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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 96 - Conflicts

Arguments are a part of marriage. Ann Landers (remember her?) once wrote that marriage without conflict would be as dull as dishwater.

But when you're looking at a calendar that has a Last Day...they hurt.

Last week we had an argument. I don't remember what it was about, beyond the fact that I was in alot of pain, and rationing pain meds, and I reacted impatiently to something Barbara said.

It spiralled, and impatient became, well...cruel.

That's hard to write. I want to be better than that, but in this case, I wasn't.

I was...please pardon the language...an asshole of the first magnitude.

I offer no excuse. Illness is NOT entitlement.

The hard thing is...and this is part of the gulf that separates caregiver from patient (yes, I am a patient, though I've resisted the term till now) is that I only have a little time to correct things.

Not living under the gibbet's shadow, one feels that time will heal all wounds.

I don't have that time.

I have to be better than this. Barbara was quick to forgive, and I know that God already forgave me, but that doesn't obviate consequence.

And the consequence is a loss of self-respect, a trashing of self-esteem. They say that it takes about seven 'attaboys' to make up for one "dipshit!", and that shrinking calendar makes it hurt all the more.

I don't know if I will have time to make it up.

The takeaway here, for the patient, is to be constantly on guard in what one says. There's no justification for 'letting feelings out', when they are bad or unjust feelings. None at all.

Terminal illness adds a requirement for self-discipline, and a requirement that one watches...carefully...what one is about to say.

For the caregiver, the takeaway is this...that the anger to which you might be subjected isn't so much directed at you as it is directed toward circumstance. You're not the target, but you're the only visible thing downrange...so you're going to get hit.

This isn't a demand to make allowances for poor behaviour in your spouse...this is meant to say that it's nothing you did. You didn't bring the anger on yourself..

You didn't invite the heartbreakingly cruel words that were inflicted on you.

Don't give your spouse a pass on this. Please don't. Call your mate to better behaviour, even if it's hard to do, and even if 'mercy' says you shouldn't.

It's not mercy tolet someone get away with poor conduct.

Help your spouse to die a gentleman, or a lady...but above all, to die a Christian.

If you can.please do leave a comment. I am trying to answer all, and I am failing, but please know this - I read and treasure each one.

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  1. Wow. This is a complex issue, Andrew. I see your point: On one hand, don't let your loved one die being cruel, being someone they don't want to be, because time is short. On the other hand, even if they DO die being cruel, the caregiver won't remember that as who they really were. Hopefully they'll understand the strain. They have a whole lifetime of memories to draw upon, not just the last few months.

    When there's not much future left together, perhaps the past can count as more? I don't know. Just praying God fills in all the gaps. Keep hanging in there.

    1. It is a tough one, Lisa, and the prime directive is to avoid the anger, impatience...and yes, cruelty. First, because there's no excuse, and second, because those behaviours do...at least in the short run...overwhelm years of good memories.

      In time, the good memories do return, but since I won't be there for that, I absolutely HAVE to be better.

      Thank you so much for being here. Your presence, and your comments, mean a lot to me.

  2. Words of wisdom from your life in the REAL real world. Thanks, Andrew, for giving me an appreciation for the truth that no matter how many days we have left together, spouses should keep short accounts with one another.

    1. Michele, that's a perfect way to put it...we should keep short accounts. It's hard to do, and requires intentionality for both people. But it's worth it.

      Thank you so much for being here!

  3. Andrew, YES. After all, we are called to love and to forgive, and in doing so He is perfecting us. ❤🌲

    1. Kim, you said this perfectly. We re called to forgiveness...of others, and of ourselves.

      It's true that we have to live with the consequences of actions and words, but so much of that consequence IS caused by lack of forgiveness...and, again, much by not forgiving ourselves. I am guilty of that.

      Thank you for being here!

