor to ask what we should do and she gave us some great advice.

My problem, and I really feel badly about this, is that I feel resentful towards him for being sick. I know it's not his fault that he's sick and he's obviously less happy than I am about being sick. He keeps breaking my heart because he says things like, I'm trying so hard to get better and he's going to make me feel proud of him for getting better. I'm trying to do the right thing. But part of me just wants to be like, dude, just. stop. coughing.

I'm trying to put my finger on why I feel resentful. He didn't spend much time with my family. Being with my family around the holidays is kind of stressful and he hasn't really been there. I know that's not his fault but I'm just frustrated. I miss my best friend and I want him to get better.

I also feel like a jerk because I"m a little annoyed that he's been sick for over a week and I think that he should go to a doctor. I don't think one should have a cold for more than a week - if it lasts for more than a week, I think it's usually not a cold but something else and a doctor would help him figure that out. When I tried to get him to go to a doctor, he said that he didn't think the doctor would be able to do anything because it's just a virus. But dude, maybe he will and then you will get better faster - isn't that worth going to the doctor?

He's taken care of me before but I usually feel like we're a team and I haven't felt that way lately. I did the shopping for my family for Christmas, bought stocking stuffers, wrapped presents and made cookies, with very little help from him - not a big deal but I would have appreciated some help. I checked us in for our flights, which he usually does, I packed for us, found out what times we needed to be on the train to get to the airport, etc.

I feel sad because I have this weird feeling like I want him to "make it up to me" when I know that he doesn't have anything to make up to me! I just want him to get better! But that feeling is in the back of my head. Plus this weekend we're going to visit his family and if he spends the whole weekend in bed again, I kind of don't want to go. I love my in-laws but I need him there as a buffer, and not there up in his bedroom. I know I can't make him get better and he'll probably be better just because he wants to see his family but I think I will feel unhappy if he spends the whole weekend in bed again.

And dude, seriously, you shouldn't be so sick that you spend several days (all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday, most of the day Tuesday, about half of the day today because we were traveling) sick in bed. He has health insurance. I think the medicine he's taking (DayQuil and such) says that you shouldn't take it for more than a few days at a time without seeing a doctor. And he said he thought he accidentally took too much the other day and thought his heart was racing. He's also just drained from being sick - I'll ask him if he wants medicine or soup and over the last two days, he just shrugs.

This also makes me feel like I'm going to be a terrible parent in the future. If I can't take care of my husband, how am I ever going to take care of kids?

TL; DR - I feel like the worst person ever because I feel resentful towards my husband for being sick. Have any of you felt this way when caring for a sick loved one? How did you deal with it?
posted by kat518 to Human Relations (41 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
His being sick is just a reason you can focus on right now. It seems that you're feeling some stress in the relationship for other reasons, which you should talk about when he's recovered.
posted by xingcat at 8:55 PM on December 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think your resentment is rooted in feeling like he ditched you before he got The Worst Cold Ever. I would probably feel like, "Oh, I did all the work for the holidays AND you had the temerity to get sick? I should be the one in bed!" I would realize that this wasn't a reasonable or generous way to feel, but hey, feelings aren't always reasonable and generous. I don't think you're anywhere NEAR the Worst Person Ever. I think you're just stressed out and stretched a bit thin. Maybe when he's better and you have a little space from this resentment-making situation, you should have a talk with him about not feeling like you guys are fighting on the same team?

Also? He has a cold. Maybe I'm a huge bitch, but I don't think that people with colds (and this includes myself) need taking care of. ...It's a cold. You won't die. Unless he has some underlying chronic condition that you didn't mention, if he rests and watches his fluids, he'll be fine. He doesn't need you waiting on him hand and foot. He can get his own juice. Really. It's perfectly ok to check the stash of orange juice in the fridge, see that he has tissues (or a roll of toilet paper), tell him there's Campbell's chicken soup in the cupboard and go about your business.
posted by Aquifer at 8:57 PM on December 26, 2012 [24 favorites]

And he said he thought he accidentally took too much the other day and thought his heart was racing.

All else aside, Phenylephrine is known to cause the usual range of stimulant side effects. If it really is a cold, and he's getting these sorts of side effects, he should plan to gut it out instead.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:59 PM on December 26, 2012

I have definitely had colds that went on for as long or longer. When I went to urgent care with colds in the past, they told me to take Claritin-D and sent me home. When it was clear that it was an infection, then I got anti-biotics but it was really obvious that I needed them from the color of my phlegm.

If it would make you feel better, you could take him to the doctor but it might be that they tell you it is just a cold and to tough it out.

