I have spoken to my wife about this and she says she is sorry and will try to relax and not yell at us, but that only lasts a day or so. It’s like she’s angry at the world that she has MS, but the thing is she is only mean to us. She goes with friends and her sisters and treats all of them great and then comes home and is distant towards the kids and me. Honestly, she is pushing us away, and I find it more fun to do things when it’s just me with the kids.
Her MS has changed her and I don’t expect her to be perfect by any means — I just don’t get why she is now so different towards her own family who would do anything to help her. Our sex life used to be amazing and overall it’s still good, but I often feel she just does it to please me. While I completely understand our lives will always be different than how they were before her MS, I feel like she is allowing the MS to take over her life. I will never know the pain she deals with daily, but I do know a lot of people live good lives with MS.
We are still young (in our mid-30s) and I love her dearly, but I fear that if the kids and I have to deal with years and years of her taking her emotions out on us, it will only drive us away. She has a great doctor and takes her meds, but she refuses to speak about her MS to anyone. I never expected the MS would affect me as well, but it’s hard to be a spouse to someone that has MS. I feel alone most days, and most days I push my feelings to the side for the sake of my wife and kids, but I wonder how much I can take sometimes.
Any suggestions on how we can help her? Any ideas on how to deal with her mood swings? — Concerned Husband
This is a tough situation for all involved and I’m sorry your family is going through this. Clearly, your wife is suffering and having trouble processing her emotions regarding her diagnosis, as well as dealing with the pain and challenges involved (including the increasing loss of independence and accepting a change in household roles and dynamics). It sounds like you’ve been a wonderfully supportive spouse and a dedicated caregiver; you need care and support though, too, and one way to get it is through a support group for spouses and families of people living with MS. In a group like this, you could meet up with other spouses who are going through or have been through similar struggles that you’re facing. They may have words of encouragement and advice to help get you through. You could ask your wife’s medical team how to find such a group, or simply google “MS family support” + the name of your city or town.
Additionally, it’s imperative that your wife understand how her behavior and attitude is affecting you and your kids. Just because she’s living with MS doesn’t mean she gets a free pass to treat everyone like shit, and it doesn’t mean you have to tiptoe around her emotions day in and day out. You and your kids are people, too, with emotional and physical needs that she has to meet to the best her of ability, as a wife and a mother. You have to communicate with her what those needs are and how she is failing to meet them. I understand that she “refuses to speak to anyone about her MS,” but her relationship with you and her kids isn’t about her MS and it needs to be addressed with the help of a professional. It’s true that her MS is a factor in her relationship with her family, but the real cause of the fracture is a collapse in communication and your wife’s behavior toward the rest of the family.
Please, please tell your wife how you and your kids are feeling, even at the risk of hurting her. The short-term pain is worth avoiding more intense, longer-term pain and the potential full degradation of your marriage. She really needs to know how dire the situation has become and that it isn’t about your feeling tired of supporting her through her MS, but about feeling drained by her taking out her anger and frustration on all of you. She needs to know you are at the end of your rope and if she doesn’t agree to family counseling, the family structure you’ve spent so many years building and supporting is going to collapse. There are only so many ways you can change how you respond and react to her. At some point – and you’re at that point now — SHE has to make some changes. If she is unwilling to do this, you need to think about your own well-being and that of your kids, and it may be that getting away from your wife will be the best way to salvage your sanity and happiness. I hope it doesn’t come to that. I know that isn’t what you want, but you need to let your wife know how you’ve been feeling and that it’s time for her to work on meeting the needs of her family.