Medical conversation with husband
June 13, 2022 5:56 AM   Subscribe

Looking for advice for how I can continue a conversation with my husband that didn’t go well about my health, where I ended up feeling gaslit and yelling at him.

Medical problem: I get sinusitis approximately twice a year. Like clockwork, I also get a persistent tickly cough, which gets worse at night and laying down, and is aggravated by mild reflux. My treatments don’t fix it immediately, but I know how to manage it: Sudafed, antihistamines at night, throat pastilles, Manuka honey, lots of water. Antibiotics if the infection stays around.

Husband complication: He has started to try and joke with me by saying “shh” after my coughing fits when I’m in bed. I’ve asked him to stop as it makes me feel bad for having a reaction I can’t control. He has suggested many times that I cough for attention - because it’s worse at night, and he somehow now believes that I only cough after he tells me “not to cough” (like that somehow fixes it.) Of course, when I don’t cough when I’m not laying down next to him, that adds to his beliefs.

Tonight’s conversation: This conversation lasted a lot longer tonight, because I kept asking him to stop “shh”ing me. He ignored me several times, then suggested again I do it for attention. He also told me last night that I’m “coughing wrong” as I don’t seem to be “coughing anything up” which is also why he suspects I’m trying for attention. I tried to explain to him that it’s a tickly dry cough, and the longer I try to suppress a cough the worse it gets, what causes it, etc. He ignored me and doubled down on his argument. I told him I was upset as he wasn’t listening to me and hearing my explanation of my medical reaction to a sinus infection. He kept saying “oh, I’m listening” and redirecting back to his main rebuttals. I raised my voice (but not to a yelling point), in between my coughing fits, and then after I left the room I had a really bad coughing fit where reflux caused me to bring something up. So of course I was a mess when I re-entered the room to get tissues - and I mentioned that he didn’t seem to care that I wasn’t ok. He kept returning to the “you’re putting it on” argument, told me I was being unreasonable, and I told him to fuck off a few times and left the room.

More background: I am seeing a psych for depression/anxiety, and on antidepressants. Husband has weirdo issues around antidepressants, asking why I need them, why it’s only his female friends who are on them, that he gets anxious too sometimes. Even after explaining the medical causes and treatment around it, he doesn’t seem to understand this is one way that actually works for me in terms of motivating me out of depression and helping my overall physical health. He is mostly healthy, I am 30kg overweight due to depression and specifically seeking treatment around these. My husband is highly educated and loves learning about science, but doesn’t seem willing or capable to take on board what I tell him about the medical research around depression and anxiety in particular.

I suggested to him before I left that he check in with his friends - to ask them whether his comments or reactions are reasonable, or whether I’m being unreasonable. I feel like I need an adjudicator in my conversations around my medical health in general - this is just a specific example I’m sharing. I really feel like I’m not being listened to, and that anything reasonable I share that medically explains my physical or mental issues is tossed aside. He seems to think in very simple terms around this.

There is a question of course. How do I proceed from here? What is the best course of action, or a way to bring this up again when I’m not in the middle of a coughing fit? How do I ask for a more empathetic and possibly supportive response? (In general, not just re. The coughing). Assume I’m raising this with my psych this week.

Final reason why I’m posting this: I feel like this is just going to get more problematic as we get older and face more medical issues. And especially so as I work through more treatment around binge eating my husband doesn’t know about (and definitely wouldn’t understand! Just stop eating, duh!) When I told him about this week’s “homework” from my psych for example, he just kept questioning why.
posted by chronic sublime to Human Relations (37 answers total)
Holy Christ, leave this man. He is either a gaslighting sociopath or genuinely thinks you lie and seek attention. I understand you are depressed but just no. Choose yourself over this douchebag.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:05 AM on June 13, 2022 [117 favorites]

This sounds extremely bad. I know you're used to it because it happens so often in your relationship, but it is really weird for an adult to tell their partner that they are lying and seeking attention when they have a cough, never mind the rest of it. I don't know what his issues are, whether this is an unhelpful pattern rooted in childhood trauma, whether he has contempt for women and believes that it is normal to have contempt for his partner, whatever, but this is pretty bad. You are right to be worried.

Given his level of commitment to "my partner is lying and/or deluded unlike me, the one who sees things correctly", it's difficult to see a way to fix things.

