How Your Partner Should Care For You When You’re Sick
“Through sickness and in health.” That’s the vow, isn’t it? Millions of couples around the world each year exchange that very vow, but I don’t think they really put thought into what it means. Maybe they don’t think it will ever really come up—the whole sickness thing—or they believe that if sickness does strike their relationship, it will pass quickly. OR, each might think, “This vow just ensures my partner will be a nurse to me” rather than thinking about the fact that they might be the one in the caretaker position.
Taking care of a sick partner—whether it’s a short illness or a chronic one—is a massive responsibility. Some couples go into a relationship knowing that one partner lives with a chronic illness, and prepared for what that life will look like. Others only discover later in the relationship that one person will deal with a chronic illness for life. Even if you or your partner doesn’t have a chronic illness that plagues you every day, you may have a condition that acts up sometimes, and when it does, it’s a major handicap. No matter how often or how strongly illness strikes your relationship, it’s important that you are the best caretakers to each other. That’s the deal.
Your partner is supposed to be your new family, and, just like your parents cared for you so dearly when you were young and sick, your partner should do the same for you when your health isn’t great. How a partner cares for you when you’re ill says a lot about what kind of person he is, and what kind of partner he is. And on that note, if you’re newly dating someone who doesn’t take great care of you, that’s a huge red flag. How will he be later in life, when things get really rough? Here is how your partner should care for you when you’re sick.
You shouldn’t feel like a burden
Your partner should never make you feel like a burden when you are sick. If you call to him from the other room, needing something when you’re in bed, he should be happy to help. He shouldn’t ignore you, hoping you let it go. He shouldn’t groan or roll his eyes or ask if you really need it. He should make you feel that he’s happy to be there for you.
Or like he’s “getting it over with”
It should always feel like your partner wants to do the best job taking care of you aka the most thorough. It shouldn’t feel like he’s just trying to get it over with—this caretaker task—so he can get back to his life. So, for example, if you ask him to get you soup, he shouldn’t come back four minutes later because he just went to the liquor store and got the grossest can of soup, so he wouldn’t have to drive to the place with the good stuff.
He shouldn’t make big plans himself
If he knows you are sick and may not be well for a while, he shouldn’t make big plans, like going on a trip to Vegas with his friends or a camping trip. He should want to stay near you until you are feeling better. If he absolutely needs to leave—for, say, his best friend’s wedding—he should find a good friend or family member to come be with you until he can get back.
Or for the two of you
He should understand that he cannot RSVP to big, active events on both of your parts, when you aren’t well. A good partner who understands how to be a caretaker will say to someone, when invited somewhere, “You know, my partner isn’t doing well. I can’t promise she’ll feel up to it that day. Can we tell you as it gets closer?”
He should pick up your slack
When you’re sick, you can’t be expected to keep up with your chores, like emptying the dishwasher, walking the dog, mowing the lawn, and things like that. Your partner should just pick up your slack a bit. He shouldn’t get frustrated with you for leaving some dishes out when you’re too weak to stand. He should just do them for you.
Without showing frustration over it
And he shouldn’t show frustration over picking up your slack. Remember that, all of these things he does for you when you’re sick, you’ll do for him when he is sick. If you know that, he should know that, and he should handle some of your regular tasks with patience and kindness.
He’ll need time to recharge, of course
You understand, of course, that he can’t take care of you if he doesn’t take care of himself. He may need an afternoon when he says, “I could really just use some fresh air and a little me time. I’m going to the gym, and then to read for a bit at a coffee shop/see a friend for a drink.”
But he shouldn’t run off
You shouldn’t, however, feel that he runs off on you. If he says he’s just going for a drink and will be back by 8pm, you shouldn’t find yourself wondering where he is at 10, with nobody to give you medicine, make you some tea, or take care of you. Being a caretaker is a lot—yes, it is—but that doesn’t mean your partner gets to go ghost on you.
He shouldn’t risk his own health
Back to taking care of himself in order to take care of you; your partner shouldn’t put his own health or life at risk when he’s caring for you (or ever). This isn’t the time to go skydiving or venture to some unsafe, off-the-grid town in foreign territory with his boys for an adventure. It’s not the time to drink so much he blacks out. Anyone who is a caretaker to his partner and wants to be there for her will care for his own health.
He should provide emotional comfort
Your partner shouldn’t just care for your physical wellbeing when you’re sick but also for your emotional wellbeing. He shouldn’t just drop your soup off at your door, like he’s some paid nurse. He should want to be there for you, emotionally, checking in on you, making you laugh, and lifting your spirits.
And add those little touches
Like adding your favorite cookies to the plate with your tea. Renting your favorite movie. Picking up new slippers for you because you’ve said your feet are cold. You know—the little touches similar to what your mom or dad would do for you when you were little.
He should work together with your family
He needs to understand that your parents will want to be involved and updated when you are sick. You are their baby, after all. He should keep them in the loop, take their calls, use some of their tips, let them come over, and let them be a part of this. Your family is a great resource, and he should rely on them, too.
Rather than be the boss
He shouldn’t try to be the boss, pushing your family out, rejecting all of their advice, and deciding if and when to update them. Some partners go this route, fearing there are “too many cooks in the kitchen” if he lets your family step in. Or feeling that, he’s your partner now, so he’s your caretaker—not them. But your parents will always be your caretakers, and he has to respect that.
He shouldn’t question your strength
If you tell him you’re too weak to do something, that should be that. He shouldn’t ask if you’re sure, if you’re exaggerating, or if you can’t try to make it—just for him. He should never make you feel guilty or like you’re letting him down when you’re too sick to do something fun with him.
He shouldn’t seek “comfort” elsewhere
Some men, when they’ve been caring for a sick partner for a while, will start emotional affairs. They want a connection with a woman who is lively, healthy, and vibrant. But these men are weak. They don’t understand what it means to be faithful. A good man will remain loyal to you while you are sick.