#957: “Do I have to move because of my husband’s allergies?”

Hello Captain and fellow Awkward travelers,

My husband and I, along with our 16-month-old daughter, moved to a new city on Saturday. The reason for our move is that I just finished medical school and will be beginning residency in June.

Husband woke up this morning and said he’s not sure he can stay in our new rental because his allergies have been worse. He feels like he can’t breathe or sleep. He has a long list of tasks he wants me to do to banish all possible allergens from our home, but says there’s a possibility that he’ll want to move anyway. I’m now so stressed thinking about the financial and logistical costs of a second move that I can barely put words together.

That’s the short version. Here is some other relevant information, in no very thoughtful order:

  • There was nothing about this rental that would have indicated it was a hotbed of allergens before we signed the 12-month lease. It’s about 15 years old, appears well-kept, and by the landlord’s report was previously occupied by a non-pet-owner.
  • There’s no reason to expect another place would be a better bet from an allergy perspective unless it were a brand new construction, which is quite expensive in our area.
  • We have no savings.
  • Husband has a number of chronic, uncomfortable-but-not-life-threatening physical health issues that require considerable effort on his part to manage.
  • He also has (and acknowledges that he has) anxiety that presents as and amplifies physical symptoms. He’s been doing much better from this perspective over the past few months, but during my pregnancy and maternity leave, he was basically in a sustained crisis (frequent visits to the ER and different kinds of specialists; lots of money spent on vitamins and supplements; multiple restrictive diets attempted; physical activity, including things like preparing his own food or holding the baby, extremely limited). 
  • He also is in recovery from dependence on prescription drugs, to which he attributes the bulk of his ongoing health problems; because of this, he has a deep distrust of physicians.
  • During my pregnancy, we moved into a brand new apartment and then broke our lease after a month because there was loud construction noise that worsened his symptoms. We fought a lot about that decision, and I found it pretty traumatizing.
  • The division of domestic labor that was established when I was on leave and husband was incapable of holding the baby has proved distressingly stable. To put it bluntly, I don’t feel I can rely on him to do more than occasional daycare drop-offs and pickups, and even with those I expect a lot of complaining.
  • When people hear that I have a young toddler and am finishing medical school, they often assume I’m extremely competent and type-A, but in fact I’m pretty limited by anxiety, lack of energy, and attention problems. Most days I’m home I find it hard to do anything other than feed, clean up after, and play with my daughter.
  • Most of the time I’m utterly incapable of applying my medical curiosity or compassion to my husband’s suffering. If I’m honest, what I truly feel, deep in my body, is that I wish he would just suck it up. Sometimes I’m so unmoored by this feeling that I worry I’ll be a bad doctor.
  • I certainly don’t want to move, but I’d much rather move now than after I start work. I’m stressed out dealing with my husband, but I’m not done with the relationship, and I need even the limited help with parenting that he gives

Captain, I’m well aware of the codependency that screams from every sentence in my letter – but that seems like something that it takes years to get free of, and I need to get these things sorted now. What do I do?

-Desperate for Roots (she/her pronouns)

Dear Desperate for Roots,

Good morning. Your letter falls into the category of “Letters I don’t quite know how to answer but that I will think about until I do.” Time to muddle through and overuse the bold function and the ellipsis.

It’s truly awful to feel like you can’t breathe, and I feel terrible for your husband. It sounds like his number one job right now is to take care of his health and heal and get better, and being uprooted from home is making that all the harder. That has to be so scary. It has to be really scary also to not know how much to trust the information your body is giving you – Is this physical? Is this anxiety? Whatever it is, it’s really hurting him, and that sucks.

If you’ll permit it, I want to give a shout-out to the character of Chuck McGill on AMC’s Better Call Saul right nowThe character has an unexplained and severe reaction to “electronic stuff.” Living with the condition involves some pretty severe and inconvenient alterations in his living situation, and some severe adaptations on the part of people who love him. The condition is almost certainly partly psychosomatic – in one episode a doctor demonstrates without a doubt that as long as he doesn’t know he’s being exposed to a device it doesn’t hurt him. However, his real suffering and the accommodations that others make for it are taken absolutely 100% seriously, and it’s always clear that he’s the boss of his own life and that the most consequences of the illness fall on him. He’s allowed to be brilliant and competent at his job and he’s allowed to be so vulnerable and he’s allowed to be a total asshole at times. It’s a rare and lovely and complex portrait.

I feel terrible for your spouse, and terrible for Chuck McGill, and sweet holy wow do I also feel terrible for you. You just moved cities to start a very intense job. That would be stressful without a toddler! You had to move twice (!!!) when you were pregnant. You do nearly all the parenting and other domestic work in your house and I feel 99% confident that you did nearly all of the apartment hunting and packing and unpacking and logistical work of moving. You’re exhausted and stressed out, and it’s okay to have an “Nooooooooooooo, not again!” reaction to the suggestion that y’all move house…four days after you just moved house.