Mainly this guy sounds like a huge jerk. I'm sure he has good qualities or you wouldn't have married him, but this feels like the kind of relationship one gets into and then has to end because there are too many red flags.
posted by Frowner at 6:13 AM on June 13, 2022 [32 favorites]

I'm not the type who is quick to yell DTMFA, but the behavior you're describing is outrageous, hostile, and destructive. The man you're describing doesn't sound like a life partner, he sounds like someone who is making every effort to hurt you.

I have health issues that are hard to understand, and at times I've felt that my wife was skeptical about whether they were real. She didn't attack me, but I could tell she was wondering. My response was to invite her to come to my next doctor appointment. She did. She heard it all from doctor's mouth, and it helped.

I was ready to suggest that you do something similar, but your husband's before goes far beyond skepticism. If you want to keep your marriage alive, I'd suggest couple's therapy as an immediate first step. But you could also decide to step away, temporarily or permanently, to get yourself some space from his attacks.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:15 AM on June 13, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: So, I'm going to start by saying that it sounds, from your question, like your husband really sucks. Like everyone else, I think you should think hard about whether or not you're actually getting anything out of this relationship.

I understand, however, that you're only presenting a small slice of your life, so maybe he's bringing something to the table that isn't apparent here. If that's the case, my suggestion is that you stop trying to argue or reason with him around any of this stuff. Don't come to the discussion about your coughing armed with a bunch of medical information. Instead, the message should be: I don't like it when you shush me after I cough, and the fact that I don't like it is reason enough for you to knock it off. That goes for any of this stuff, your go-to sentence should be "it doesn't matter why, I'm telling you that I don't like it, so please stop."

But yeah, definitely take some time to consider if you'd like to spend the rest of your life saying that to someone, because I really don't think you should have to say it more than once.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:16 AM on June 13, 2022 [24 favorites]

Best answer: I agree with everyone else that there is a problem here and the problem is that your husband is a jerk. Whether he is a jerk about only this or also about other things, we can't know.

So here's my suggestion on how to continue the conversation, under the assumption that you are not going to choose "I'm so sorry you think I'm a lying, attention seeking nutcase, since I wouldn't want someone I love to be married to a lying, attention seeking nutcase, I've decided to get a divorce." as your next step:

"Okay, honey, it's clear that you aren't willing to take my medical issues serious, and I'm tired of arguing with you about it. So instead, lets talk about what we can do to make it practical for us to sleep in separate rooms, so you don't have to listen to me cough at night."

PS -- as someone with very similar symptoms for very similar reasons, if you haven't tried an adjustable bed or a wedge pillow, please do -- my adjustable mattress was a fucking miracle for me. Don't do it for your jerk husband, do it because you will sleep better and feel better if you don't have constant low level GERD messing you up.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:30 AM on June 13, 2022 [40 favorites]

Something to consider: consistently having the lived reality of your bodily experiences questioned and mocked can lead to anxiety and depression.
posted by mcduff at 6:31 AM on June 13, 2022 [76 favorites]

He sounds like a fucking piece of work. Sleep in separate rooms asap. I would stop trying to have this or any other challenging conversation with him entirely, and ask to do couple’s counseling. You need the support of a third party to help get through to him, since he obviously doesn’t respect you or consider your needs. Of course when he pushes back on this request you will get an even clearer picture of whether he’s willing or able to change. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. Please reach out to friends and family and get in touch with your care providers so you can best care for yourself with all your resources.
posted by Mizu at 6:50 AM on June 13, 2022 [7 favorites]

Is this the only sphere where you have this issue? Like is he decent the rest of the time and only gets mean when his sleep is interrupted at night? Because if so, yeah, okay, just focus on how to sleep separately so he doesn't get woken up and get into that mode. I mean, give it a try.

But I really don't like this. It's just weird, OP. It doesn't make sense. A decent person might very well get short and cranky while being continually woken up; might very well say "I can't live like this, I need to sleep, I'm going to the couch." But it's a long, long way from being crankily sleep-deprived to accusing one's spouse of bizarre motivations for their coughing.

And then there's the undermining of your psych treatment. He sounds like a real piece of work. You mention worrying about getting older... I gotta tell you, OP, people on a dickish personality path like your husband don't typically get mellower and nicer as they get older. He sounds like he's going to be undermining and gaslighting and bullying you more and more.

