How to deal with my partner’s chronic fatigue?

Dec 7, 2020

QUESTION

Dear Ven. Robina,

I have a question about my relationship with my partner and parent to our daughter. My partner has chronic fatigue, this developed a couple of years after we met. He works, just about, but struggles on a daily basis and is often in a lot of physical pain from the exhaustion. 

He’s also very depressed due to this condition and has high levels of anxiety, which can cause anger. Over the years I’ve tried to support him, suggest that he gets external support, not push him to do too much that he is uncomfortable with, but I’ve not been very skillful in this. He often says I show no empathy and am unable to support him. I really don’t know what he wants. 

I think that one of the issues is that I’m a fixer, I want to fix issues. Also, I’ve suffered myself from anxiety and low-self esteem and depression in the past. Although you would have thought this would make me empathetic for some reason my response is to suggest ways to overcome these challenges and look for solutions. We end up in the same vicious cycle every few months, with nothing changing. 

The irony is that he spends a lot of time blaming everyone and every situation for how he feels and gets angry at the outside world. I worry about the impact on our daughter and wonder how long I can keep living this way. Do you have any advice on how to take this onto the path? It is causing me a lot of stress. Any advice would be really appreciated 

The teachings i have listened to have had a profound effect on me. I hope to attend more of your teaching in the future. 

Much appreciation,
P

ANSWER

Dear P,

I’m happy to hear from you.

As for your partner, I understand well. The bottom line is that you have two options. If you can’t cope with a situation, then it’s best to leave it. If you feel that leaving is not appropriate for everyone, then you decide to stay – and that means you have to do your best to work on your mind. I’m sure you are doing that already, and it’s not easy.

It means you have accept, really accept, that this is who he is, you can’t change him, and you got to stop wanting to change him. That’s attachment. Attachment wants everything the way we want it. It might even be valid for him to change — of course it is! — but you can’t make it happen. 

Live your own life, do your practice every day, do your job, be a good mother, and do your best to let him be. Stop giving him advice. It’s not your job to fix him. This is who he is right now. Love him for who he is. Have compassion. But let him be. 

Also try to see the good qualities that you must have seen once and which are there still, although hidden. Paint a new picture of him in your mind.

Of course it’s not easy! But this is what giving up attachment looks like. Then you’ll be a lot happier, I promise.

What do you think?

Love to you,
Robina

QUESTION

Hi Ven Robina,

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to my email, I really appreciate this.

Over the last weeks I’ve been reflecting on your advice and it has been really beneficial. Firstly I recognized that the picture I have of my partner had become really negative and unhelpful and condescending. It was painful to realize this and to accept that I needed to change this picture. Have been recalling and remembering all his good qualities and all the positive / kind things he does for the family. This in itself has really helped to improve our relationship, of course this is still a work in progress and its easy to spill into old habits but still a good practice. 

I’ve also recognized that I share many of his frustrations and worries, which I generally internalize, so have been working on these myself and trying to empathize with him, rather than fixing him. Thank you for your advice on all this. 

One thing I struggled with to start with was feeling like I was giving up on him, by which I mean, if I was going to stop giving him advice / trying to fix him, how did I help him with his suffering. I think he appreciates just being listened to and empathized with but I’ve also started just to do a short Medicine Buddha practice for him as well.

Love P 

ANSWER
Dearest P,

Good to hear again.

You’re on the right track with your husband. Well done. And, for sure, Medicine Buddha mantras can help – all of you.

Learning to not try to fix him does not mean you don’t care or that you’re not helping him. Just be there for him: that’s a lot of help! He needs to find the way to help himself. Your kindness and support can give him courage.

Being compassionate doesn’t have to be emotional – often we confuse attachment with compassion. Compassion needs to be wise and strong. Just seeing his mind, understanding where he’s at, not judging, but not buying into it all as well, which will drag you down.

But you must do your own work, your own practice, too. That’s what gives you strength. Thinking that when he gets better you’ll feel better isn’t the right approach. He needs to fix himself – and you need to fix yourself!

Keep moving, P. Have courage!

Love to you,
Robina

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