Some of you have probably noticed that I haven’t been as active in the comments section this week as I normally am. The reason for this is because my father in law has been in the hospital the past few days due to a possible spider bite that has developed into a full-on skin/blood infection.
The hospital he is staying at is waiting on a culture to develop so they can begin treating what inflicting him specifically, but in the meantime, they’ve been doing the normal rounds of antibiotics, drips, incisions, etc. A few days ago, when he was first admitted into the ER, it was mentioned that this could develop into a life or limb situation, meaning they might need to amputate his hand in order to save his life.
Needless to say, this all has been rough on the entire family, especially my wife. She and her parents have always been very close and the thought of losing her father has been wearing her down the past few days.
As soon as I heard that he was being admitted to the ER, I also knew that I needed to jump into action. Now, more than ever, my wife needs a rock that she can lean against. She needs the support that only I, her husband, can provide.
We have discussed stoicism in the past and it’s absolutely crucial for times like this. You need to assume your wife is going to be emotional, frazzled, and could quite possibly lash out in frustration. You must be the opposite and keep your emotions in check. It can be hard sometimes, but your wife will draw strength from you if you can remain resolute.
Stick to the plan as best you can. Keep up on your to-do lists around the house and work. If you made any plans such as a date night with the wife or cards with the guys, stick to them unless something new and urgent pops up. In times like my wife and I are going through now, your wife needs to feel a bit of normalcy and routine. If the whole household routine goes out of whack (and you along with it), then she’ll be even more stressed and emotional.
A topic we don’t talk about as much here is empathy. Mixing stoicism and empathy seems a bit odd on the surface, but it’s actually quite simple. All you’re doing is maintaining your own frame, but also understanding the emotional state your wife or girlfriend is in. If it was your father in the ER, how would you feel? Probably a lot like your wife is feeling now; walking around in a fog.
Be prepared to take on some more duties around the house on a temporary basis. Don’t wait for her to ask. Just like with choosing where to go to eat, she doesn’t want to make any decisions, especially now, so make them for her.
Here are a few things I have been personally doing or saying to my wife this week that mixes stoicism and empathy.
- “Don’t worry about the house or kids. I got it.”
- “You can head to the hospital once I get home.”
- Not saying anything and just giving her a long hug.
I’m making the decisions for her so she doesn’t have to think right now. Like in the second example above, I’m not asking “WHEN do you want to go…” or “ARE you going…” but instead framing it in a way that she doesn’t have to think about the if’s and when’s.
Lastly, just let her know you’re thinking about her throughout the day. Check in on her regularly, even if it’s a simple text saying “Hey, have you heard anything yet?” They may never say it, but these kinds of small things mean a lot to them.
I’ve rambled a bit in the post, but I believe it’s a good lesson for men to understand, especially if you are a husband and father. It’s easy to be masculine, strong, and confident when things are going well.
It’s a completely different story when a storm hits your ship and it’s all hands on deck. Many times, our initial response is confusion and indecision. You must push past that and lead your family.