One thing you might consider is telling him HE has to get psych treatment because you're concerned that his dickish behavior is coming from a physical problem and that you can't live with someone who acts like this, so he'd better find a solution.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2022 [10 favorites]

Husband has weirdo issues around antidepressants, asking why I need them, why it’s only his female friends who are on them, that he gets anxious too sometimes.

I got to this sentence and scrolled down to start typing out a DTMFA comment. This is not only a shitty POV, but actively harmful to you and your mental health (on preview: what mcduff said).

From what you've said here, I doubt he will change his mind on this or related issues about your health. You're not going to be able to nicely ask him to be a better and more empathic human. He's already shown you that when he's challenged, he will deny/obfuscate/blame and then refuse to listen. You can probably assume he'll continue to do that and will probably get worse the more you push, not better.

Does he also comment on your weight or overall appearance? Does he pressure you to be "healthier" (by which he means "thinner" or "conventionally attractive")? You mentioned you can't talk about your disordered eating with him -- is this because you fear his judgement and comments? Or because you don't think he'll understand?

Definitely take steps to start sleeping in separate rooms. Consider taking steps to go to couples counselling at least, with the explicit requirement to make him a better partner for you, or taking steps to leave him. This is not a good, supportive partner. This is a controlling asshole who is willing to act like a mean bully in order to make you feel bad when you're already feeling down. You're right in thinking that it will get worse, not better, over time.

I'm sorry you have to put up with this sack of crap. I hope you're able to take steps to improve things for yourself.
posted by fight or flight at 6:57 AM on June 13, 2022 [14 favorites]

Sorry you are being treated so poorly by somebody who should be supportive. Nthing the separate bedrooms (if at all possible) as a starting point. But that doesn't resolve the problem that he is accusing you of pretending to be unwell. It seems unlikely, that that is the only area where he is undermining, perhaps when the sleep situation has calmed down, think if this relationship is really enriching you as opposed to minimising.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:01 AM on June 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

Giving your husband lots of benefit of the doubt which may be undeserved -

If your coughing is keeping him awake, lack of sleep may be contributing to him being irrational and grouchy. Can you go to a guest room or somewhere to sleep when you’re coughing? It sounds like his attitude in general sucks but sleeping apart when one person’s medical stuff is impacting the other’s sleep is a reasonable strategy.

To address your broader question - I used to think that if I talked to my husband in EXACTLY the right way I could elicit a response that was sensitive to my needs. I took responsibility for trying to find that perfect approach to overcome his calcified biases and disregard for me. But there was no perfect approach. I could be open and sensitive and rational and cogent beyond all human capabilities and it wouldn’t make any difference in how he treated me.

All you can really do is decide whether this is okay with you. He may be bringing enough to the table that you just skip talking to him about health stuff. I think your concern for the future is valid, though. The shit really hit the fan for me when I got breast cancer and my health stuff wasn’t avoidable.
posted by jeoc at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2022 [22 favorites]

There is a question of course. How do I proceed from here? What is the best course of action, or a way to bring this up again when I’m not in the middle of a coughing fit? How do I ask for a more empathetic and possibly supportive response? (In general, not just re. The coughing). Assume I’m raising this with my psych this week.
Trying to find the exactly-correct way to ask for support and empathy is an exhausting way to live. Being blamed for health issues you've worked hard to manage - your work in that is practically a part-time job, and your perseverance is remarkable - is exhausting. That, on top of the very real consequences of disrupted sleep, must be so painful. I'm so sorry, chronic sublime.

I hope your healthcare provider provides a framework for making your decisions about what's next. I don't have specific advice about what you should do, other than sharing your story openly with them. It sounds like you need real, substantial change, up to and including leaving him.
posted by Caxton1476 at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

If I were you, and I am not, I would simply ignore him. Do not even respond when he "Ssshhh'[s" you. If he persists, tell him the door is right over there if it is too much for him.

It would be easy to say leave this guy, but if he truly continues on this path after repeatedly being asked not to, it is not an unreasonable final solution.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:38 AM on June 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

Okay, so we've established how we feel about your husband.

If his horribleness is generally constrained to gaslighting you about your physical and mental health needs (!!!) and you otherwise enjoy sharing a life with him (???), I'd suggest sleeping in the guest room during the rare nights where your sinusitis is bothering you.
posted by katieinshoes at 7:54 AM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'm really sorry you're dealing with this. This is not a kind, reasonable, supportive, or loving way for your partner to treat you. And you're right that someone who reacts this way - to a variety of your physical and mental health issues - is not going to somehow get better as you both age.