And like, okay, I think there is stuff your husband can do in the short term, short of moving house again. Stuff like:

  • Y’all moved Saturday. It is now Wednesday. Moving kicks up dust and after every move it takes my asthmatic body a few weeks to breathe normally. Have you even had time for the dust to settle (literally)?
  • Could he have the place inspected for hidden stuff, like mold issues that might not be apparent to the naked eye? “Dear Landlord, we love the new place, but I’m experiencing a sudden escalation in my allergy symptoms. When was the last time it was inspected for mold, etc.?
  • Has he put a medical support team back in place for himself (primary care doctor, allergist, therapist, addiction treatment plan)?
  • Speaking of doctors, where did this list of allergen mitigation come from? How do we know it’s the right list? Do his meds for allergy symptoms and breathing issues need adjusted? He “doesn’t trust doctors” but it’s half past doctor o’clock and you are a doctor and you know that it is time for him to go to the doctor.
  • Different cities have different plant life, and at this time of year everything is in bloom in the USA (Chicago is lovely right now but it is also trying to kill me?). If it’s winter where you are I’d be more likely start with something indoors as the problem. It could be both, who knows? A doctor will know. His doctor will know.
  • It’s possible to hire someone who is Not You to do the allergy mitigation tasks – whether that’s a few hours of a cleaning service or a TaskRabbit or something like that.

All of this stuff takes effort and time and money and “spoons” for a person who is already sick, so, yeah, it’s daunting and debilitating. It’s unfair and it sucks and breathing is necessary. But it seems like his go-to solution is, “Wife, solve this for me. Save me from this.” 

Hard questions:

  • Would the long list of tasks to banish allergens work to help him breathe better? Is it at all possible/feasible to do, say, if you had help? Is there a time frame over which he could track his symptoms closely*and a process for figuring out if a move is really necessary?
  • What if, as you look at that list of stuff to try, moving apartments really is the path of least resistance for right now? If the house were making your daughter sick, would it change how you feel about this? Is there an argument to be made for throwing money** at the problem rather than trying to wrangle a chronic illness into submission in very short order?
  • Since we’re engaging in Thought Experiments here, what if the right long-term solution is for you and your daughter to stay where you are and for him to find a studio apartment in a new construction building? “You can’t live here, and I can’t move again so soon, so, what do we do?
  • Did moving actually solve the problem last time you had to do it? (I feel like…not really?)(I said these were hard questions.)
  • Why is moving his first suggestion of what to do?
  • Moving sucks for everyone, including him. If he’s willing to put himself through it again so soon, doesn’t that speak to the severity of his medical issues?
  • Is moving easier/less scary for him somehow than going to the doctor? Is that reasonable, in your opinion?
  • If he feels so strongly about moving could he take on the bulk of the planning and mental/emotional heavy lifting?
  • What would he do about this if you weren’t here to help?
  • When he does feel better/on his good days, do you think he does his very best to parent your daughter and take care of the domestic front? Do you think it would really get better?
  • What would he do if moving were simply not an option?
  • Do you feel like you can say no to him about moving?
  • Do you feel like you can talk through some of these questions with him, as an equal teammate?

Because hey, it sounds like moving is not an option. **You don’t have the money to do it. So maybe the answer is a conversation along the lines of “Ok, if we gotta move we gotta move – do you have any suggestions for finding a new place that will work for you and making that affordable and feasible?


Moving would take $X, we have only $Y, so we can’t do it until we have at least $X saved up, which means after I start working, at which time it’s going to be impossible to coordinate. If we had to stay out our lease here for one year, what could we do to make it work?”


And the “we” in “what do we do” has to be a real we, not just you. I don’t think “suck it up” is useful to say to him here but “Financially and mentally I cannot even contemplate this, can we exhaust other solutions before that’s an option?

You obviously want your husband to be safe and happy and comfortable and able to breathe, both for his own sake and so that he can take on a larger share of the parenting. You want to show him that you believe him about how he feels and that you take his health seriously. But something’s gotta give here, and I think it’s okay to look at a variety of possible solutions, including and especially some solutions where the work of his well-being is primarily his own.

Two Self-Care Steps To Implement Now:

A) There’s a reason that it’s unethical for doctors to treat members of your own family, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect that you’ll be a bad doctor because of your frustrations about your husband and his condition. You have been really careful in your letter not to step into that doctor role with describing your husband. In practice, you’ll see your patients for short periods at set intervals with professional structures and a support team of other doctors and nurses in place (Also, they won’t live with you!) Still, I think it’s good and important that you are recognizing the signs of extreme stress and compassion fatigue in yourself and it would be worth finding a counselor for a safe place to unload your own anxieties and troubles.

Taking care of your own emotional well-being and your own health is gonna make you a better doctor. Neglecting that is where the mistakes due to stress or exhaustion or numbing out are gonna come from. I know it’s hard to do when you’re already stretched so thin, but it’s so important that you, as the saying goes, “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.”

B) Think about finding a local group or MeetUp for parents with kids your daughter’s age, nothing too intense, something along the lines of “Saturday mornings we go to the playground in the mall and the kids play and we drink our coffee.”

