Saturday, March 6, 2010
The Guilt of Illness
The sick partner feels guilty for being sick. For changing the game plan of the relationship. For not being able to do the things s/he used to, things ordinary couples get to do without a second thought. For having a hard day. For eating up savings that should have gone to the kids' college fund or retirement.
The well partner feels guilty for being well. For being in a different place than the ill partner. For being able to still socialize, do sports, even have some fun. For not being able to make the ill partner better. For feeling angry, afraid, and exhausted. For wishing this would all stop and get back to the way things used to be.
What's the benefit of carrying so much guilt? Not much.
Guilt doesn't act as a bridge, creating a conduit between two struggling people. Guilt can't repair health. Guilt doesn't bring laughter into the room.
Guilt turns off the lights and shuts the door.
Two guilt-ridden partners means two people hunkered down in their separate corners, hiding from the light in each others' eyes. Each person, alone, feeling bad over something they had no hand in making.
What's the way out of guilt?
Stand up, hold each other, and jointly say, "This sucks." Not, "I'm bad," or "You're bad." but rather: "The situation we are in is terrible. We are both so sad that this is changing the future we had planned. I'll be with you when you are hurting. I'll give you space when you need it."
Where do you feel guilt? How does it affect you? What do you do about it?