Our teenage daughter just had a medical scare. Things seem to be ok for right now but we will need to have follow up tests for months before we know for sure that we are out of the woods for a major problem. I'm terrified, the unknown is a tough place to be especially with your children. My husband on the other hand is completely dismissive of the whole thing, even implying that she may have "faked" the incident or caused it somehow by being irresponsible. I'm so disappointed with his reaction, I feel like the only one that is taking this seriously! Of course, I am downplaying it a bit to my daughter so as not to cause her needless worry but it would be nice to have an ally in him! How can he be so heartless?

It is terrifying when a child is seriously ill. The way that people handle illness in general is often a reflection of the messages that they've gotten from their families-of-origin (FOO).

For some families, illness is so threatening that they make light of it or blame the sick person. Sickness simply isn't "tolerated." Death might be less so, and the family acts like "it's time to move on" even when the death is recent.

In your case, it is important to talk privately to your husband about the medical facts of the situation. If he tries to dismiss them, ask him to take notes so that you are fully certain that he has all of the information he needs. Ask him if he knows anyone with this condition, and if he does, explore his feelings about that person and how they may have been seen as "causing" their own illness. "Dismiss" has its origins in "to send away" or "denounce." His attitude may be like an ostrich with head in the sand; instead of not caring, he cares so much he simply won't deal with it.

You can also look at his relationship with that particular child and ask yourself how he would react if he lost her. Does she hold a special place in his heart? Is she typically dramatic or bothersome? Does he try to counteract her being annoying by denying her any right to express pain or discomfort?

In any case, try to let go of your own disappointment and address what you need from him directly, in terms of support. Set up a time and place where he isn't likely to be "too busy" and express your needs to him and ask him for behavioral change, without criticism ("You don't even care about her!!!"). Sit him down and tell him you want specific things from him that would demonstrate to you that he's an ally and not a disinterested spectator. Ask him not to say she's "faked it" or "caused it" because it hurts your feelings. And tell him how you would like him to behave differently, for example by showing sympathy to her or accompanying you to the doctor's appointments.

Again, I'm so sorry for this terrible event in your life.  It is important to feel like you and your husband are on the same team. I hope he is responsive to your needs once he is crystal clear what they are.

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Dr. Kathy McMahon


Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online and in person private couples retreats.

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