I can also see that having a cold+travel+stress+airport+winter=the cold that doesn't go away for a long time.

My husband has had a cold for over two weeks and is in pretty much the same boat as your hubby. I think it would be important to decide now whether to scrap plans with the in-laws for health reasons and the reasons you described. Travelling when sick isn't good for husband or anyone else around.

Like you, I got stuck with all the holiday to-dos. In a cold induced haze, he whined about having to do something and I had to remind him that I had done all shopping/shipping of gifts, sent all our cards and put up the decorations alone as well. Not one complaint from him since then!
posted by dottiechang at 9:02 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I checked us in for our flights, which he usually does

How would you feel if he was resentful toward you about the fact that he usually checks both of you in? Or that he had to visit your family at a time when he had been sick for days and was getting worse? It sounds like there are a lot of negative feelings all around, and him being sick is an excuse to talk about something concrete and (hopefully) fleeting, instead of seriously addressing the more substantive underlying issues. I can't say exactly what the underlying issues are, since I don't know either of you.
posted by John Cohen at 9:03 PM on December 26, 2012 [10 favorites]

Hmm, it looks like there are a couple mistaken ideas wrapped up in some other issues, so I will just talk about the mistaken ideas.

And dude, seriously, you shouldn't be so sick that you spend several days (all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday, most of the day Tuesday, about half of the day today because we were traveling) sick in bed. He has health insurance.

In winter 2010 I had this insane, wracking cough for 7 weeks. Yes, almost two months. I was coughing 24/7. I could not speak more than a few words without coughing. I had to go on a job interview like that, and the person interviewing me (who said it was okay to come in) actually brought me two pitchers of water because I finished the first one. You can be really sick for way, way longer than several days, even if it is just a cough or a cold.

I went to the doctor after two weeks, by the way. Guess what they said? "All you can do is take over the counter cough medicine and wait. Come back and see us if you still have it in 6 weeks." I paid $200 for that glorious advice.

Also, him going to the doctor could backfire on you in a way that you really regret. Last year, I went to the doctor during cold and flu season for a minor infection. Guess what I caught from the other sick people in the doctor's office while I was there? Strep! Guess what happened after my course of antibiotics ended? A recurrence of strep! I ended up with strep for several weeks, all together. Guess how much I paid for that whole adventure?
posted by cairdeas at 9:03 PM on December 26, 2012 [17 favorites]

Cancel the in-law trip due to illness. They'll understand.

Then make that appointment with a doctor. He doesn't get to argue. You're right that if it's lasted more than a week, it's doctor time.

The resentment is human and understandable, so please don't feel guilty about it. Since he (through no fault of his own) can't step up and support you in this stressful time, you have to take that same care for yourself. Cancel, defer or deflect things that add to your stressload, like the trip to see the in-laws.

Meanwhile, treat yourself well. Make sure you take time to breathe, eat properly, notice and attend to your own state of mind, and get enough rest.
posted by Pallas Athena at 9:05 PM on December 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

He's got the flu or something. If he's not running egregious fevers he's well within reason to think he doesn't need to go to the doctor.

I don't understand what the question is. You seem to fully realize that your resentment is misplaced. So stop. If you can't, then there are issues in your relationship unrelated to his cold. Figure them out. You've laid everything out here about what to do except actually doing it.
posted by cmoj at 9:07 PM on December 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Aquifer, if I'm not the Worst Person Ever, you're definitely not a huge bitch :)

Just for context, when I was a lot younger, I had a cold that would not go away for weeks. My mother (that's how young I was) took me to the doctor who said that it was walking pneumonia. Within a week or two of taking antibiotics, it was a lot better.
posted by kat518 at 9:09 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in a similar head space right now, and I'm pretty sure the answer is: You need to take some time for yourself. He's an adult, and if you weren't there to be his nurse 24/7, he'd still find a way to heal and get better. So once his basic needs are met, give him space to rest and heal and give yourself space to just be. If that means cancelling some commitments, so be it.
posted by limeonaire at 9:10 PM on December 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

Your resentment is understandable but PLEASE get one thing through your mind right now: sometimes, it takes getting better just by a fraction to even summon the willpower and energy to deal with going to a doctor. Your husband is sick and it doesn't sound like he's reached the point. If you want him to go to a doctor, you're gonna have to take him. Don't resent him for not being at that point yet, and if he doesn't want to go yet, leave him be. Ask a friend to come over and look after him and then go get some time to yourself.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:11 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have any of you felt this way when caring for a sick loved one? How did you deal with it?

