Dysfunction and rehabilitation.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband grew up in an unhappy home, and came up with all kinds of strategies to stay out of trouble. Like, he has this odd way of answering a yes/no question with a word that could go either way. Plus, he can never be wrong.

Over the years, I’ve helped him overcome a lot of these things — and God knows he’s helped me be a better person, too. But he still refuses to answer if I call him from another room, thinking it’s more expedient to leave his options open like he did with his family. Meanwhile, I have no idea if he’s heard me, and I feel compelled to call him again. He gets annoyed, while I feel disrespected and devalued.

Is it too much to expect him to respond when I call him?

GENTLE READER: Not being a therapist, Miss Manners concerns herself more with how people treat one another than why. If there are no other problems, it seems to her that you could solve this one by walking into the room when you want his attention, and by following up your questions with, “Is that a yes or a no?” (c) MISS MANNERS

It’s weird how much I can relate to this. Whenever my mom asks me a nosy question, like if I’ve heard from my brother, my immediate response is no, even if I just spoke to him yesterday. I’ll say, “No. Have you heard from him?” and the lying is so rote that I don’t even think anything of it.

See, if I’m honest and say, “Yeah, I just spoke to him yesterday,” then we get into territory where my mom might start asking me personal questions about him that I might slip up and answer honestly. Oops.

The letter writer’s husband’s ambiguous answers to yes/no questions reminded me of that.

As to the other issue, I’m on her husband’s side, although I’m sad that the letter writer feels devalued over this. I don’t know why, but it’s a pet peeve of mine when someone calls me from another room. There are exceptions. If my dad wants to call to me from below my stairs, that’s okay. But in general, I expect people to leave the room they’re in and come find me before speaking. I have no clue why I care so much, but I hate-hate-hate yelled conversations. It makes me feel indignified, as though I’m some sort of royalty, or something, who must act with decorum. That’s as well as I can explain it. So I’d urge the letter writer to follow Miss Manners’ advice and just enter the room in question.

DEAR ABBY: My husband is in his 40s and permanently disabled from injuries received in a recent automobile accident. He is in pain, on pain medicine 24 hours a day and basically sleeps his days away. His pain and immobility make intimacy impossible.

He doesn’t object when I go out with friends or participate in activities he is unable to do, like hiking, biking or kayaking, yet I feel guilty for leaving him home alone five days a week, and sometimes the entire weekend. His mother thinks I’m a terrible person for doing this, but I can’t just sit home with him after I get home from work because he falls asleep watching TV.

We both know this will be the situation for the rest of our lives. This self-care is very important to my physical and mental well-being, as the financial stress is also overwhelming. How do I continue to live an active life and still be the wife he needs? — SAD FATE IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR SAD FATE: If the situation were reversed, is this the way you would like your husband to treat you? This is an honest discussion you should be having with him. I will be frank. Leaving a disabled spouse five days (nights?) a week or for an entire weekend on a regular basis seems excessive.

You promised to love, honor and cherish this man in sickness and in health. Would it be possible to include him on an occasional outing — if he can handle it — so he can have some fresh air and a change of scenery? If you must go out to preserve your sanity, it would be compassionate to arrange for someone to stay with him so he’s not alone in case there is some kind of emergency. (c) DEAR ABBY

I agree, and I’d add that I wouldn’t assume that the situation will never change. The accident was recent, and maybe his health will improve somewhat. It seems fatalistic to assume that it will never get better. For example, if he lost his leg, once he’s feeling better he might be able to get a good prosthesis so he can be active again.

His pain and immobility make intimacy impossible.

For now, yeah. Maybe once he’s adjusted to his injuries, they can make out or snuggle, or something. That counts for a lot. Also, pain and mobility can and should both improve, in theory. He’s in his forties. There’s got to be some hope here. Am I wrong?

Is this guy in physical therapy? Should he be? Nothing wrong with watching TV when you’re at a low point, but I don’t think he should plan to spend his life that way. Also, I’m not an expert, but aren’t there pain meds that don’t keep you asleep all the time? Just right off the bat, I think her husband needs better doctors. This seems like a bad situation. Unless he’s paralyzed, he’s too young to lose mobility from a wreck. Instead of accepting the situation, I’d try new doctors and new drugs and new avenues of treatment (physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, etc., etc.). This woman needs to be brainstorming about these things instead of leaving her poor husband behind.

In other advice column news, Annie Lane is airing repeats this week, but she’s not copping to it. [Makes face.] I remembered today’s column from four years ago. Yeah.

3 thoughts on “Dysfunction and rehabilitation.

  1. I really feel for Dear Abby’s letter writer’s husband, it sounds like a really awful situation. I do think it’s entirely possible for him to have such bad injuries from that accident that he’s not likely to get better, but every effort should be made that he has as high a quality of life as possible given his condition and that it’s stable. Being on sleepifying pain meds to the end of one’s life doesn’t sound acceptable at all to me, and neither is spending the rest of one’s life watching TV. Even if he’s totally paralysed with bad brain injury and I don’t know what else, with his family and health team’s help he should be able to do other things as well. It always saddens me to hear about disabled people who are maybe well taken care of physically but have such monotonous life and no real entertainment or mental stimulation, and sometimes they don’t even realise that life could be better. I understand the letter writer’s frustration but does she really need to spend THIS much time out?… It seems to me a bit like she’s trying to desperately escape her home life or something. Of course he’ll tell her that he doesn’t mind her doing it if he loves her, but she should be more empathetic and wiser than that. When she does go out, they should enlist family’s help to come over and help him but also just spend time with him, do things together. Or if not family, then he should have a personal assistant or something. Someone who wouldn’t be just a caregiver/physical therapist but would also help him cultivate his previous hobbies/find new ones and stimulate his mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I so totally agree!! Thanks for commenting!! I feel so sad for this guy and I find myself praying that his health will improve in meaningful ways! For whatever reason, I don’t want to give up hope here! I’m hoping that her going out all the time is a visceral reaction that will pass, and then she’ll get it together and become a better wife! Your ideas of caregivers is a great one! I agree that it’s tragic when opportunities for entertainment and/or meaningful activities goes out the window, so I’m hoping beyond hope that this man’s life turns around! I can’t remember the last time I felt so bad for someone in a letter! We must pray for him!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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