  4. Great words to remember whichever "side" you're on, the caregiver or the "patient"...words hurt!! That is the bottom line...words HURT bad! Thank you for your words of "wisdom" coming from one who let those words FLY...I do that often; perhaps too often! My husband does that, too; only he very seldom apologizes...in fact, he very seldom remembers what he has said. And if I bring it back up later, he denies those words and will not apologize, and often turns it all around to MY fault...maybe it was; maybe it wasn't! But, I've gotten used to something that isn't aimed at ME per se, but at the disease or the illness or the dementia or hearing or the whatever. This I know and should avoid the conflict as much as I can...

    As usual, your words hit right at home; and I appreciate reading them...blessings and hugs and prayers for you and Barbara! Good that you both can apologize and accept the apologies of the other!!

    1. Wise words, Barbara. The words are really aimed at illness and circumstance, but they DO hurt, and that hurt can't be denied. Apologies are necessary, but they don't undo the damage. Only time and better manners do that.

      Thank you so much for the kind thoughts and prayers, and for being here to share this journey...and for the sharing of your own experiences.

  5. Andrew, you are a wise man, and I don't mean one of the Magi. ;-)

    1. Janet, thank you! When I wrote this post, I sure didn't feel wise. In retrospect, what I said was 'human', and not directed at barbara at all...but she was still the recipient. And she still was hurt.

      But the pain is passing, through her grace in forgiving, and through God's grace in helping me see that I can be better, even though I may stumble.

      Thank you so much for being here, and for your prayers and friendship.

  6. Andrew ... it will happen. When we don't feel good ... that's the hardest time to control our feelings. Our words. Don't beat yourself up. You're going through enough. I'll be thinking of you through this Christmas season ... thinking about your dogs ... wondering if you'll give them treats on Christmas Day? ;) The girls always get our cats treats on Christmas. Love and forgive yourself. Please!! I can't stand the thought of you being upset at yourself, with all that you're already going through.

    1. Shelli, thank you so much. It's better now, though it was a hard, hard week. One thing that God has shown me is that when I beat myself up, I still end up beating on the people around me...and for me to extend the needed grace, it first has to be offered to myself...and I have to accept it.

      Hard to do, when pride gets in the way.

      Thank you so much for being here, Shelli. You are a constant inspiration to me.

  7. "Hurting people hurt people."
    Praying you will forgive yourself and that you will find small ways to give Barbara the gift of thankfulness for Christmas.
    Thank you for loving me when I don't smell good or look good or hug well or sound nice. When I offend your senses temporarily, thank you for loving me-the eternal me.
    Even in health, our bodies are dying and offensive.
    Thank you for sharing the difficulty of graciousness, Andrew. You are ensuring that your legacy is one of an imperfect man saved by a perfect God. The pictures of grace are always brighter when we share them in contrast to our still darkened humanity.
    Merry Christmas to you and Barbara!!

    1. Tammy, yes. Hurting people DO hurt people.

      Forgiving myself was hard...and overcoming the pride that made me exaggerate the 'consequences', in terms of loss of self-respect and self-trust...that was harder.

      It's just a matter of turning from the dark side (which was, I see now, exacerbated by having to take more pain meds on that day...three times the normal amount) and set my feet on the path of kindness...and even if irritated (which does happen in any marriage) thinking before talking. And then keeping my mouth shut.

      Thank you for being here my friend, and I wish you the happiest of Christmases!

  8. Last night while shopping for Christmas gifts I snapped at my wife. It took about 3 seconds. I hurt her, and I felt terrible. When we were first married that would have been a 3 day offense. Now, she almost instantly forgave me, and in a few minutes I apologized. We had dinner and enjoyed our ride home together. I so appreciate my wife's ability to forgive bad behavior on my part. I was tired and frustrated and just lost it. Fortunately, our relationship was quickly healed and we grew in understanding. I have to be more careful during this stressful time of the year. Thanks for your post.

    1. Mic Del, thank you for sharing that. It's so easy to be hurtful, and to immediately regret it...and so wonderful to have a wife who GETS it, and who is just as quick to forgive.

      Thank you so much for being here, and I hope you and your wife have a wonderful Christmas!