Seekingcongruence

Support from spouse when parents are terminally ill

2 posts in this topic

I'm asking for advice from others out there. There's always two perspectives in matters that are between a husband and wife. In the hopes of providing a balanced view (at least that is the intent), I am presenting perspectives of both myself and my wife (to the best of my ability).

Wife...
My husband and I are very different. On the MBTI scale, he is an ENFP that values relationships above all else and I am an ISTJ who is more practical in my approach to life. My husband is often praised by others for his kindness and consideration;  people tell me how lucky and happy I must be, which frustrates me. A wife needs to feel special, but when your husband is too kind to others and fights with you about the wellbeing of others, it makes me feel second; not second to none. Though he says he puts me first before all else, I see otherwise and this has always driven a wedge in our marriage. At first it was about his strong bond with his parents, which made me feel like second string. His parents are not bad people, but he being an only child, and they being 5,000 miles apart, they wanted to see each other as often as twice a year as if nothing changes when one gets married. I needed space and demanded it. He and his parents relented in a way and afforded the space needed. Then it became about his friends, neighbors, my colleagues, and even my own family at times. I felt judged for being who I am and treating others the way I did, because I was different in the way he thought I should treat them. We fought and argued about things that should not have probably become an argument and in that, I felt pushed aside and judged by his righteousness. And often about situations that practically warranted my response, not his idealistic suggestions. This brings us to today. His father has recently been  diagnosed with stage 4 cancer with metastasis of his sarcoma. He's physically fine now without showing any outwardly symptoms since the initial surgery of his original cancer site 6 months ago. My husband traveled to be with his dad during that initial surgery, then a surprise 70th birthday party with our 10 yr old son (3 months after that surgery), and his parents visited us for a week after his dad finished radiation. And now that my father-in-law has been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer due to his cancer having spread, I've given permission to my husband to travel back to be with his dad for 10 days. I asked my husband to use this time to disabuse himself of guilt for not being there for his parents. And for him to face reality that it's too much to travel every three months to be with his parents five thousand miles away. I work and he does, too. We have a joint account and separate accounts. He is using his own money to travel, but this isn't realistic and it could negatively impact us later down the road both financially and otherwise should he keep using his savings. The unknown of what might happen, including how excessive my husband may become as his father's situation deteriorates further and what he might ask of me when his mother is left alone concern me. I won't be able to deal with him asking if she should live with us even if it isn't permanent. I need my space. He's upset that I am asking him to have more level headedness, to work out his guilt during his stay and stop thinking he can afford to be there or have them be with us at every turn during the course of this disease, which no one knows how long it will last. Having him gone for 10 days is tough. My work is tiring and I have to look after the needs of our son while he's absent. He should understand how difficult this is for me and should appreciate what I am doing for him. My own father passed when I was in my teens and I know how difficult a time this is. But life must go on and he cannot shriek his responsibilities; and forget he is primarily a husband and father of his own family. I am a person who needs planning; who needs to  understand what is expected of me and how often. Right now he's demanding for me to understand him and support him, but what's his limit? What is too much for him? Am I being unreasonable? Should I be subject to his being upset? Am I wrong to feel unappreciated for what I have done to support him by way of letting him travel to his parents so often and having them here with us in the past 6 months? What do you all think?


Husband...
Some of the background information shared from my wife's perspective needs no repeating. My wife and I are different in many ways, which attracted us to each other, complementing our strengths. We've been married for over 10 years and such differences have sometimes turned out to be a point of contention. We've both come a long way in understanding each other's perspective and knowing what buttons not to push. And in some ways we've grown more similar to each other during those 10 years. Though far less, we still argue, especially about expectations of how we should interact with others and how we should support each other. I sometimes find my wife in battles with our neighbor, her family, her colleagues or friends. The origins of conflict are seldom singly attributed to her, but the recalcitrance with which she ends those arguments sometimes leads to unhinged altercations and severed ties. While I try my best to recognize her point of view and champion her cause (though I'm perceived by her as being judgmental or righteous), we differ in how we should behave in such circumstances and how grace and mercy exhibited can transform relationships. Juxtaposed with this difference, my wife's desire and need for time alone, magnifies itself in many walks in our marriage life. For instance, it requires me to be the go-between and caregiver for my mother-in-law in times of need; it makes it seldom possible to invite others including family or closest friends into our home as guests even for short meals; it presents situations where new friends and their families never having met my wife after months of getting to know me and my son; people at church asking the whereabouts of my wife at outings; repeated weekends alone with my son while wife is resting at home or shopping; my making excuses to my wife's friends of why their calls go unanswered; negotiation after negotiation of prescriptive details about when and how my parents or others can visit/engage with us. In short, it requires me to bend, change and mold to fit her way of life. Yes, marriage is about compromises, but it also needs to be about accepting each other for who they are, understanding best intentions, recognizing efforts and demonstrating grace, support and love. Prior to this trip to engage in the difficult discussion with my parents about end-of-life directives and care, I spent two weeks off work during the holidays to play with our son daily and to take the three of us on a ski trip over Christmas. Each day during that trip, my wife shopped and relaxed while my son and I skied -- all an effort to make her feel appreciated and rested. When we were not on the slopes during the holidays, I cooked almost every day, did the laundry and took care of our son. All of this is nothing to boast of and something to be expected of a husband. And I choose to do this and enjoy being of service to my family. However, knowing my dedication to our family, support during the 10 days with my parents to sort through their affairs as my father seeks treatment options for his stage 4 cancer is something I hoped to receive from my wife. While I was away, I called to check in on my wife and son, but each conversation was about how I should disabuse of my burden during this trip, how difficult it is for my wife to take care of our son alone during my absence, how I'm expecting too much from her, and how I'm excessive in my care for my parents, and how I should not expect to return to be with my parents anytime soon after this visit. Notwithstanding the effort made to see her perspective, I can't shake the idea of how one should be while one's spouse's parent is mortally ill. And how selfish it is to demand that I seek her perspective than focus on my difficult time with my parents. And how her words if she desired could provide such support and uplift my spirits in this time of need. I see other couples and the unequivocal support they show each other, and wonder what to do as I'm faced with a significantly different reaction. Yes, marriage takes effort, empathy and sacrifice, but there are times when one's principles are challenged and you wonder if the path together is possible or worthwhile. I can deal with being thought of as a single father due to partaking in most activities with my son alone; letting go of my desire of hosting friends and family; or often being the one to forgive and apologize first. However, when is it enough and when must one expect the wedding vows to be honored? Not yet throwing in the towel, but afraid of losing myself and being hypocritical to what I believe is the way to live in the world. What do you all think?

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Oh my. While I'm no expert, you two need to see a counselor. 

Your father's illness and impending death is an extraordinary event that cannot be measured by who does what and how long it takes, nor can the monetary expenditures be expected to be normal. Y'all sound like you are fighting over ridiculously petty things, which is an indication that bigger things are going on. I mean, a person's life is waning here. Concentrate on the celebration of what life he has left. 

Truthfully, a counselor could help you decide what your next steps need to be, and how to work together to either produce a better marriage or to put together a peaceful and productive co-parenting strategy. 

We will be here with you,

ModKonnie

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