Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reduce Feelings of Resentment in Your Relationship

Reduce Feelings of Resentment in Your Relationship

by Fibromyalgia Network on Friday, October 8, 2010 at 3:00pm

Having fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) in a partnership or marriage can dramatically change a relationship. Simple things that were once taken for granted—mobility, housework, finances, social activities, and even plans for the future have been sidetracked.

As household duties back up and the spouse suffering from FM/CFS tries to take care of herself, the partner often feels overwhelmed or overloaded while trying to manage a larger chunk of daily responsibilities. Both parties tend to hide their emotions. The partner who is taking on more duties can begin to feel frustrated, disappointed, sad, or lonely. These feelings can lead to anger or resentment.

Here are some strategies to improve communications and handle feelings of resentment with your partner:

Initiate Friendly Discussion

If the partner who is ill makes a loving effort to initiate discussion that will bring up the spouse’s feelings, the relationship can take a more constructive and supportive course, says Thomas Fuller, Ph.D., a psychologist in Grand Rapids, MI.

“This isn’t an easy topic with an easy fix,” Fuller says. “I think the real key is for couples to talk about issues openly and without penalty so things don’t get all bottled up.” Also, you have to consider that while you are dealing with pain, your spouse is experiencing some losses that are different from yours. Step back and note how your spouse’s life has changed, too.

“Don’t be defensive about your illness or the situation, and accept that your spouse’s efforts, feelings, and struggles are normal. Validate his experience. Verbally appreciate what your spouse is doing to accommodate the situation.” Let him know you recognize how much more effort he is putting forth.

Here’s how easy it could be said:
“I know that you are disappointed right now. I know that you love me and are trying not to blame me for being ill. I am so lucky to have a spouse who takes care of things like you do. I am so lucky to have you.”

Only You Know How it Feels

“Open and honest communication is the best protection against the inevitable hurt and anger that can damage a relationship, “ says Connie O’Reilly, Ph.D., a psychologist in Beaverton, OR. Only you know what it feels like to be in your body on any given day. Only you can decide how much you can do. But it is important that you make a good faith effort to contribute to the household chores, even in small ways. And at the end of a day when your spouse walks in the door and you both realize you’ve not been able to do all each of you had hoped, remember that you are not responsible for anyone’s feeling but your own. Acknowledge the situation, accept that it’s okay, and remain optimistic.

For example:
“I realize I did not accomplish many of the tasks I had hoped today. I can understand that you may be disappointed and frustrated. So am I. I plan to go to bed early tonight and try again tomorrow.”

You may even suggest to trade some duties with the kids or look at hiring an outside service to help with some chores. Consider options and alternatives. While couples work out the basics of household management, cooking, cleaning, finances, and children, the social aspects of a relationship also can suffer.

Create a Social Life

Supportive social contact is a huge buffer against chronic illness, says O’Reilly says. But couples may have to rethink and recreate a social life based on new realities.

“Develop new mutual interests,” she suggests. “The kind of socializing may be different than it was before the illness.” It’s important to continue to make plans, but be sure to make contingency plans for those inevitable disruptions because of pain or fatigue. Be prepared to be flexible with a time or date, or take a rain check.

“You need to try to let go of this idea that you can or should try to prevent someone else from being upset or disappointed,” O’Reilly says. And it’s also important to let your partner do what he needs to do to achieve his social needs.

“Your job is to engage in good self-care so that you don’t feel jealous or resentful when your partner does choose to go out without you. Your partner’s job is to decide what he needs to do to make certain he takes care of himself,” she says.

“Needs for the couple to socialize together shouldn’t be relegated to the trash heap,” says Don Uslan, M.A., M.B.A., L.M.H.C., a therapist in Seattle, WA. “Couples who are not use to individual socializing may have a very difficult time with this concept. But there aren’t a lot of choices. Either the well spouse learns to do some things alone or with his own group of friends so he can meet some social needs and lessen any possible resentment, or the couple will have to learn to enjoy and accept a less active and intense form of socializing together.

There are challenges in living with a chronic illness that “good will and good intentions cannot solve on their own,” says Uslan. Here our experts agree that couples therapy or professional counseling may be the next best backup.

Barbara Suter, Ph.D., a therapist in New York City, says, in addition, an outside support group could act as psychological support for the well spouse to let-off steam or even be a social outlet. And “if time is too limited, perhaps an online group could be an option.”

“A couple may be fortunate enough to go for many years before a major challenge strikes. Or it may be early in the relationship,” Uslan says. ”If you didn’t come down with FM/CFS, it might have been something else, cardiac problems or severe back pain. The end result is the same. Either both parties are in it for the long haul, or one partner will try to find some way out, usually by blaming the person with the illness for some failure of not living up to the relationship contract. So, if it’s clear that both parties are in it for the long haul, they just need tools and techniques to figure out how to cope.”

The Fibromyalgia Network offers a 20-page collection of helpful advice. Find out how to help others relate to your condition, improve communication, and keep a positive attitude by clicking on the picture below.

To remain unbiased, we do not accept endorsements, advertisements, or money from the pharmaceutical industry. Articles are for informational purposes only. Consult your physician for treatment.

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