When my husband and I suffered multiple injuries from a devastating car accident in 2010, I was unprepared for the difficulties associated with the healing process and living with injuries. Physically and mentally, our lives and marriage changed significantly because a deer crossed the path of our car on a highway. My husband suffered a severe wrist sprain and I ended up with a collarbone fracture, microfractures in my ribs, bruising on my chest, microfractures in my left ribs, chronic muscle damage and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I had no experience with injuries or coping with them, but my husband knew how to be supportive.
Whenever I'm feeling pain physically or mentally, I treasure physical comfort. After the car accident, sexual intercourse and any related intimacy was out of the question. Even a gentle embrace caused me pain.
Although I know I'm an affectionate person, I didn't realize how important physical touch meant to me until I wasn't able to get the type of comfort I needed.
What he did: My husband was able to express his comforting nature and affection for me in other ways. He put on relaxing music, helped me in and out of bed and took me out for lunch as soon as I was able.
Work and schedule changes
Due to my injuries, my work life and schedule changed dramatically. I shifted from a full-time office job to a freelance career-something I had been planning to do, only not so soon-and had to adapt to my new schedule with all the medication and injuries. It was hard to time my work schedule around things like Vicodin and physical therapy.
What he did: My husband helped me adapt to my new work schedule. He asked about my needs and met them, whether that meant investing in some office supplies or getting out of the house after working there all day.
Having never had a major mental health issue, I was completely confused by my fear of getting into a car. When we had to pass the accident scene again on the way to an office visit, I had a panic attack. When I closed my eyes, I relived the accident. When I rested on my back during yoga, I remembered the feeling of being in that position on the side of the road.
What he did: Fortunately, my husband supported my decision to seek mental health help immediately and took me to a professional. He was also open to listening to the psychologist's diagnosis first-hand so he knew how to support me.
After serving more than four years in the military, he knew what it was like to have mild PTSD symptoms and helped me through my difficulties. He did not trivialize my issue. Knowing he understood my experience brought us closer and made our marriage stronger.
In our household, my husband and I have roles and duties. They're not assigned things, but things we're more comfortable doing. I don't mind dishes, but he vacuums the floors, for example.
When I was injured, my husband had to do all of the daily chores. For a few days, he even had to help me shower. For weeks, he had to help me dress myself. (Fortunately my mother and mother-in-law helped out so I had additional help getting dressed and grocery shopping, especially once my husband was cleared to return to work.)
I felt extremely ineffective in the house. I imagine a man in traditional roles might feel more so ineffective, being unable to open the mayonnaise jar or lift heavy boxes.
What he did: My husband reassured me and asked me to make a list of tasks. This minimized my frustration. He kept reminding me that the situation was only temporary.
The car accident changed our lives irreversibly. I have chronic back pain and my husband still helps me cope. He stands up for me when I assert to others that I am unable to lift heavy objects.
Whenever we have issues or disagreements that all marriages contain, I think back to my accident recovery and the way he nurtured me through a difficult recovery. If ever I am in a position of needing to help him through some sort of recovery, I know that I can rely on his example.
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