Yes. I dealt with it by letting myself feel however I felt, while remembering that it's not necessary to express everything I feel.
posted by bac at 9:12 PM on December 26, 2012 [27 favorites]

This really sounds like a virus, which antibiotics can't help. There are a lot of lingering viruses being reported this year.

Reschedule the trip to the in-laws. Give yourself some time to relax!
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:13 PM on December 26, 2012

Sometimes colds last that long. And he's right that going to the doctor for a cold can really be a waste of time and even make it worse if he picks up more germs there. Were you guys actually traveling while he was sick? That is also really, really tough on the immune system. And personally, the thing that wears me out the most when I don't feel well is my hubby not trusting my instincts about what's going on with me and what I need.

I think you're feeling frustrated and cranky because you're stretched too thin. It's very understandable. Cut yourselves both some slack and relax. Stay home this weekend. Let him get his own juice, as mentioned above. You both need a break.

This also makes me feel like I'm going to be a terrible parent in the future. If I can't take care of my husband, how am I ever going to take care of kids?
This sounds like a thought error. (I hate that word, but that's what they call it.) If you feel like you go through this a lot and you feel anxious and uncomfortable all the time, after the holidays when things settle down you might want to look into talking to someone about it. I'm just saying this because a lot of what you wrote sounds like something I could write myself and talking to psychologists helped me deal with it when it comes up.
posted by bleep at 9:13 PM on December 26, 2012

I agree he needs to see a doctor at this point. You also should cancel the plans to visit the in-laws this weekend. I'm sorry, but it is REALLY irresponsible to visit people when he is so ill he is unable to get out of bed - it is none of his business who he may meet this weekend that may have a compromised immune system, but he has the duty to not knowingly infect others. He also needs to focus on resting instead of socializing. You need a break too; which as you have correctly surmised does not include entertaining your in-laws sans partner.

When I read the above the fold I thought you were going to have a partner in palliative care or a chronic condition. He has a COLD? And he is worried about his heart racing, and apparently can't survive without a servant to do his bidding? Is this the first time he has acted like this or has he had hypochondriac tendencies in the past? Because if I am reading this situation right, you mothering him is going to make the situation worse as you feed his psychological need. It creates a negative feedback loop of rewarding him for acting sick (I should note this rarely deliberate manipulative behaviour but it is an unhealthy dynamic that breeds resentment).

I admittedly have a low tolerance for "woe is me" sick people but my boundary is that if you aren't willing to go see a professional about your health problem then as far as I am concerned it does not exist and I don't want to hear about it or absolve you of any of your responsibilities (which include basic self-care).
posted by saucysault at 9:17 PM on December 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

I keep from feeling resentful by taking the amount of care they need and not worrying unduly. For a cold, I generally make sure there is a box of tissues and a trash can handy, and that's it. Beyond that I cancel social engagements, and anything extra (like, maybe instead of cooking two dinners that week, I'll get take-out or heat up canned soup). For my daughter, I'll also set up tv (being sick is the one time it's unlimited), and read to her. My husband rarely needs more than me picking up some household slack, like taking care of more meals or doing all the dishes (and leaving some stuff until later, like all the dishes I haven't gotten to yet or laundry that can wait a few days). Try to give yourself extra rest time too, to keep from getting this and to make yourself happier. Read, watch tv, take a long bath, however you relax.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:36 PM on December 26, 2012

My wife is sick with an awful cold that's pretty much taken her down for a good portion of this week. So I know where you're coming from.

I can totally understand feeling overwhelmed having to handle everything, but there's one thing I'm not seeing -- you adjusting plans for his sickitude. If he's not there to help you handle everything, where possible, you scale things back. Skip the cookies ("Sorry, hub was sick, didn't want to share germs with cookies"), quick step on the stockings ("Sorry, hub was sick...") and cancel visiting family and friends (unless you *want* to go by yourself) until he's better.

Provide some basic care support (tissues, hot tea, food) and let him handle the rest of it. He's got a cold, he's not dying.

Take care of yourself as well. Go out, read a book, watch a movie, meet a friend for lunch. It's good to take care of your partner, but he's not a child, and he's not seriously ill, he just feels awful. Cut him some slack, and give yourself a break.

I just got back from meeting a friend for a drink because I needed to get out of the house. Helps immensely with feeling cooped up by someone else's misfortune to be sick.
posted by canine epigram at 9:40 PM on December 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

You sound exhausted! The holidays are stressful enough as is, and with your husband sick, you're doing the work of two people and then some. Your feelings of resentment are a normal reaction. Irrational, counterproductive, and potentially harmful, but normal.