When you’re living in crisis mode like you’ve just been through with pregnancy and moving multiple times and finishing med school and your husband’s medical stuff, it’s easy to put off all this stuff for “someday, when things settle down.” You’re new in town, you need community. You need a regular place to go outside the hothouse of your marriage. Practically, you need other local adults who know where the good daycare is and might be persuaded to alternate pickups or trade off babysitting (eventually). I think this would be a neat thing for your spouse to do, too, but his circle should be separate from yours at least at first and he should do it only when and if he has the energy.

Longer-term, what I’ll say is that you sound very unhappy coparenting and being in the relationship with him. There are some unhealthy patterns in play. You know that he doesn’t do what you see as his fair share of the parenting and domestic work, and you’re unsure about how much of that is “He physically can’t” vs. “Can’t has turned into a Won’t habit.”

You aren’t “ready to be done” with the relationship but a time when you are done isn’t impossible to imagine. The Sheelzebub Principle (“If things didn’t change for another year, would you stay? Another 5 years? Another 10?”) applies. Eventual couples’ counseling might help you make things better or it might help you figure out how you can part on the best possible terms.


For now it’s okay for both of you to focus on baby steps: Stabilize his breathing. Find a counselor. Meet a few new parents. Let your dust (literal and metaphoric) settle while you start the hard conversations.

I really wish you well.

Commenting Ground Rules:

  • Threads here can get real intense whenever health stuff like this comes up. Also, it can be irresistible to brainstorm fixes to unfixable problems. I had to stop/mitigate myself from doing it about 100 times when I was writing this, so, I know. Please do not attempt to diagnose the husband’s medical issues or science away the problem. The husband needs a doctor. He needs doctors, plural. He needs long-term medical and emotional stuff that we cannot provide here. If you have related experiences, talk about them in terms of how you solved that for yourself.
  • If you’ve been in the husband’s shoes, tell us what that was like.We cannot cure his medical stuff or wish it away and the thread will derail quickly if we try. To that end:
    • Has he tried ___________ (remedy)?” = BALEETED. We don’t know what kind of allergies he has, so how could we know what remedy would work?
    • “It sounds like he has x condition, which means _____” = ALSO BALEETED. 
    • Has he tried yoga?” = BALEETED AND POSSIBLY BANNED. Nothing against yoga itself, but trust me: The sick and anxious and otherwise disabled people of the world have heard of yoga.
  • The husband didn’t write to us. The stressed out wife did. How do we help her handle this situation in her relationship? How do we help her handle the difficult conversations and decision-making about the future? How do we help her make a decision about whether moving to a new place is the right thing to do?

*The apps linked are for asthma and the husband has allergies. I linked them because the process of tracking symptoms could apply to other respiratory conditions.


Edited to Add: Wow, 307 comments! I think we’ve covered every aspect of this that needs covering and given the LW some food for thought. Thanks for the kind and mostly on-topic discussions.


307 thoughts on “#957: “Do I have to move because of my husband’s allergies?”

  1. I don’t know that I have a ton of good advice here, just sympathy, because you’re already doing so so much more than I think I could handle. I will say (and I don’t think that this breaks any of the guidelines) that as a person whose seasonal allergies were almost cured with allergy shots, my allergies in the past week (since Saturday basically) have been going absolutely bananas. I’m back on Zyrtec for the first time in like, 5 years. I don’t know what it is about the pollen this year, if it’s some kind of super pollen, but I have friends who have never had seasonal allergies who are sniffling and sneezing. I’d be pushing really hard on the fact that this may be temporary, and that 4 days is *not* enough time to determine whether the only course of action is to move. The pollen count may go down next week and resolve everything.

    1. yeah – just commiserating, both with LW and with you – I *just* get seasonal allergies as well. Which for me then usually trigger a sinus infection. This year I have discovered a wonderful new symptom, the “sinus toothache”. Which is where your sinus infection is so bad, that it gives you a goddamn toothache. WTF? sore throats, migraines, and ear infections weren’t enough?

      All to say – this season has been horrific.

      1. ha, yeah, I didn’t breathe through my nose until about age ~6-7 because the combo of severe seasonal allergies + deviated septum meant I had more or less a permanent sinus infection. I took a crapton of meds for ~10 years after that to control the issue.

        I wish I knew what changed between then and now.

      2. All my sympathies from a fellow respiratorily-challenged person. (And yes, sinus toothache. Ugh.)
        This may not work for you, but I have reduced ear infections to near zero by wearing – particularly when it is cold or windy – a hat with thick, furry ear flaps. (Yes, even with shorts.) The difference that has made to my life is amazing; can wholeheartedly recommend.

        1. I wear earplugs to sleep and now I am wondering (1) if I am secretly helping my allergies and (2) if that might be a more subtle solution for occasions when you don’t want to wear an earflap hat. Some of the swimming ones might not even dampen sound very much.

          Also, LW–I get a lot of new-sleep-space-related anxiety. (Basically, my anxiety can be summarized by: noisy living spaces, hotels, airplanes.) I have to move this summer, and even looking on Craigslist sets me off because I have had such bad experiences with previous places that I have lived (e.g., surgery resident working night shift who would drop weights on the floor at 2AM right above my head). Whenever I stay at a hotel, I have to take medication for the first few nights in order to fall asleep at all. It might be worth considering whether your husband has had an anxiety reaction to moving in the past that could be exacerbating things and might settle out in a week or two once he is more accustomed to his surroundings. Maybe once he realizes that there aren’t going to be loud construction sounds or other obnoxious things happening, things might settle out a bit?