If I try very hard to be generous to your husband I can say that interrupted sleep can make people be less than their best selves, so in the very short term, yeah, sleep separately. Revisit this discussion in a few days or weeks when you've both gotten sleep, you're not actively ill, and you can set yourselves up for a more general "how can we approach this better next time it happens?" discussion when you're not trying to solve a currently-happening problem that you're too close to to see.

But I also think you should seriously consider whether this is an aberration from someone who is in general supportive and kind and helpful to you, or whether this is telling you something bigger about who he is as a person and partner.
posted by Stacey at 7:59 AM on June 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

This man has no empathy for you. This man who is supposed to be your partner in all things has no empathy for you, and your discomfort only matters to him in terms of how it is inconvenient for him, and when you can't simply stop coughing he accuses you of faking. He actively objects to you doing what's right for your mental health. What's going to happen if you have a more serious illness? He sounds like an active danger to your health, mental and physical - it's awful to have someone dismiss your very real health issues as "faking for attention" - why would you need to fake something for attention from your partner? Short of Munchausen Syndrome, no one wants attention for illness - most of us go out of our way to hide and downplay it.

Step back and assess what he's like in other areas and if he's willing to work on this and become a real partner to you, and whether going through that with him is worth your time and the strains it will put on your health. He is choosing to do this. He is choosing not to believe you, and to be continually shitty to you - when he told you to stop coughing and you told him you couldn't, he escalating to shushing you.

Honestly he sounds awful and like you should find a divorce attorney as quickly as possible, but I understand that a bunch of people online telling you this is not going to get you to pick up the phone today. Please do think about it: think about what you want for yourself, what you need in a partner, how he's choosing not to be a good partner to you. Choose yourself - there are other people out there who will believe that you can't control your coughing and who don't denigrate antidepressants as nonsense women do.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:06 AM on June 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

I think you really have to decide for yourself whether this person has a problem they need to deal with (maybe health anxiety or trauma around illness) or whether this is a person who doesn't really like you or think well of you. I don't think this is how a person behaves if they want to remain married, even if it is rooted in trauma that doesn't mean they are unaware they are accusing you of lying.

I think in the short term you should consider countering his ridiculous jabs with a hearty instruction to fuck off with his abusive bullshit and see if that perhaps highlights for him how pervasively sick his treatment of you is. And consult with a lawyer so you know your rights and what you need to prepare in case you do need to exit the situation.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:09 AM on June 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

So, I did once live with a man who became irrationally angry with me any time I was sick at night. Crucially, he was very attentive and kind to me at any other point of the illness; but then if I coughed in bed, or kept getting up to vomit, what have you--rage. It was terrible to experience; you're already sick, and tired, and now someone who's supposed to be helping you is just mad at you, as if you could help it?! Nightmare.

Because he was otherwise a nice fella, we worked through this and basically it came down to this: he had a full-blown panic response to sleep interruption, and the very worst kind was one he couldn't predict--namely, he could not know WHEN I would cough/barf, but he knew THAT I would cough, and as such he just could not ever fall asleep at all. And sleep deprivation made him positively rageful.

And again, because he was a fine fella in other respects, I did not mind sleeping apart from him when I was ill. It might have looked mean from the outside, kicking your partner out of the bedroom when they're sick, but it was actually the kinder thing for him to do, because it kept him from lashing out with resentment.

But the key there was that overall, my partner was kind and empathetic toward me. It just happened that we got into a bad pattern of triggers that left us both feeling awful. I don't know--maybe you are in the same kind of pattern and your husband just has a lot more medical-based triggers. But the place for that conversation would probably be a therapist's office. Will he want to go to one? NO, but maybe if you tell him it's either a therapist's office or a divorce lawyer's office, he'll come around.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:29 AM on June 13, 2022 [16 favorites]

I started out reading your post thinking you just needed separate sleeping spaces but .... it's a lot worse than that.

