How You Can Help Me, Honey by Annalee1960
You've told me that sometimes, when I'm upset you don't know what to do or say. Different women may want to be treated differently, but here's what works for me:
1.) You've said that you don't know what to do or say when I cry. Sometimes just holding me when I cry is enough. You don't necessarily have to do or say anything, just be present with me in the moment. Often it's your touch that says the most. Just hold me close (watch out for incisions, they're tender and sensitive), stroke my hair or my face. Hold my hand. The warmth of your body, the familiar scent of you skin or your cologne and your gentle touch soothe and comfort me--often more than words can do. So if you can't think of anything to say, don't worry so much. Let the quality of your touch communicate how much you care for me.
2.) If we do talk while I'm crying and you're holding me, I like it best if you avoid saying "don't cry". Just accept and validate my feelings, you don't need to try to "fix" them or make them go away. Tell me it's okay to cry, it's okay to be scared. I need to know that you experience my feelings as normal. When I cry, I need to hear and sense that you'll be there to comfort me. I don't expect you to be perfect and always know what to do. If you don't know what to say, just say so. That's okay too.
3.) You may be confused by my touching and caressing you. Right now this may be a source of comfort for me rather than a source of sexual pleasure. It is reassuring to reach out and feel you beside me at night. Please understand that I may be touching you in order to reassure and comfort myself rather than as a request for sex. When I am ready for sex I will let you know. But we may have to go very slowly. My mind may be ready for it, but my body may not be up to it. Or vice versa.
4.) I know you're a man. And men DO things and take action to FIX things. But sometimes its not doing, but BEING that I need from you most. Just being with me, being present for me. Being there for me when I need your support and your help.
5.) I know you're feeling helpless because you can't fix what's wrong with my body and you can't relieve my pain. Please be aware that I don't expect you to fix everything for me. Time and surgery will fix some of my issues. Others I may need to deal with on my own time and in my own way. Thank you for respecting this.
6.) Sometimes the best way to help is simply to listen and be 100% present for me when I need to talk. Being totally present means that you are listening to me without engaging in other activities at the same time (turn off the tv, your cell phone, etc). I need you to be fully present for me, not preoccupied or distracted. If you are unable to listen due to your own day to day issues, please tell me so--and let me know when you're ready to listen again.
7.) I know that sometimes you are uncomfortable with the things I talk about.Sometimes the things I talk about may seem inconsequential or repetitive. I may be simply exploring issues, trying on different explanations for the changes in my body. Sometimes I may just need to grumble, gripe and vent. If you get uncomfortable with the things I talk about please say so rather than digressing into a medical lecture or a story about how you broke your arm. This sends me the message that you aren't listening and it makes me feel disrespected and devalued.
8.) I am doing my best to listen to you day to day concerns. Please understand that sometimes my pain and the medications I'm taking may make it hard for me to listen and be fully present for you when you need to talk about problems at work, etc. This doesn't mean that I don't care for you or that I think your issues aren't important. I will let you know when I am better able to listen.
9.) If I am irritable, please do not automatically assume it is the result of something you did. I have a lot on my mind right now and I may need more space and privacy than usual to sort things out. Please respect my need for space and quiet times. I will try to share my thoughts with you when I am ready to do so.
10.) I really appreciate your efforts to nurture and take care of me. But please remember that I want nurturing, not mothering or fathering. I am an adult, please do not treat me like I am a child. I know that you are an intelligent person. But I do not need medical lectures right now-- this makes me feel disrespected--as if you think I am an ignorant child in need of education. I need support, not lecturing.
11.) I appreciate that you want to protect me. That is a nice sentiment. But I need you to respect my right to approach my recovery on my own schedule and in my own way. I am a unique individual, so my recovery may not match the doctor's textbook version. Please respect my right to make mistakes and overdo things as I learn what my body can and cannot do after surgery. I have lived in my body all my life. I would appreciate it if you could recognize me as the ultimate expert on my own health.
12) I appreciate your efforts to be patient with me. I am trying to establish a new sense of what is "normal" for myself and my body. It no longer works the way it used to. Sometimes I feel like my body is a complete stranger to me. What is normal and what isn't? This is a very confusing time for me. I have to readjust and develop a new sense of who I am as a woman and who I am as your partner. My recovery isn't just physical. I also have to recover mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Our relationship also has to recover and we need to establish a new "normal" together. I know this is a very hard time for you and that you are readjusting too.
13.) Please do not worry about maintaining a strong, in control macho man image for me. I do not need a macho man who is always perfect and in control of everything. That is not helpful for me. I need a warm, caring, nurturing, supportive man who can comfort me and accept my feelings without judging me negatively.
14.) If you're scared or you're still worried about what to do or say, please say so. I need you to share your feelings with me. If you are scared, thats okay. After all, I'm scared too.
Please remember that, in showing me your vulnerable areas--your fears and your tears--that you are sharing your deepest strengths with me. Your ability to disregard the stereotypical "macho mans' code of ethics" really impresses me. You are doing such a good job so far. I know you're trying really hard. I'm so proud of you for being willing to face this challenging time with me even though sometimes you feel uncomfortable or unsure of yourself. What is most important to me is that you're there for me. Rember the old saying, "What goes around comes around". You've been there for me, I will do my best to be there for you whenever you need me. I am deeply grateful for every little thing you've done for me: cleaning the cat box, vacuuming, washing dishes, etc. It is these little simple things and the way you hold me when I cry that are most important to me. I do not need Superman, I need you. I am so blessed to have you in my life. Thank you for all you've done and everything that you will do for me in the weeks ahead.