        2. I sleep with a heating pad over my forehead sometimes to cut down on the throbbing sinus headaches. I agree this year has been more sneezy than usual. If OP has moved from a non-allergy place to an allergy place (like here in the MidWest) then the house itself might not have anything to do with it, just the whole geographic location.

          Good luck OP, I wish you strength to get through this time and out the other end to a place where you are happier.

      3. OMG, sinus toothache. I didn’t even know it was a thing until I ended up at the dentist with what I thought was something wrong with my tooth and turned out to be a very low-hanging alveolar nerve that was swollen and touching the root(!!!!!) of my tooth.

        LW – commiseration and Jedi hugs if you want them.

        1. OMG THANK YOU! I didn’t know that was possible. It also could be why my teeth stop hurting after I get physical therapy for my neck. It’s been a pattern for years and my dentist just gives me a funny look when I tell him that.

        2. thanks. I think people hear “sinus” and automatically think “nose”. Everyone needs to remember that your sinus cavities essentially extend under your ENTIRE FACE.

          They are the worst.

        3. Sinus toothaches are an evil thing.

          Also, yes, this seems to be a really crap year for allergens. (I’m mostly mold/mites, but sometimes pollen. And it’s been a nasty cycle between pollen-mold-pollen-mold around here this spring.)

        4. Not quite the same, but I spent years going to the dentist complaining about toothaches. I had four wisdom teeth removed because we thought they was causing the pain.

          Turns out it’s probably cluster headaches. Face pain can be so weird like that.

      4. We’re still experiencing the tail end of El Nino, but with a more normal winter so the plants are very, very happy with nice temperatures and plenty of water (after a nice wet year last year to recover from anything they’ve been struggling with.)
        I bet a lot of places are experiencing high pollen counts because of this.

    2. Last year was like that for me. I went from “eh, I can handle it with my tried-and-tested coping mechanisms” to “multiple doctors visits”. Sometimes nature is just out to get you.

    3. My son has asthma/ allergies he’s mostly grown out of: except March-end of June he is on ALL THE THINGS (inhaler, asthma meds, Zyrtec, eye drops). Spring is a shitty time of year for people with allergies, and different cities have different mixes of allergen producing plants.

      I have lifelong severe chronic conditions, and it’s imperative for the husband to manage as much of his treatment as he can, or get a social worker/ case management personnel to help. It can’t be dumped on the spouse, it just can’t. It’s too much, especially if kids are involved. When one person has intense health needs the other person is just treading water doing all the things. The husband simply doesn’t have the luxury of ‘not trusting doctors’. That sounds a bit too much like ‘you’re the ONLY person that can help me with my depression/anxiety/loneliness’ territory. That never ends well.

    4. It’s really bad in my area as well. My Zyrtec is barely keeping up this spring and we’ve had to start giving it to our older cat, too, because his allergies this spring have been worse than at any time in his 21 years of life.

      Yesterday he sneezed directly into my boyfriend’s open mouth. And not a polite sneeze, either. D:

      I agree that if there’s any chance it’s seasonal, more time is needed to determine what’s going on.

      1. My cat has been sneezing too! Her asthma got so bad that I thought she cought a bacterial infection and took her to the vet. And I can normally walk through a cloud of pollen and not even feel a tickle, but lately even I’ve had a scratchy throat. There’s something crazy in the trees this year, I swear.

        1. Our new kitten turned out to be infected with FHV and gave it to our older cat. Who was 20 at the time. He recovered, thank god, but we have them both on lysine supplements, which I think has revved up his immune system to a place it hasn’t been in a decade, because his allergies improved about 10 years ago and this spring he is just miserable, poor lamb.

          The funny thing is that the mornings that the pollen is super bad, he and I both wake up and sneeze about 20 times in a row while my boyfriend and the kitten (neither of whom have much in the way of spring allergies) just stare at us, alarmed.

    5. Oh thank God, it’s not just me! I had a tiny bit of a pollen allergy when I was a wee child, and not a hint of one since… until last week, when my eyes were running so hard I couldn’t see, and I’ve been stuffed up and coughing ever since. I don’t know WHAT is going on – if it’s plants or weather or something else entirely – but it is BAD.

      1. I’m curious where you are (no need to tell me, privacy and all that). I just wonder if it’s regional or something. People have been saying the pollen is really bad this year, but I feel like people say the pollen is really bad *every* year, but I haven’t felt like this in ages. I didn’t miss it.

        1. No worries! It totally could be a regional thing; like the Captain, I’m in Chicago. And the last time it was this bad for me was decades ago.

          1. It’s awful in North al too. My sinuses are going crazy, I feel like I’m sick. Both my kids have ear infections from it. Atlanta is the same.

      2. There are websites where you can find pollen counts (they divide it up into weeds, trees, and grass). I’m hella allergic to basically all grasses and some weeds. So if I start to get unexpectedly sniffly, I look up what the pollen has been doing the last few days… there is usually a correlation!

        It does require you to know what you are allergic to, to be useful, however.