You need to get some rest, and soon. Irrational feelings tend to incubate during stressful periods - and I can't imagine your immune system is holding up too well right now, either. Cancel this weekend's trip, if at all possible; there's no point in going if he can't get out of bed, anyway, and if you're flying who knows how many people you're exposing this bug to. If the trip is non-negotiable, warn your in-laws ahead of time, and give yourself frequent breaks. Let his parents fuss over him while you nap.

And let him worry about himself. It's kind of you to look after him, but if there's something he wants or needs that's readily available in the house - a glass of water, another dose of medicine, canned soup - he should be able to get it. If he can't shuffle to the kitchen and stand upright for two minutes while the soup heats, he is in absolutely no shape to travel. And if he feels that bad for more than a few days, with no sign of improvement, he should be seeing a doctor.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:42 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know how you feel, magnified by 1000. My wife was recently diagnosed with cancer, and has been in and out of the hospital for the past six weeks. I have taken that time off work to care for her and our 15-month-old daughter.

I deal with it by realizing that its not her fault, and that I signed up for this by getting married and having a child. Does this keep me from feeling angry that I have to give up nearly everything I want to do to care for everyone else? No. It doesn't. I still feel that way, like my wife isn't holding up her end of the bargain, but I also realize that this is the hand I was dealt and I will have to do my best until things change, one way or another.

I have seriously thought about starting therapy to deal with this issue, and related ones, but I have a bit more serious a case than you do.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:46 PM on December 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I don't know. I've had a virus of some kind for going on two weeks. Well, I had a cold for about a week, and was getting better, then my parents came and my father had some virus with totally different symptoms and now I've got that. My mom was pissy and grouchy all week saying "we'd better not make her sick." It's pretty demoralizing and exceedingly annoying. If I had control over how a virus operates, you think I wouldn't just eject it from my body?

I also think going to the doctor for what is obviously a cold, or honestly even a flu as long as the symptoms aren't extreme, is a waste of time and medical resources. They're just going to tell you to take OTC cold medicine and push fluids. That said, no one needs to be waited on hand and foot while they have a cold. My father spent the better part of one day in bed sleeping (after 10 days travelling the previous day) and I slept 12 hours last night, but other than that and all the coughing, we're looking after ourselves.

And fwiw, I have really sucked at looking after sick boyfriends in the past (including one who was laid up following minor surgery for skin CANCER, so tell me I didn't feel like a giant bitch) and been super resentful. But now I have a kid, and I don't resent her when she's sick at all. I figure it's because I'm pretty resourceful and always look after myself when I'm sick, so I expect every adult to do that, too. But with a kid, you're always looking after them anyway, and sometimes when they're sick they're easier to take care of because they're all sleepy and docile and quiet in bed.
posted by looli at 9:48 PM on December 26, 2012

My SO has been sick this past holiday week or two too. We're in a LDR and the Solstice is the one real winter holiday I celebrate and I was definitely inwardly whiny and upset that he couldn't make it up to the big neighborhood party while I endured gentle ribbing about his absence from my friends. Meanwhile he's home feeling lousy with a cold that won't quit. It sucks to be US because it's a really tough time for us to find a way be happy together, and what we really want is to be happy together, is sort of how I see it.

So, I've got my personal grousing because I'm a perfectionist and want to optimize his recovery path and he mostly wants to just stay in bed, but ultimately there's no way he would have chosen this, so I try to have my minor pity party in my head and we spend quiet very low key time together when we can [we see each other a few times a month and this time he basically slept through most of the visit, poor guy].

I think the big things that keep me from feeling that sort of bad taken advantage of feeling (and I totally know what you mean, it's not a weird way to feel) are

- I let him fend for himself most of the time and the things I do for him he is grateful for, outwardly "Wow thanks for making soup for me!" and not just "I'm hungry, feed me!" sort of things (again he has a cold, this is different if someone is battling a much tougher illness)
- We spend some together time talking about what we want to do when he feels better
- I said "No" to a bunch of things that I might otherwise be doing over holidaytime with him because he's just not up for much. Not optimal, sure, but I see us as being in this for the long haul, this may go down in our history as being the lamest holidaytime ever, but if our history is generally long and happy, it's more of a funny story in the end than a lousy one.

