Q: Having fibromyalgia, a chronic syndrome with a wide array of symptoms, I have worked hard to experience a good deal of recovery, and to see the lessons meant for me and the development of my faith. I was married only two years ago, and have a truly supportive husband who acknowledges me for having more strength than he. The thing is, it seems as though my low moments are equally difficult, if not more difficult, for him, and I'm wondering: "Is there is a limit to how much of my personal journey (anger, frustration, spiritual stagnation) I should share with him?"

A: The wonderful thing about your question, Adrienne, is that you recognize that it is possible, perhaps even likely, for your truly supportive, loving husband to become overwhelmed by the difficulties of your illness and your struggles with recovery, relapses, fear, pain, and more. Even in the best of times, most of us want unconditional love and support from our partners, and we expect these when we are struggling with a problem or an illness. Your perception of and concern for your husband speak volumes about your spiritual growth and depth.

As you have seen, often it's as difficult to remain supportive and loving during a chronic illness as it is to deal with the illness itself. The roles are obviously different, but the despair and anxiety that can set in are remarkably similar. But although it is, as you say, difficult for your husband to handle your "low moments," you shouldn't spare him your pain out of fear that he'll be overwhelmed.

Being human means making mistakes, saying things we regret, as well as having tomorrow to make amends. When a loved one is ill, we no longer have this sense of time stretching before us, and we often feel that because we are "healthy," we do not have the right to become angry or to criticize. This is when the frustration can set in.

This may well be how your husband feels. How can he possibly get angry or express frustration when your problems are so much more difficult than his? And if he does allow himself to be "human," then he may experience only guilt, because, again, he's not the one struggling with the difficulties of this syndrome. Your understanding and recognition that this problem may exist is both essential and remarkable. The struggle with an ongoing illness usually makes us a little selfish and self-centered. Our problems seem so much more real than the problems of others. Our lot in life is unfair, and we expect to be honored by our loved ones because of this. Your ability to empathize with your husband's pain is remarkable and truly inspiring.

As for what you can specifically do, you must recognize that the nature of your syndrome--at least at this time--means that you do not know what the future, or even tomorrow, will bring. All of us who are walking together on a spiritual path struggle to remain in the present because God is experienced in the present, and it is essential that you practice living in the present. Our guess is that you already recognize this, but your husband probably does not. His fear about the future may make the present difficult to experience.

What does it mean to live within the present? It has nothing to do with some outward manifestation, such as not buying insurance, not locking one's doors, or some sort of strange disregard for safety. It has everything to do with attitude and acceptance.

If you can set him free to have his own degree of patience, tolerance, and endurance, and work hard to communicate that this is sincerely the way you feel, this will take some of the pressure off both of you. Essentially what you say to him is that you understand that there is only so much difficulty that any person can shoulder for another, and that it is a part of your love for him that you are aware of what he must be experiencing, and that no matter what he does or does not do, you give him your blessing. You do not want this syndrome to become like some demanding presence in your relationship that eventually drains both of you.

Accept the way your husband is this moment and turn to God. Accept the state of your body today, this instant, and turn to God. If you wake feeling strong and vibrant, be that, and turn to God. If you wake in pain and fear, accept that, and turn to God. Gently let your husband know that you cherish him for the goodness of his heart, but that you free him from having to assume your burden, because you have given this burden to God.

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