I'm glad to hear you're seeking care and help for yourself. At the very minimum, you're going to need external help and support, because you won't get it from your spouse. It's hard to get a grasp on your entire marriage from what you've written here, but if the rest of it is in line with what you wrote here, I agree that you need to figure out whether this is how you want to live the rest of your life.
posted by Dashy at 8:44 AM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Oh hell no. You’re correct that it will not get any better with age.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:51 AM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Agree that short term: separate rooms and couples' counseling (assuming your husband isn't a jerk in all areas of life).

Long term: divorce, if counseling doesn't work.
posted by coffeecat at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

This is not a good situation for you. And I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with it to the point that you are questioning what so many people can automatically see. And I’m proud of you for reaching out to get that perspective and I hope you take the advice to heart.

I will give you an example of what should happen. I am disabled. It’s hard. And it can be hard in a relationship. My spouse has always supported me. After one of my surgeries I had a pain pump (a little tube directly into my abdomen that connected to essentially a water balloon of medicine with a timer.) They then explained that we have to pull it out on our own in 3 days and will get a call with phone instructions. My husband looked at me and immediately said, “don’t worry. I’ll do that for you.” And he did. Without hesitation, he pulled a tube out of my abdomen like a never ending scarf magic trick. And it’s one of the things things I look at fondly because it was funny and weird and I felt so safe.

I hate feet, I find them super gross. But when my husband had a cracked heel I immediately held his (ew) foot and applied cream and bandages because it was difficult to do himself.

Your partner should make you feel safe and supported. ESPECIALLY during medical hardship. It is “in sickness and in health” in most wedding vows.

Please reach out to friends, family, and possibly a domestic violence support line to get help leaving. Make sure you have access to money he cannot take from you. And leave.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2022 [18 favorites]

Why would you want to throw in your lot with this person? Way worse things are going to happen in your lifetime and he’s not going to be there for you, and the longer you wait to leave, the lower your chances of finding a good, supportive partner (although even an average not-great partner would be better than this creep.) And I don’t think this is something counseling is going to fix. There is something seriously wrong with him. Truly, what you describe is horrible. Don’t try to fix it. Just leave.
posted by HotToddy at 10:20 AM on June 13, 2022 [8 favorites]

You absolutely do not deserve this and I'm so sorry it's happening. He's going to get worse, not better. As a single person who has been VERY ill twice in the past 2 years, please trust me that being sick alone is a party hat-wearing, horn-blowing, confetti-throwing HOLIDAY compared to being HEALTHY with an asshole.
posted by cyndigo at 11:49 AM on June 13, 2022 [6 favorites]

One of my partners treated me this way about minor illnesses. Then one day I had an unexpected medical emergency and they wouldn't call 911 because "I was just trying to get attention." Thankfully I managed to dial 911 on a landline and EMTs came, but it was very scary. Get out of this relationship before you start to believe this person's behavior is loving or normal, and before you ever need emergency attention.
posted by KneeHiSocks at 12:24 PM on June 13, 2022 [17 favorites]

Your husband isn't gaslighting you. He actually IS dumb enough to think that's how it works. No point discussing it with him. You can't explain reality to someone with magical thinking and no ability to understand that other people are entities with separate experiences outside of his control. This is a guy who can't grasp the concept that you might have a cough for reasons other than to annoy him.

If he acts silly like that again, tell him to go away, and if he won't, get up and go to another room yourself. You can't fix stupid. There is no point arguing with it.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:19 PM on June 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Unless your husband is only this much of a jerk when he’s sleep deprived I would seriously consider leaving. He sounds hostile where one can reasonably expect supportive. Most of us don’t get healthier a we get older - do you really want to be with someone that malign going forward?
posted by leslies at 1:27 PM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Maybe it would help to hear about how two reasonable, decent people who actually care about each other handle this stuff? Because your husband's behaviour is not normal or reasonable, it is weird and cruel.

My wife and I are both light sleepers, and we both have some health stuff that can be disruptive at night. She has asthma and snores like a jackhammer, and sometimes wakes up coughing in the early hours. I have chronic pain and restless leg syndrome, and sometimes sleeping next to me is like trying to share a bed with Taz the tasmanian devil.

I'm not going to say neither of us ever gets irritable about being kept awake, of course we do. But we both understand that it is not the other person's fault, it's not in their control, and crucially they're not sleeping or comfortable either. We might be annoyed at the disturbance, but we're also sympathetic to their discomfort. If we're just keeping each other awake no matter what, one of us will go and sleep elsewhere, occasionally with a bit of a grumble. But there's no blame, and certainly no accusations of faking, what the hell.