It's sounds like you're taking on a lot and the holidays are tough even under the best of circumstances. His illness seems to be isolating you a little more from my read. It may be a really good time to take advantage of what's up and [agree with everyone, try to cancel the trip] and reconnect with some random friend who is around and/or do something fun and out of the house. You may be in a nurturing pattern with him that isn't that useful for either of you, feeds a bad cycle or whathave you and you may need to find a way to snap out of it. But you're just in a rut, your marriage isn't in danger and this says nothing about what sort of parent you'll be. Get some rest and take care of yourself and let yourself feel bad things if you need to. Time heals.
posted by jessamyn at 10:05 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

If he's still so sick, cancel the trip to see his family. Seriously, just tell them it's been really bad and you don't want to spread it to them too.
posted by ergo at 10:09 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I really get the impression you have not been around sick people much (or have only been around really seriously ill people?), and are overreacting. When he is well, you might want to talk to him about your mutual expectations around being sick and being cared for by the other. I would want to be left pretty much alone. He may want this as well, and that might mean that if you get sick he will treat you that way, when it sounds like you want people to be 'doing something' and constantly on hand even if it is useless.

More specific points:
You resent him because you had to handle getting him to your family for the weekend? If I were him I would resent you for dragging him out to see your family for the weekend instead of leaving him home in bed like a sensible person would have done.

Is he asking you for neti pots/soup/juice/doctors appointments, or are you, as it sounds like, taking it upon yourself? If you are, then you're basically resenting him for not having the energy to tell you to leave him alone. If he wants medicine or soup he can ask for it, he's not dead.

What did your sister the doctor say? Did she say 'wow sounds like he should see a doctor!'? If not, stop martyring yourself, plan not to go see his family this week, and relax for a bit.
posted by jacalata at 10:17 PM on December 26, 2012 [20 favorites]

Here's how it can feel from the sick person: while you're thinking "Dude, just. stop. coughing" he may be thinking (okay, I'm thinking, from my semi-permanent bed): Dudette, just. stop. feeling. sorry. for. yourself. You may not feel tender towards me, but don't make me the reason you're unhappy." The fact that he feels he has to say things like "I'm trying to get better" and "I'll make you proud of me by getting better" -- both sad and creepy.

I have no idea how sick he is. But I do know that resentment is a tremendously strong and corrosive emotion. All the details that you go into, they sound like piling up evidence to confirm to yourself that your resentment is based on something in reality. Resentment is something inside your heart. The only thing I know to do is to try to gather whatever compassion you can. Compassion for him, but even if you can't do that, then compassion for yourself -- who's trying so hard to do the right thing and feel the right way, but it's so hard right now.

He's trying to stop coughing. You're trying to have compassion for him when it's not coming very naturally. Hopefully you'll both be better soon, and it really is true that going through something like this can make your life together stronger.

One more thing: SO AGREEING that you don't want to take him and his virus/bacteria out into the world. From someone with a compromised immune system: stay home and get better. Please.
posted by kestralwing at 10:24 PM on December 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

I am really oddly discomfited by an adult 'making you proud of me' for getting better. That is just so many levels of fucking weird that I would drag my partner to the doctor for fear they had a massive fever or something (I get odd when I have a fever so me saying that would prompt my partner to push me into bed/the doctors). Seriously, that points to some weird power imbalance or something, that he would say that because he had a cold. So dial it back and everything but the anger seems like it's coming from more than just him being sick.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:08 PM on December 26, 2012 [42 favorites]

Just a datapoint on cold/flu lengths and treatment, since that seems to be a major sticking point in your mind right now: for me, a week is a completely standard and unremarkable length for a bad cold. If I get over my cold in a week, I'm happy about it. I start to get frustrated around 10 days, and still generally would not go to the doctor until about two weeks. Even then, I don't seriously expect them to be able to fix anything, I just want to get an opinion on whether it might have turned into bronchitis. And lest you think I'm just skeptical of medical attention in general, I'm actually a very pro-doctor-pro-medicine person with good insurance and access to a convenient, efficient doctor's office that can usually get me in the same day. At heart I'm one to run off to the doctor at the first hint of trouble! But with a cold, the only advantage I can think of to going in sooner than two weeks is that if you have both good insurance and a bad cough, getting a prescription for cough medicine can be a lot cheaper (but not necessarily much more effective) than getting Delsym or Mucinex over the counter.

I get sick a lot, so this schedule is borne of experience -- my most recent cold-type-illness lasted the entire month of September. I went in around my usual two weeks and they gave me a prescription for cough syrup and a "cold care package" containing nothing more powerful than little packets of salt to dissolve in water for gargling.
posted by ootandaboot at 11:21 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am really oddly discomfited by an adult 'making you proud of me' for getting better. That is just so many levels of fucking weird...

