Married to Hashimoto’s: Where’s the Woman I Married?
Has Hashimoto’s affected your marriage?
Sadly I have a feeling this is the case for more people with thyroid disease than anyone can imagine.
It gives me hope when I hear from husbands and wives that have made it through the rough times.
Are you married to Hashimoto’s?
Love your spouse with every fiber of your being, because she needs you now more than ever, and never lose sight of the most important thing in love …hope.
Written by Rock Robbins, Married to Hashimoto’s
So, if you’re a guy and you’re reading this – congratulations. That you’re even looking at this puts you into the rare category of guys who are trying to understand what your woman is going through. So, way to go. May I say that I did not fall into this category until years later in my relationship with my girl, Stacey. And let’s face it, the ‘average guy’ is probably fine if his girl is going through some health issue, as long as…
- He doesn’t have to do too much and
- He doesn’t have to think about too much
If you’re like me, I leave a lot of the health issues to my wife as she’s just more naturally nurturing than I am. As guys, we have many other things in our life vying for our attention – family, work, friends, finances, sports, cars, (insert yours here). If you’re already active in the ‘help and support your woman’ department – awesome for you, keep it up.
I got married to Stacey about 27 years ago. Seven years in she got sick and a few years later was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. It changed our life, because it changed her life. Suddenly I was Married to Hashimoto’s.
(Hashimoto’s, for you guys who are still learning the ropes, is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the thyroid. The thyroid controls pretty much everything from weight to moods, from sleep to sex – and about a million things in between.)
So, with that said, I want to give you some tips that will save you time, your sanity, and your sex life. Even if you only do some of the suggestions I’m about to lay out, it’s likely your life will get much better between you and your woman as she grapples with a Hashimoto’s diagnosis.
Tip #1 – Realize that even though she looks ‘normal’, she’s not.
Here’s the thing with Hashimoto’s, when it first gets going in someone’s body they can seem totally fine on the outside. Things seem okay, but then they start dealing with things like…
- Brain fog, or fuzzy thinking
- Pale / puffy face
- Feeling cold
- Joint pain
- Thinning hair
- Low libido
- Slowed heart rate
And those are just some of the symptoms she may have before we enter the exciting world of weight gain.3
The problem is, in the beginning, we as men may dismiss these things, or hope that they go away like they do with most healthy people. But with Hashimoto’s, when untreated, things can steadily move into more and more very un-fun symptoms that just don’t ‘go away’.
Tip #2 – Stop acting like this is all in her head
I wish I didn’t have to put this here, but even I have fallen prey to the ‘I feel fine, so you should too’ kind of thinking. We get so busy, that when our partner is sick, it cramps our style, and all that we want to get done. If she’s looking ‘normal’, it’s tempting to say, ‘Hey! Snap out of it, and let’s get back to the fun, and all the things we used to do.’ Again, with most healthy people, some rest and time is enough to have their bodies repair anything that’s going on, but this is no ordinary health issue.
Hashimoto’s is basically your body fighting against itself, and attacking the ‘master’ gland in your body, the thyroid.1 The thyroid’s main job is to control metabolism, which is our body’s ability to break down food and convert it to energy. The hormones the thyroid creates are essential to proper development of all cells in the human body.2 Whoah, let’s pause and read that last sentence again, especially the ALL CELLS part. These hormones also regulate protein, fat, carbohydrate and vitamin metabolism.2 The reason you’re able to sit there and calmly read this article is because your thyroid is working in concert with the rest of your body. Trust me, this is not something anyone wants, and if they do have it, they don’t want someone giving them 9 miles of bad road on how they’re dealing with it.
I’m a bit of a geek, so I like to think of this like troubleshooting a computer. If the motherboard has something wrong with it, it’s not going to matter if all the other parts are sound. Things likely won’t work properly for long, if they even work at all. And with Hashimoto’s, it can easily be misdiagnosed as other health issues; you can end up doing a LOT of troubleshooting and tests on specific symptoms for a long time before you finally get to the big picture of a Hashimoto’s diagnosis.
Quick FYI – thyroid disease alone affects 20% of American women – that’s 1 in 5! 4 Of that number, Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of low thyroid and affects women ten times more than men.5
Trust me, if she could just flip the switch to get back to ‘normal’ she would. She doesn’t want to be a drag, not feel well, be stuck wondering what to do, and be frustrated with why her doctor doesn’t seem to deal with this effectively (I’ll have more on this in another article).
So, do yourself a favor, instead of putting that energy of frustration against her, put it toward helping her feel understood, comfortable, and cared for while you both sort out the next important steps. Again, this will give you major bonus points for being part of the solution, and not just another reminder that she’s broken or crazy.
(When you get a chance, read You’re Not Crazy and You’re Not Alone: Losing the Victim, Finding Your Sense of Humor, and Learning to Love Yourself Through Hashimoto’s by my wife Stacey Robbins. And have your partner read it too.)
Tip #3 – Don’t be a jerk
This goes hand in hand with #2. Sorry to be blunt guys, but we can sometimes be dismissive when someone else is having a health issue.
“You look fine”
“Why are you just lying around?”
“Maybe if you get up and start moving, you’ll feel better.”