It sounds like this guy just...doesn't care about you, I'm so sorry. I don't think there's any way to have this conversation that will get you what you're hoping for, because he doesn't want to give it to you. He's refusing to believe you can't just decide not to have health problems, because that would be inconvenient for him, not because you haven't found the magic words to convince him.
posted by BlueNorther at 1:49 PM on June 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

My partner is hypersensitive to noise and takes it personally; I am asthmatic and one of the symptoms is, from time to time, sinusitis and night-time dry cough. (He used to snore horribly before he got all his teeth pulled, and when startled awake I'm likely to lash out.) Both of us are somewhat irrational. We're also always individually always right and the other person is always wrong, so we tend to gaslight one another.

However, we have been married for 45 years because, for the most part, we apologize, eventually, or else we agree to disagree. Also, both of us have figured out how to get up and go somewhere else when we're (a) distracted by noise at night or (b) conscious that we're distracting one another. And we don't sleep in the same bed and haven't for nearly twenty years, because I finally put my foot down about that. I will never convince him against his will, but he won't convince me against my will, either.

Now that he's got stage 4 cancer he's become willing to accept that I am not *always* wrong and I can even go with him to doctor's appointments and offer independent evaluations. I'm not saying it gets better. I'm just saying that IF I want to stay with someone despite the real disadvantages of being with another human being, I learn to roll my eyes instead of trying to persuade my partner to always see my point of view.

I told a friend this morning (a friend who is quite rightly divorcing a partner) that my fundamental criterion for a relationship is not romantic love or need for intimacy, but whether or not it's safe to be myself with my partner. Ask yourself that question.
posted by Peach at 2:06 PM on June 13, 2022 [4 favorites]

You didn't ask this question, but your cough, sinusitis and reflux sound like they could be GERD. Cutting to the chase, a PPI medication (Omeprazole in my case) has improved my similar symptoms enormously and got rid of my five-year dry cough. This doesn't alter the fact that your husband's behaviour is passive-aggressive at best and narcissistic at worst, and you need to consider whether he would give you the sympathy and support you'd need if your health were to get worse for any reason.
posted by Hogshead at 4:05 PM on June 13, 2022 [3 favorites]

He seems to think in very simple terms around this.

In my experience you’re not going to be able to fix that. Our bodies are immensely complicated and failable and convincing themselves otherwise is how a lot of people feel safe. To be someone who is interested in science and cling tightly to a naive view of health seems like a contradiction, but honestly it seems like a very common pairing.

From a practical standpoint: I’m currently in my mid 50’s and I’d say about a quarter of the married couples I know sleep in separate beds. I’m sure there are a variety of reasons but something that I hear a lot is that getting enough sleep made a huge change in their relationship. I used to sneer at that or think that their marriage was broken in some way, but the older I am the more precious a really good night’s sleep gets.

So as much as your partner is behaving badly around this, if you want to try to salvage things I would start with making it a priority for both of you that everyone gets uninterrupted sleep. Life is complicated enough without the bedroom being a battleground.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:06 PM on June 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey everyone. Thanks for the responses. I’d posted this just before I went to bed last night, so I was glad to be able to sleep on the responses and not threads it. I ended up sleeping on the couch. We don’t have a spare bed at the moment. Previously, when I’ve had these issues and offered to sleep in the spare room, he’s said it’s not an issue. It clearly is.

The commenters who assumed this was the only weird issue in our relationship: yeah, you’re mostly right. There are other looming issues around varying sex drives, me snoring at night as well. All are absolutely tied to my health and wellbeing. Those who also projected whether my husband has weird food things that make him think that to lose weight I just “stop eating” - you were right too.

My next steps:
1. Raise this at my next psych appointment, next week.
2. Tell him I posted something to Metafilter to ask for advice and ask him whether he’d like to consider reading my question/the comments.
3. I have also considered whether to have him come along to one of my psychologist appointments, framed around how to best support me and discussions around health, rather than a “re-education” program.

Again - thanks. And thanks for reaffirming that Ask Metafilter gives genuinely comprehensive, thoughtful responses to relationship concerns.
posted by chronic sublime at 11:53 PM on June 13, 2022 [9 favorites]

I suggested to him before I left that he check in with his friends - to ask them whether his comments or reactions are reasonable, or whether I’m being unreasonable.