This. The "I'm trying so hard," "I'm going to make you proud of me" part of your question made me feel all skin-crawly when I read it. Maybe you feel resentful because your husband is putting on a big show of enduring this great amount of suffering, but he's actually getting some kind of perverse enjoyment out of it. I mean, who the fuck talks about having a cold or flu with such glorifying language? Is he a cancer patient? A wounded veteran? No, it's a fucking cold, there's nothing commendable about laying in bed sniffling and popping Dayquils for a week, and it's embarrassing for an adult to be milking it for attention the way your husband is. It would piss me off too if my husband was acting so self-indulgent while I was getting run ragged with holiday stress.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:52 AM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

A week isn't an unusual length of time for a cold, but a week spent so ill you're mostly sleeping in bed and needing to be nursed by someone else is fairly unusual for a cold. So either:

a), this isn't a cold. Flu can seem like extra-nasty cold symptoms that leave you unable to do pretty much anything, and can easily do that for a week before the symptoms start easing up. But there isn't an awful lot a doctor could do for flu either at this stage, and they'd probably just tell him to rest and drink fluids.

or b), he doesn't actually need this level of care, and at some level you sense that and are resentful about providing it (have you caught yourself thinking something like "dude, I can get myself to the fridge for juice just fine when I have a cold, why can't you?").

Or both; I mean, flu is hellish, but the last time I got it I was living alone and still managed to take care of myself.

But honestly, I think it sounds like he is someone who rarely gets ill and so doesn't know how to handle it. This would explain the way the two of you don't have a system worked out for this, the excessive need for waiting on him hand and foot (whether that's initiated by him or by you), and the stuff about making you so proud of him for getting better, which is... a bit of an odd thing to say for something like a cold rather than a delirious fever, to put it mildly.

You probably shouldn't bring all this up right now when he's feeling ill, though. I think you should call off the in-law visit until he's feeling better, and get him to agree on seeing a doctor if his symptoms aren't improving by X date, and then leave it until he's better before having a talk about what you both expect from each other when you're ill. But you should definitely have that talk.
posted by Catseye at 12:58 AM on December 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Same thing happened to me while we were on vacation in Bali. Our once a year tropical getaway and the dude gets sick!!! I was so upset and frustrated. He would cough all night and its not like I can go sleep in the living room when all we have is a hotel room. I mostly just ignored him unless he expressly asked me for something (water, can you fetch my iPad charger, etc) and treated him like a normal human being ("you want soup? Fine, but I'm also order some xyz and you'll have some of that too")

It happens. You just have to roll with it. You say that you don't feel like you've been a team lately, but reading what you've done "on your own but he normally does it" is the best example of teamwork there is. He can't do what he's supposed to so you step up and fill in for him. That is teamwork.

The resentment will fade after he's better, you just have to weather the storm.
posted by p1nkdaisy at 1:32 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know if this is the underlying problem for you, but I had the one single panic attack (hyperventilating, freaking out, pretty sure I was dying) I've ever had when my husband put his back out while were overseas on vacation. Eventually I realized that the panic attack probably happened because there were so many elements that were entirely out of my control. (I was also feeling some resentment, btw, because he could not say "no" to helping carry heavy timber with my BIL for a building project, even though he knows he's vulnerable to really painful back problems. grrr.)

We were not at home, we had to do many things, including a really super-long uncomfortable-even-when-healthy transatlantic flight with connections to get back home, and my husband could not even walk. I couldn't help him with the pain, we didn't have insurance for the U.S., pretty much the worst place to need medical care in the Western world, we didn't have enough money to take care of it ourselves, or even extend the trip until he was slightly better. I couldn't do anything to mitigate the logistics of the situation, and I always rely on him to handle the inevitable confusions and fuck-ups with international travel. Panic attack.

I've nursed him successfully and mostly calmly with this problem before, but without all the other surrounding stress. To me, your situation seems somewhat similar in that there has been a lot of planning and travel involved, all sorts of other accumulated stresses, all the standard holiday responsibilities, work, preparation and worry, and you're having to shoulder it alone. And it's supposed to be happyhappyjoyjoy time, which actually adds its own special layer of very special stress.

I'd say give yourself a pass on this (you don't say you always feel resentful when he's sick, so this seems more situation-specific), and try to minimize all the things you must do: reschedule the second trip, and, as much as possible, blow off or reorganize other stuff that is causing stress. Get what you need delivered as much as possible, and have yourself a personal film fest or reading spree or video game marathon or whatever will take your mind off things and relax you a little. If you feel resentment, view it as a passing condition under the circumstances, and let go of the guilt, which can only be compounding the stress, leading to more resentment, which leads to more guilt, which leads to more stress....

