My wife has always seemed like a strong woman: in our 20 years of marriage it’s always been something I have respected her for. In the last few years, though, she has had one or two health issues, and each time she became convinced she had cancer. She started trawling through the internet and working herself up into a frenzy. Her fears seeped into everything we did.
Recently, there were traces of blood in her urine and she has been feeling a little out of breath. She is having tests and, yes, it might be cancer. But most likely it isn’t. I’m trying to be supportive, but I feel her constant googling is making matters worse. I can feel my patience slipping: I find myself losing respect for her, and I worry it’s really starting to damage our relationship at a time when it needs to be at its strongest.
Am I being mean and lacking understanding or am I right that she needs to get a grip?
– Jon, via Telegraph
I think you’re being way too hard on yourself – and on your wife, too. You need to cut some slack for the pair of you.
Let’s start with you. You’re not a saint, Jon. You’re not an angel. You’re an ordinary guy trying to do his best under trying circumstances. Your wife has developed a tendency to catastrophise when it comes to her health. Naturally you find that increasingly wearing, especially given that – to date – there’s been nothing seriously wrong with her. But nevertheless you’ve been doing your best to be understanding and supportive, to the extent that you’ve now written to me about it. This all does you credit. So stop beating yourself up because you can feel your patience starting to wear thin. You’re only human, Jon.
Now to your wife. She’s scared. She does not want to be scared – who would? – but in the Google age a little information can be a dangerous thing, especially when it comes to illness. (Confession time: I had a health scare recently and going online to research what might be wrong scared the willies out of me. I shut my laptop convinced I had but a short time left. All nonsense: I’m fine. So I empathise with your wife on this.)
Assuming her latest scare turns out not to be anything serious, I definitely think you should strike while the iron is hot (ie as soon as she gets the all-clear and while her relief is still fresh) and point out to her – as gently as you can – how needless all that fear and worry, stoked up by her obsessive trawling of the web, was.
There’s no shortage of scare stories online, let alone outright disinformation. Try to persuade her to resist the temptation to click on to these sites next time. It just makes everything 10 times worse. I know. I’ve been there.
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