You can lean on me … but no piggyback rides

It’s turtles all the way down, man. Photo source: Martin Fisch, via; some rights reserved.

I’m having trouble being supportive.

My husband is having surgery in a couple of months to repair a giant hernia on his belly. He’s already gloomy about the news, worried about the cost, and fretting about getting older and having physical ailments.

He also recently got the news that he has to have another tooth pulled and replaced with another implant for $5,800. The dentist made the mistake of saying his teeth look “elderly,” and that label sent him into a spiral of self-pity.

I want to be supportive of him and, most of all, to be kind. But he is so clingy and droopy and is likely to remain this way for an extended period, based on my past experience with him. It’s **exhausting** to be around him when he’s trying to lean on me like this.

My feelings right now are:

  • Shame for not feeling more empathy.
  • Irritation that he’s moping around, clearly looking for some “Poor baby” and “It’ll be all right.” I do offer him sympathy, but not to the degree I would have done in the past. He hasn’t been that way for me when I’ve needed it. I will never forget him curling his lip in disgust and telling me — when I was asking for an icepack for my arthritic knee the first time it flared up — that he never thought he’d be having to deal with “this shit” at his age. He gestured toward me when he said it. (Sometimes when he complains about a health issue of his, I think to myself, “I guess I’m dealing with this shit at my age.” A little bitter, eh? But true.)
  • Dread. When he spirals downward, it’s really hard for me not to get dragged down with him. When I get depressed, it’s very hard to pull myself out. And I have to do that, because he is exactly zero help even if he notices I’m drowning.
  • A resigned sigh. Because I know I’m going to have to square my shoulders, dig in, and be supportive if I want to act in integrity with my values. I’m just trying to find the boundary between giving him loving support vs. taking on too much of someone else’s burdens in life.

He’s a grown-ass man and is going to have to buck up. I can’t — or won’t —be strong enough for the both of us.

And I feel like a shitty person for even thinking like that.

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