        1. I do actually know that, since I’ve had allergy tests before. It’s pretty easy though, I’m allergic to every single thing they test for except cockroaches and weirdly, Birch trees. I think this year is just especially bad. Or my allergy shots are wearing off, which I don’t want to think about.

          1. Funny, I’m super allergic to birch trees! We just moved South to North Carolina & I have discovered a whole new set of allergies. It’s been miserable since February.

          2. A friend of mine grew up in Barbados and moved to Canada for university. She survived the winter just fine – loved it, even! And then spring hit and she discovered she was allergic to every plant that grows in the temperate rainforest. Poor dear. 😦

          3. @whingedrinking I went on vacation to another country last year and didn’t bother to take my allergy pills because I was like, “Oh, there will be different plants and I won’t be there long enough to acclimate and have a reaction!”

            Ha ha joke’s on me, the country was at the exact same latitude as my hometown and has like all the same plants.

        2. I have a catastrophic grass allergy and last Friday my apartment complex weed-whacked the overgrown grassy hill behind the building. Then my sinuses basically exploded due to aerosolized grass particles. 😦

    6. Agreed about the super pollen. My cats can’t even see because their eyes are swollen shut.

      1. Check with your vet but you can give cats cetirizine (Zyrtec), up to a human dose if you split it 5mg am & pm.

        We started my oldster on 5mg in the morning and after a week with a slight diminution of symptoms but not enough, we started giving him 5mg pm as well, and he’s still sneezy but obviously feels a lot better.

    7. Just wanted to agree with this, that the allergens in the air are CRAZY this year in general, and that mine flared up worse than they ever have when I moved to a new place last year. I’ve always had them so I finally went to an allergist and Flonase + spots of Benadryl helped me get through the season, but of course, it’s going to be different for everyone. But this season already has been super bad, especially in our area where we’re coming off more rain than we’ve had in years and all the plants are partying. 😦

      1. Oops sorry too fast reply.

        But yes, this year — particularly the last week — has been BANANAS for me allergy-wise. Usually my allergies are kept generally reasonable with zyrtec but for the last ~week I’ve been sneezing my face off anyway. It’s actually possibly a little better without the zyrtec because then I’m not sneezing all the time becaaaaaaaause my nose is not open for business in any way. I (and my SO, and LW’s husband) need to consult with my doctor about whether there might be something I can take during peak allergy season so I don’t have basically a bad headcold for 2-3 months out of the year.

        Allergy season this year is off the chain.

    8. Mentioning this in case it’s relevant to anyone here (it was a very useful thing for me to find out, which I did by Googling on a whim one day after I’d been attacked by pollen and horrific anxiety simultaneously):


      “Changes in Severity of Allergy and Anxiety Symptoms Are Positively Correlated in Patients with Recurrent Mood Disorders Who Are Exposed to Seasonal Peaks of Aeroallergens”

      In other words, tree pollen can spike your anxiety levels (at least in those of us who have mood disorders — quite probably in other people too, they just didn’t test them).

      It is quite helpful for me to be able to go “Shit, I seem really anxious all the time lately, am I getting crazier — OH WAIT NO IT’S SPRING.”

      1. From reference 43 in @rydra_wong’s link [direct link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10581977%5D

        “Results indicate that AR [allergic rhinitis] is associated with higher rates of depression and anxiety disorder. Outpatient health care expenditures were increased by an average annual amount of $207 when AR and anxiety disorder were comorbid and $363 when AR and depression were comorbid. Finally, prescription treatment of AR moderated the increased expenditures associated with comorbidity.”

        MIND. BLOWN.

        1. ERMAGERD. I have spent DECADES of my life being Not Allergic to stuff (not unless my face was, like, practically pushed into a pile of pollen or or a cloud of dusty-dander-y-moldy spores) and this spring has been THE WORST, with Baby’s First “Why Is My Nose Crying?” Experience (“Wait, wut, is my nose bleeding? No, it’s clear–so is water just falling out of my nose for no reason? How does that happen? Am I dying?”), my first bout of prolonged Itchy Eyes, that low-grade throbby non-stop HEADACHE that is probably actually my various sinus passages all clogged up with ick and angrily screaming about it all at once behind my face, and so on…and I have (currently treated-with-therapy-and-meds) depression. BUT, this Spring, I SWEAR TO BIRB I have been having depression flare-ups, insomnia, fatigue, and newly presenting anxiety spikes out of nowhere and I’m starting to think all the rampant tree and bush orgies in the neighborhood are causing this.

          As a Not Allergic person, but as a lifelong Depressed Person, I wouldn’t have put two and two together to get four without a nudge that it might be Seasonal Allergy Crap exacerbating Depression Crap to the point of opening the door for Brand New Anxiety Crap I Never Wanted But Now Have. It’s possible! I’m not thrilled to hear it, but it makes sense!

          So I am grateful to hear I am probably not dying of the only known medical case of Venusian brain worms or something. That’s good.

          Thanks, all.

    1. seconding this to the Nth degree. I especially like the good Cap’n’s rules about commenting on this situation.