We can be so sure we’re right, and that we know what’s going on, we’ll treat people the way we think they are, rather than the way they actually are. And it doesn’t help us that a great share of our well-meaning primary care physicians push an outmoded treatment protocol by saying that this issue is easy to solve just by taking a pill – most of the time it’s not. Hashimoto’s usually presents itself as one complicated ass-kicking disease. Trust me, if you were going through this, feeling awful with no energy, fuzzy thinking, and pain, you’d have a lot more compassion.
If it helps, imaging the feeling after being kicked in the nuts, and the sickening and aching aftermath of that; then imagine that lingering feeling going for days on end, or months, or years. You wouldn’t want someone getting up in your face and saying…
“What’s the matter with you?”
“You look fine.”
“Just get up and act normal again.”
Tip #4 – Be a part of the team, it benefits everyone (especially you)
Hopefully you’re already onboard with this. But if you’ve ever seen a family where the mom has been taken out with a bad cold or flu, you know what a big impact that has on the home. Meals quickly become dad making cereal, canned soup, or microwave and takeout meals for days. The house becomes a mess overnight. The sports and social schedule gets jacked up if dad isn’t already clued into the regular routine. Hopefully family or friends come to help. Regardless, the impact is felt keenly in the home when the person running the house is taken out with sickness.
Now if you’re already getting in there and having her rest and eat good food – awesome. If you’re not – pick up the slack in the home, and be an agent of help and peace, it will benefit you in major ways.
The last time I had a major flu where I was taken out for 3-4 days, I remember how my wife kicked into gear and helped me (all while juggling the household, her work, her mother who was in from out of town, and our kids igloo school project that involved oversized marshmallows and a hair dryer).
I was so grateful and impressed by her steady care of me, all without complaining. This is what I try to remember anytime she needs a helping hand or she’s feeling sick or depressed.
You have no idea how much it will benefit you to invest in your woman’s health – either through caring for the immediate needs, or researching what could help. It’s like investing in an account that gets 150% interest – it’s worth everything you put in there because the amount of gratitude, and other benefits you’ll get from a spouse who knows you have her back.
I’m not saying that that you should do all of this to get sex. But hey, if you’re not being an a-hole and you’re helping her like crazy, things happen.
Tip #5 – Choose to be Mr. Consistent with whatever version of her shows up
Yeah, this one takes some intention and determination because when a woman is going through Hashimoto’s, and the attendant emotional and physical ups and down, you may get…
- Angry partner
- Exhausted partner
- Frustrated partner
- Thankful partner
- Sad partner
- ‘It’s all your fault’ partner
- Fearful partner
- ‘I give up’ partner
I have had times of really bringing my A game to these scenarios, where I choose to love her even though she’s not reflecting that love back to me. Other times, I’ve gotten frustrated at her, and basically given her a hard time – not so helpful. Usually I think back to the times when she helped me, and get back on track. But heck, even if she hadn’t taken care of me – I have a commitment to her that is strong that was truly tested during her many years of whacko symptoms.
So, here’s the question to you: what is your level of commitment to this person? Because, it could get really gnarly in this process before it gets better. Meds, supplements, and diet changes don’t happen overnight so, even if you’re on the right track, it still takes time for her body to respond to the good things you’re doing. You should really decide who you’re going to be now, cause it’s likely going to get bumpy, possibly for a long while as you both dial in what works for her.
I’m not trying to scare you, but if you’re faint of heart, or in the ‘till inconvenience do us part’ type of commitment, it may not go well for both of you. She’s going to need to focus her energy on getting rest, tracking symptoms, food changes, mind issues, and listening to her body to find that sweet spot of what works for her.
Truly, I want you to be there for your woman, the same way I want me to be there for my wife. To put any excuses aside (if you have any) and put the time and effort that will be required to get her back to health and wholeness. Again, this is an investment that will benefit both of you.
We can do it.
You can do it.
Tip #6 – Know that it’s possible to get her health and life back.
This is important. Without hope, it would be easy to get discouraged. So many doctors visits and tests. Medications and food protocols. Reading thyroid healing books. Making logs of symptoms and thyroid levels. Taking walks together and talking through how we’re doing. Getting the kids on the same page. Making sure I get my time and recharge my own batteries.
But for me, I can tell you that it’s worth all the work we did to get my wife to where she is now in her health. She has more energy and peace. She knows what works for her food-wise, and what relationships don’t add to her life.
This whole adventure is more than just food or pills. You may be thinking, ‘Oh joy… there’s more?’ Yes, there’s more, but that’s ultimately a good thing. It’s highly likely that some of her prior way of thinking and living was part of the issue. The truth is that her new ‘normal’ may be very different than what it was before. Different foods, different pace, and a different way of being. What worked back then may not work for this new season.
With Hashimoto’s, her body is waving a white flag and saying, through symptoms, “There’s something going on! I can’t do this the same way anymore!” This is the opportunity to take the cue and adjust accordingly.
And hopefully, through the experiences my wife and I went through, we can short cut you to the quickest road back to sanity, health, playfulness, peace, and even the bedroom.
You’re not alone.
We’re in this together.