For me, understanding why I was overreacting was helpful and instructive: I'm not a control freak, but I tend to lose it when I feel like all the options to make things better are beyond my control, and I can't "logic" my way through it, or actively adjust the parameters of the problem. Just recognizing that can help me to weather the situation better.
posted by taz at 2:46 AM on December 27, 2012

Just want to mention that having a cold for >1 week does not mean it's anything more serious than that and warrants a trip to the doctor. Due to a family member's death & stress & travel since before Thanksgiving, both my husband & I have had a nasty cold that includes a nagging cough that hasn't gone away for *six weeks*.

I understand your concern, but it does sound like you are way too focused on his cold as being the substitute for your real issues with the husband. So maybe rechannel that energy buying neti pots for him and do something nice for yourself instead. Sometimes meeting your own needs (do something kind & thoughtful for yourself) instead of waiting around for someone else to do it is exactly what you need to cure resentment.

Mr Honey Badger and I absolutely believe in the "team" concept of marriage, but there has to be "me" time in there, too.
posted by honey badger at 5:23 AM on December 27, 2012

How does he act when you're sick? Are you forced to take care of yourself? Does he spend time caring for you or leaving you alone?
posted by discopolo at 5:44 AM on December 27, 2012

It sounds to me like the source of the resentment was the feeling that he wasn't helping you out during the holidays, before he got sick. To me, it sounds understandable. I think there's a diplomatic way to tell him, when he gets better, about how you were feeling overwhelmed and that you would really appreciate his help. No harm, no foul.
posted by mermily at 7:00 AM on December 27, 2012

Love is how we do it.
posted by leafwoman at 7:54 AM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

The average common cold lasts a week. Therefore, some colds are inevitably going to last more than a week. However, someone with a common cold shouldn't require waiting on hand and foot for days on end, either. If he's taking dayquil and still unable to socialize a little and get his own juice, he probably should visit a doctor soon to be sure it isn't something worse than a cold.
posted by ldthomps at 8:26 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

First of all hang in there. He'll get better.

Secondly, there's an incredibly nasty flu going around and he probably caught it at the airport. It hangs around for mother-loving-ever and it knocks you right on your ass.

Just make sure the fridge is stocked, and let him be. That's really all there is to be done.

Some guys get all infantile when they get sick, and you have to shut that shit right down because we're all grown here. He probably feels horrible, so make sure he has what he needs and let him rest. Don't hang out waiting for him to ring a bell so you can get him a popsicle or whatever.

Move into another room until he gets better. The cough can be a real problem because it interferes with sleep (yours and his). If you do end up going to the doctor, it will be for a good cough medicine that will let your husband sleep, or Tamaflu (although the window on that one may have closed.) Frame the "going to the doc" question in this manner and he'll go. "Dude, I get that the doctor can't cure the flu, but he can give you something good for the cough."

For sure, call off the weekend with the in-laws, he's too sick to travel.

Sometimes we get annoyed because we're worried for our loved one, our fear or anxiety turns into snapishness. Treat this as a quiet weekend at home, let him rest and get better and you can indulge in some nice time by yourself. Get some magazines, new nail polish, and a nice bottle of something bubbly.

This too will eventually pass.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:38 AM on December 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, all, for your advice and suggestions. Similar to saucysault, I think that if you're miserable, you should go to a doctor. Last time I woke up with a really painful sore throat, I called in sick and went to the doctor's office because I thought it might be strep (I am this country's healthcare crisis). But I know a cold is different and he hasn't had a fever so he's fine. I called Dr. Sister because he woke up and his eyes were red and I thought, #$%^, he has pink eye but she explained that it was probably just the cold's latest manifestation.

As you can see, he's not the hypochondriac, it's me. I think part of it is that visiting my family, they repeatedly asked (understandably) how he was feeling which made me feel like I needed to Do Something (you're totally right, jacalata). And I want to Do Something but I need to remind myself that leaving him alone is probably the best thing I can do. I usually don't wait on him as much but I was at home with little to do (my fault, not his).

That said, when he gets sick, he says that he is knocking at heaven's door (he's very clever). And he's not the best at communicating when he's sick - he said Monday, "This is the first time in a few days where I haven't felt like I was getting worse." I had no idea he felt that way. Another time when he was getting over a bug, he said that he thought he had had swine flu and thought about going to the ER. Again, I had no idea he had felt that sick. I know that I wouldn't have been able to do anything with that information but I still would have liked to have had it.