It would not surprise me one bit if he only chooses to ask friends who will agree with him on his views.

I feel like this is just going to get more problematic as we get older and face more medical issues.


(edit: I didn't see your response until after this posted)
posted by yohko at 11:54 PM on June 13, 2022

Response by poster: Only because I’m re-reading people’s responses, I’ll respond quickly to yohko: all his friends have female partners on various anti-depressants. His best friend’s wife (a very close friend of mine) has had morbid depression for decades and is currently in a stint in hospital for treatment. I’d be VERY surprised if his friends aren’t supportive of their partners’ health - hence why I suggested talking to his mates around it.
posted by chronic sublime at 12:03 AM on June 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tell him I posted something to Metafilter to ask for advice and ask him whether he’d like to consider reading my question/the comments.

Most of the responses to your question say that your husband is an asshole, that he's a jerk, and that you should dump him. Most people don't respond positively to that kind of blunt negative feedback, even if it's true. I'd suggest taking to your therapist and showing them the discussion before you decide whether to show it to your husband. It could really blow things up.

Unless you want leave him, in which case this thread could help explain why.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:41 AM on June 14, 2022 [6 favorites]

You didn't say if you apologize when you start coughing, but if you do...stop. That would just feed his thought process that you're clearly doing it to bug him, for attention, whatever.

Your husband may not be gaslighting you; but he may have a very, very hard time seeing things from other people's perspective. I have had that issue with my own husband. We would be in an intense discussion, and I would have a concerned look on my face, and he would get really upset with me, because clearly the way I was looking at him meant that I thought he was wrong, stupid, whatever.
I responded, "Are you seriously trying to tell me I have to arrange my face in an acceptable way for you?" That actually got him to stop and think about he was saying and see it from a perspective other than his own. His own insecurity and anxiety was feeding the interpretation he had of my facial expression. Now that we've been together for several years, he eventually came to understand: that's just how my face works! :) A form of RBF, I guess.
posted by BeBoth at 2:06 PM on June 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

It’s a side note, and I wonder if it’s anything useful to say out loud to him but:

I am genuinely curious about partners who say their ailing lover is doing Sick for ‘attention’ because *what* attention are they thinking is being sought? I’ve had versions of this with partners or family as a sufferer of a chronic illness, with episodes of acute pain and I’m perplexed.

‘What attention do you think I’m seeking?’

Someone to I dunno *care* ? Someone to ask if they help in some way? Make encouraging statements about this ailment passing? Look into solutions as the well partner with fewer drains on their ability of looking into things for you? Etc

I’ve genuinely tried to get to the bottom of their argument about attention. It feels important, and all I’ve come up with why someone says that, is that there is a deep level of disgust being presented to who I am and what’s happening to me. OR, the anxiety being dredged up in this other person just doesn’t have more nomenclature for them than infantile ‘you just want attention!’ Something that loudly sounds a refusal to be drawn to perform caring, to meet a bid for concern.

Attention, for me during a bout of unwellness, is about making myself comfortable, good self talk (this will pass!’) and finding some privacy to just get through a tough time without I dunno, meeting friends, functioning for others, doing laborious chores etc.
In your situation I’d say ‘I guess a certain amount of attention, when you’re not feeling well, is important - but I’m not sure arguing about it is the right attention love. I’m onto this situation myself and I’ll let you know if I want some help or pats!’ Then sleep elsewhere.

Why highly prevalent illnesses like sinusitis or depression are causes for suspicion in your partner cause his bitchiness and defensive argument-seeking is kinda baffling. The ‘attention’ is being paid! By you ! - with your meds, your rest, your therapy, your focus on remediating your conditions with appropriate attention.

My feeling is that for some people, especially blokes, other people even hinting at sickness around them makes them one up the situation. I mean, in your situation, look at your partner snatching focus to an argument. One thirty second interlude of ‘honey, do you need water? Or can I get you anything?’ is a ninety nine part saga of a circular, insulting drama fest. And, uh, loads of attention to him.

Fuck if my partner wants attention, even if I’m feeling inklings of scepticism about his rather dramatic enactments of mild colds, I JUST GIVE IT TO HIM! I love him and I want him to have only one problem to deal with (his health) not two (his health and me being a brat about it) and because I WANT him to have my interest and help if he wants it.
posted by honey-barbara at 2:49 AM on June 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

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