  2. LW, just want to let you know how much I empathize with you. My husband also has a chronic condition, with psychosomatic elements and accompanying anxiety, depression, etc, and we also had a baby within the last year, all of which led to increased stress on his health, panic attacks, multiple ER visits, and 2 concussions from passing out. (i was doing all baby holding for a month after that…) so, I feel you. I feel the exhaustion, and i’m not even in a job as demanding as med school and a residency. I think that the captain has some good advice on talking it through. i think that one thing we talk about a lot is sometimes he needs to accept that he can’t wait until he is feeling 100% to do things and put life on hold until then. It’s not really a ‘suck it up’ – it’s a re-adjustment of the baseline to a place where you don’t feel like you have to absorb every additional bump in the road to spare him. I don’t know what else to tell you other than to take care of yourself and that you’re not alone. i hope that you’re able to work it out.

    1. “he can’t wait until he is feeling 100% to do things and put life on hold until then”

      AMEN. I can’t imagine the stress and pressure you’re under, LW. You are doing so many hard, stressful things all at once, and you’re doing it all at less than 100%.

      Your husband has a heavy load to carry, but that doesn’t mean you have to carry it for him.

    2. i think that one thing we talk about a lot is sometimes he needs to accept that he can’t wait until he is feeling 100% to do things and put life on hold until then. It’s not really a ‘suck it up’ – it’s a re-adjustment of the baseline to a place where you don’t feel like you have to absorb every additional bump in the road to spare him.

      This is one reason I like the spoons theory so much. It’s a question of what, on the Giant Unending List Of Things, can be done with the spoons available today.

      I have some relatives who love to tell me that I can’t let my chronic conditions run my life. The thing is, though, they already do. If I fought my body all the time, I’d never have a victory. But learning how to work with my body, well, we can have a detente. 😉

      1. Exactly! I have MDD, and while I dream of the day when I’ll be 100% better/”back to my old self”, before my severe episode that dialed my brain fog and cognitive slowing up to 11, I have to acknowledge that -it might never happen-. Is this the life I envisioned for myself? No! But sitting on my hands until I’m “all better” is not an option if I want any kind of fulfilling life at all.

        Having chronic health issues sucks, but you got to do what you can with what you’ve got. It’s okay to ask for help but it’s not okay to overburden your loved ones because you feel like “I can’t do X = I can’t do anything”. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and it only leads to people who love you, resenting you.

      2. I’m not a fan of the spoon thing, but I really like this aspect of it (as someone with a mental illness and a chronic illness). It’s not about what you’ll do when you feel like it/on a good day/when you’re healthy enough. It’s about what you’re able to do right now while accepting your current level of ability.

        “If I fought my body all the time, I’d never have a victory.” – I like this.

        1. I read about someone describing spoon theory to someone in their D&D group who promptly responded, “Oh! It’s spell slots!” Which I think is perfect, because you can spend a higher-level slot on something big (firestorm, or maybe like giving a presentation or going through some medical testing) or the same slot on something small (magic missile, taking a shower) but you can’t use a lower-level slot to cast a higher-level spell. And sometimes when you sleep through the night all of your spell slots refresh, but if you encounter bad circumstances (sleeping in your armor, say, or being cursed by an evil wizard, or…) then only some (or maybe even none) of your spell slots will refresh.

    3. ” he can’t wait until he is feeling 100% to do things”

      So, so important. My spouse and I are struggling with this right now, as well – he is experiencing a chronic condition which may or may not be permanently debilitating, and it’s cascading through to every aspect of our life. A couple of weeks ago we had a conversation about him getting some counseling or a support group (he’s having a lot of 100% understandable Feelings about this condition and what it might mean for him, and I can’t be the sole repository of said Feelings) and his habitual reaction was “I want to see how Current Treatment works first”. Which could be months, or years! And even if it does work, a lot of the Feelings this condition has brought up are still there and worth exploring. Etc, etc. Anyway, we talked about it some more and he agreed not to wait to get some outside support.

      I don’t know if I really have any advice, just confirmation that it is 100% okay for LW to not Do Everything while they wait for some possibly-not-happening future where everything is better.

  3. I can completely see why LW feels so much pressure, balancing a busy full life with childrearing and living with a chronically ill partner sounds like a heck of a lot for anyone. I hope LW can feel proud that they took time to write in and ask for help. Asking for help can be so tough.

    My situation is slightly different but I have those days (today being one) where I feel burned out, sad and angry by how tough life is with my chronically disabled partner. Today, I went for a walk, stood under a tree, took some deep breaths and imagined the tension flowing into the ground and allowed myself to feel just HOW stressed I was. I don’t know if it would help LW but I find being outside the house, alone, outdoors a place where I can take off my ‘capable’ face and let everything be shitty for a bit. Not that our tough times are all his fault or my fault. I don’t problem solve under the tree. I just let all the crappy emotions hang out. Then I can go home and continue because my sadness and anger has flowed through me vs getting all pent up and tired out.

    Time out helps. I try to claw back an hour every fortnight for a massage. I carry my tension in my neck and head. When I am cared for, I get a replenished in order to care for my partner. I pay for an hours quietness with a massage therapist who is there to hand me fluffy clean towels and fresh water and unkind my neck without needing anything *from* me.