I get that colds can last forever but the fact that he barely got up over a few days made me anxious. He's really skinny too so I get anxious when he doesn't eat much. He also seems to get sick more often than I do, though I certainly have my own health issues. He has said things before like, "I'm trying so hard not to get sick!" but when he said the thing about being proud of him, I said, I am ALWAYS proud of you and I just want you to be healthy. So yeah, that was a weird thing but it was also an anomaly.

I'm going to try to consider my resentment as similar to his cold in that it's just annoying and it will probably go away on its own but if it sticks around longer than it should, I will seek professional treatment.

jessamyn: "It sucks to be US because it's a really tough time for us to find a way be happy together, and what we really want is to be happy together, is sort of how I see it." Yes!

taz: "And it's supposed to be happyhappyjoyjoy time, which actually adds its own special layer of very special stress." Yes!

Ruthless Bunny: "Get some magazines, new nail polish ..." Sold!

Everyone: Thank you!
posted by kat518 at 8:44 AM on December 27, 2012

Have you heard of a "Man Cold"?

From a sciency-flavored WebMD article:
In general, men are not used to talking about their inner states and expressing if they are feeling happy or hot, says Jean Berko Gleason, PhD, professor emerita of Psychology at Boston University.

"Men are less in touch with their feelings," she says, "so it might be more difficult for them to interpret what's going on when they are overwhelmed or sick."

Gleason points out that societal expectations may perpetuate this pattern. "Women aren't supposed to fall apart when they have a cold," she says. "So men who are needing some nurturing might take advantage of that on occasions when they aren't feeling well to get some care and love from the people around them."
I think theres a double whammy of societal expectations that women are supposed to be nurturing and sweetly dab sweat from foreheads, cook soup, etc. There isn't really a need to shoehorn yourself into that role if that isn't who you are. A grown person can microwave their own soup while sick with a cold. You can make things easier on them, but expecting an emotional reaction out of someone, (or out of yourself) isn't a reasonable request.

This doesn't mean you'd be a bad parent, or even a bad caregiver to a seriously ill/disabled/elderly person. It's different. A genuinely helpless infant is a totally different gut reaction all together. Even if you're not the super sweet nurturing type you're still going to make good choices in taking care of those who can't take care of themselves. It can even be pretty handy to have a logic-first, emotion-second reaction to situations like that. Again, it might not be what society expects of women, but to hell with that.
posted by fontophilic at 10:39 AM on December 27, 2012

Just to address the feeling that you don't know if he's exaggerating or not, here's my tale of woe:

I had a cold that got worse and worse every day for two weeks, on the second Monday I called in sick, the rest of the week I tried to work from home but didn't really get much done. I was quite weak and debilitated and shouldn't really have been trying to work, in hindsight, In the wee hours of the second Friday morning I woke up from arduous pain-dreams and couldn't get back to sleep. In the UK we have a "waah!" line for nonemergency medicine, so I called it, and was surprised when the nurse ordered me to see the doctor within 24 hours in case of sinusitis, and also to rest.

As it was before the holidays I got a Schroedinger's prescription for antibiotics, to be returned if not needed. 24 hours later the sinusitis was worse and was partying it up in my occipital region. I got furious, started taking the antibiotics, and quickly improved, at least in the sinus department. I nevertheless spent Christmas sacked out like a resident of a body farm and am only just starting to revive now.

So what is my point? Well, that whatever's going around is indeed that bad, and also that sometimes a doctor's visit is warranted and sometimes things do need treatment beyond what you can get OTC (even if this isn't so in your husband's case).
posted by tel3path at 11:29 AM on December 27, 2012

Google "man cold " on Youtube. You need the laugh.

Then, just know that this time of year a lot of people have those lingering long colds. I'm just getting over mine myself. Get the good decongestant that you have to show your i.d. for and tell your husband to hydrate himself silly, plus chicken soup plus local honey mixed with cinnamon.

And let him wait on himself a little. (and for heaven's sake, don't go visiting relatives if he's still bedridden!)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:07 PM on December 27, 2012

Yeah, it sounds like you're feeling resentful not because he's sick, but because he isn't holding up his end of your partnership by acting like the grown ass man he is. Two weeks have passed and you've been beyond understanding and accommodating. Tell dude to go the doctor and quit the melodrama.

(And to second what discopolo asked: how does he act when it's your turn to feel under the weather?)
posted by jessca84 at 6:31 PM on December 27, 2012

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