"He Can't Handle My Illness"
His Turn"It's Like I've Lost My Best Friend"
"'I don't want to live like this, either. It's like I've lost my best friend," says Adam, 34, who's been married to his wife for nine years. "Rachel was the one person I could count on to be a sounding board. No one in my family ever talked about much of anything, certainly not about feelings. But Rachel took the time to ask and listen. She was the one who taught me about intimacy.
"I do try to show that I care, but nothing I do meets Rachel's approval. If I give her a massage, she tells me I'm rubbing too hard or not hard enough. If I ask how she slept the night before, she thinks I'm being patronizing. Actually, I thought I was helping by not talking much about her illness. When I'm sick, I try to keep my mind off my problems.
"I'm not saying Rachel is a hypochondriac; I know she's in pain, and I feel terrible about that. But I do think she spends too much time obsessing about her condition. Some of the best doctors in the city have assured us that her illness is not fatal or progressive, and that she's got to be patient with herself. There's a point at which you have to accept gracefully what happens to you.
"I don't think Rachel knows how nasty and critical she's become lately. When I planted that shrub near the tree, she shrieked as though I'd committed a crime. She complains that I don't help her enough -- cleaning up after dinner is her latest issue. I'd rather spend the time with my kids, so I tell her I'll do it after they're asleep. But she either storms into the kitchen and does the dishes herself, or else she hovers, telling me I'm not washing them thoroughly. And I can't believe Rachel is still upset about that Florida trip eight years ago. Isn't there a statute of limitations on a husband's mistakes? If you can never win, after a while you stop trying.
"Rachel reminds me so much of my father it's uncanny. My sister, brothers and I could never please him, either. If I mowed the lawn as a nice surprise for him, he'd point out the one tiny patch of grass that I missed. It's ironic that now it's Rachel who hates his attitude. As for Mom's parenting advice, she's only trying to help, and, after all, she did raise four kids. But Rachel won't even listen to her.
"I don't feel like we're a family anymore. I barely see my sons; Rachel insists that they be in bed by eight o'clock, and I usually don't get home until seven-thirty. After I help get them in their pajamas, I eat dinner alone while Rachel disappears upstairs, buries her head in a book and pushes me away if I try to kiss her. I'm not saying we have to make love every day, but she's never in the mood anymore. Maybe she's right -- if our life is going to become one long fight, it's time for us to split.