    Sometimes there are changes that can be made to make running a house easier. Some days are those bad days where I accept that today my goal is to get by until I have more energy to make changes – or press for him to make changes. Some days are bad because external random things throw us off balance. Even if I was the magical-cure all ills-Dr Quinn Medicine-Woman-Wifey we’d have bad days. He’d still have to face some difficult realities. We’d still make mistakes.

    There are enough good days and there’s enough love. As long as my partner has the will to care for his health and love me as I love him, I’ll be there. (Sometimes under a tree, deep breathing!)

    1. My friend, I’m writing this from a cafe, where I sometimes hide in between my work and my chronically ill husband. I feel like I have my regular work, and then I have second work at home, where my husband is too tired (or too stiff, his issue is with his joints) to pick up after himself. I feel the same kind of stress and pressure and that worry that everything’s on me. I can’t imagine adding a child and RESIDENCY into that mix like LW. Man, that’s tough.

    2. I feel kinda like that… and I *am* the chronically ill partner! I try my best to do most of the chores, and research my health issues myself, so my husband can focus on work (where there’s always something on fire). I kinda feel better about myself reading this, but also frustrated that when I’m not well enough to handle something, either it doesn’t get done, or it’s done the “Man Chores” way and I end up hiding my anger because at least it’s usually better than nothing.

  4. Would it be possible for him to take a “vacation” of sorts? Holing up in a hotel is probably not financially feasible, but staying with a friend or family in your old city, or something like that? The literal dust of a move, plus the anxiety that comes from unpacked boxes and having to figure out where the new grocery store is, could exacerbate any number of problems. True, it would leave a lot on you, but maybe you’d be able to tackle your own list of settling, work, and community tasks knowing that he isn’t suffocating acutely.

    If he could stay with family or friends for two weeks, it could help you both figure out if there’s a seasonal component to his reaction, and let him separate his important “taking care of himself” work from any “push wife to accommodate” habits.

    1. I was going to suggest the hotel–not for long, but maybe for a week to let the dust literally settle.

      LW, what if your husband were to check into a hotel with your daughter? Would being out of the house (and in an air-conditioned space other people vacuumed daily) alleviate his symptoms enough that he could solo parent for a week? If so, would the relief from caregiving responsibilities give *you* the energy to unpack the house and take care of yourself?

      The hotel would still be an expense, as would hiring a cleaning service to scour the place once the boxes were unpacked, but it would be a lot less expensive than moving, and it might give you all a much-needed break.

      1. It sounds like for whatever reason her husband isn’t doing much of the parenting (whether he’s not capable or just not in the habit is unclear), so I suspect it is not feasible for him to take their child with him. If he takes a break away from home, LW will be doing solo parenting for that interval.

        It might still be something of a respite for LW, though. If she is already doing all the parenting save one or two daycare drop-offs, AND the emotional labor of hearing complaints about those daycare drop-offs, AND all the housework, AND possibly doing other managing-husband work like preparing special food etc., while working full-time, even just the removal of those complaints might take enough pressure off that she’s able to breathe a little. It might give her a picture of what she wants the future to look like, too, and of what her husband can do for himself, and what she’s willing and able to offer him.

        LW, you have all my respect for going through all this. You may not see yourself as a warrior, but finishing med school with a toddler and an ill spouse and moving cities is a LOT. It’s a lot! It doesn’t make you less amazing that you’re finding it hard. I hope things get easier for you in at least two noticeable ways.

        1. Well, that’s what I’m asking–is he capable of getting into the habit right quick when the immediate problem (allergies in the home) is temporarily solved? If she doesn’t think that leaving the two of them alone for a week will put one or both of them in the hospital, it could be a way to do a hard reboot of their parenting patterns (i.e., the pattern where she parents him and the daughter).

          You’re saying that it’s ‘not feasible’ for him to parent their child because he hasn’t been parenting their child. When were you suggesting he start?

          1. I don’t feel that I have enough information to present a solution to that problem. Since I don’t know how much of his inaction is because of his health– assuming at least some of it is, as by LW’s admission he does have known chronic issues– I’m hesitant to assume he’s capable of taking full responsibility for a toddler, when he hasn’t even been dropping her off at daycare previously.

      2. When people tell me to throw money at a problem, I tell them I’m out of ammo.

        But if you are able to and do want to go the hotel route, call the hotel ahead of time and ask for a hypoallergenic room. They should have special pillows, maybe special blankets, and cleaner with no (or at least less) fragrance. I think my coworker in housekeeping said they also vacuum out the air vents or something like that, but it’s not my department.

        I would call once before you book to make sure they offer that option and sound like they know what they’re doing, and once after you have a reservation for them to pull up and leave notes on. Maybe once early day of arrival, if you want to be extra careful. Just don’t also expect an early check in, and give them plenty of time to switch out all the stuff. Tip your housekeeper.

        1. Former hotel worker here: call before you book, call after you book, and call the day before or the morning of, if you are going to go this route. Be nice when you ask, but 99% of the time, housekeeping is willing to do these things. You can even ask them to vacuum twice! But seriously, just ask nicely. Hotel staff are more than willing to make you happy as long as you’re not being a jerk and/or it’s feasible.

