The truth is not everyone has the best bedside manner, and, as with all things in the marital relationship, it is likely that one spouse is more apt to tenderness and comforting care than the other. God created each person both uniquely. In a general sense, men are a bit more haphazard and bumbling in the area of comfort. Many are unsure how to care for someone who is sick or emotionally unwell, although there are circumstances where the man may be more comforting than the woman.
We at NAME are always teaching and counseling how to withstand various trials in your marriage. One of those trials that every marriage will encounter is stated plainly in the marriage vows—“in sickness and in health.” Sickness may even be the most devastating trial that a marriage has to face—especially cancer or other life-threatening diseases. How you react during this time can effect marital satisfaction even after health is recovered. If the sickly spouse is disappointed by the spouse who is supposed to comfort, this can lead to extremes such as questioning how much said spouse truly loves him or her. In order to be a spouse who comforts well, you have to be prayerful and considerate of the Great Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will supply you with the compassion and grace if you are willing. However, many struggle transferring compassion to comforting action… Comfort is ultimately about servitude. It is selfless and desires the other’s happiness. Comfort makes itself available with time and resources; it finds opportunities to bless, in the way that person needs it. For example, we have talked about love languages before. As a reminder, the 5 love languages (by Gary Chapman) are physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service and quality time. Knowing which way your spouse receives love best is key in a time that they need to feel loving comfort. For those who need help with ideas, if it is physical touch, neck and feet rubs, a back scratch or cuddling may feel very comforting. If it is words, try a beautiful card or affirming compliments. If it is gifts, flowers and chocolates are standard, but a movie to watch, a soft blanket or books are great gifts for a sick person. If it is acts of service, a clean house or help with the kids could be the stress-reliever they need. If it is quality time, try a good conversation or lended time. Those are all practical ways to move from compassion to a comforting reaction.
It is important to note that not all times of need for comfort come during ill times. Many times, more often than not, the emotional aspects of life throw a curve ball at a marriage. One reason is often emotions cause us to react differently than ourselves or our spouse would expect. Another reason is sometimes a spouse has a hard time understanding that a particular situation could be emotional for their counterpart. Sympathy is a learned art. It requires practice and sometimes forcefulness to feel for someone when it may not come naturally. Sympathy is the first step towards empathy, and empathy is necessary in exhibiting comfort during emotional turmoil. For those who have trouble understanding what life events may bring on an onslaught of (clear or repressed) emotion, here is a list of very real emotionally trying circumstances: loss of job, health complications, financial strain, death or sickness of parent/family member, parent’s divorce, problems with misbehaving children, retirement, parent with Alzheimer’s disease, a miscarriage or loss of child, change in career path, stress at work, a struggle with alcohol or substance abuse, rape or sexual abuse, a betrayal, a loss of a friendship, a loss of property, a move, etc. Now that you read the list could any of those effect your spouse’s moods and emotions. Think beyond your spouse. Who do you know going through these struggles? Remember to extend kindness and comfort… after all, if the Holy Spirit is the Great Comforter shouldn’t we be extending comfort in our own lives?