          LW- If there are any hotels near you that cater to business people away from home for a few days at a time, that might be the way to go; usually they have kitchens in the room so cooking can be done, and yes, it may be a hard reset. But it may also give YOU a look at what things would look like without him. Maybe you need a peek at that, and you decide it’s not as scary as the current situation is hard.

        2. Current hotel career worker at a very high-end chain here:

          In my experience, hypoallergenic rooms are basically bullshit. On our property, down and feather bedding is replaced with foam, and maybe scent-free products. That’s about it.

          Certain rooms are theoretically pet-free, but between accommodating service animals, surprise pets, and room assignment screw-ups, pets definitely end up in pet-free rooms from time to time. Whenever a pet is in a room, an ozone machine is placed in the room after checkout, but that is the extent of the “deep cleaning.”

          The reality is that hotels are *not* shampooing carpets, taking down and cleaning permanent linens (drapes, curtains, bedskirts, etc), replacing filters, or doing anything else to eliminate “allergens” that might significantly add labor hours or costs. It doesn’t matter how allergic a guest reports themselves to be, or that the room is $400 a night, the hotel is not going to pay an extra $12 per hour to have a housekeeper do even an extra hour’s work in the room.


          Well, the hotel I work for constantly gets hypoallergenic accommodation requests, always does a bullshit job providing hypoallergenic accommodations, and never gets a complaint – much less evidence – of allergic reactions. So the feeling is; what the guest doesn’t know literally doesn’t hurt them.

      3. Would running a damp mop over the floor help or make things worse? I had someone suggest that to me, as this is my first year with allergy issues, and it seems, logically, like it would work in a way a dry broom wouldn’t (the damp magically keeps the particles from flying all around, allegedly) but I haven’t tried such a thing. Has anyone else done this and had it make things a little more breathable?

        1. Polite request to take specific allergy remediation discussions to the forums at friendsofcaptainawkward.com. Thank you.

    2. Just want to emphasize that the breathing problems could well be from some allergen that is not in the house. I grew up with late summer hay fever until I was 30 (in the Midwestern USA) and here in California I have almost zero symptoms. So I forget and go back to the Midwest at the wrong time of year and the sneezing kicks right in, even though I have forgotten all about even having allergies.

      So moving to a new city could very well be part of the problem in which case a different apartment won’t really do any good.

      Also, you don’t have to trust doctors to see one (or two) and get their advice, which you can then consider and take or not as you decide. I am just getting past a serious illness and I questioned my doctors on everything — why did you recommend this? Why not this other option? What if I don’t do X therapy? etc. Actually their well-considered answers is what made me trust them, not the MD after their name.

      1. Same for me — I had horrific allergies until I moved away from the Midwest, and things *immediately* got better.

        Speaking of trusting/not trusting doctors — I was told, definitively, that I *could not* be allergic to corn pollen, because it was heavy and wouldn’t float very far. This despite the fact that our house was surrounded on two sides by a corn field, and depending on where I was playing in the yard it would have only had to move ~5 ft to get to me. The fact that the allergist wouldn’t take my concerns seriously kind of made me skeptical about the whole process of allergy testing.

        There are probably a lot of reasons why being home now doesn’t set me off like it used to, but funnily enough that cornfield has now been turned into a ballpark. :/

        1. (insert Field of Dreams joke here)

          The move doesn’t even have to involve changing time zones. My ex and I lived ~50 miles apart, and we used to joke that I was allergic to his condo because my spring allergies would get vicious when I spent the night at his place and completely disappear by the time I got home the next day.

          1. Heh, my first thought was, “How did they know I live in Iowa???” (sigh, slow on the joke uptake)

          2. Is this the same process by which every mosquito in my county lives at my parents’ house and none of them live at my house?

      2. Or black mould spores? It’s easy enough to hide black mould with a fresh layer of paint.

  5. Oh, LW, you are about to start residency and work life is about to get really, really demanding – I’m sure you know that. You’re going to have 80 hr weeks and a daughter and you’re not going to get paid a whole exception lot for the amount of work and responsibility you’re taking on. And, I do think part of being a doctor’s spouse is understanding that there are times when the non-doctor spouse is going to have to take on more than their fair share of work because you can’t say, “No, patient, I can’t treat you because my spouse has had to do the dishes every day this week and it’s not fair for me to leave when I promised I’d finally do them today.” Residency is probably the epitome of those times; it’s physically and emotionally draining.

    So I think you need to sit down with your husband and spell out your hard nos. No, you won’t move again, and no, you can’t be responsible for keeping the apartment clean to his allergen standards. (At least, not now. Not during residency.) And then build a solution around that – does he need to be more involved in house cleaning or do you guys need to budget around a maid service? You can’t move; so does he need to go to the doctor and figure out a plan or does he need to find his own studio apartment? Let him drive the solution after you set your boundaries – suggest things and let him have final decision over what’s best.

    Let him deal with the consequences of his own inactions. It would take more than a superhero to be able to manage his issues + parenting + residency. Let him deal with his issues and support him in any way that doesn’t conflict with your hard noes – if you said you can’t do more housekeeping, than be sympathetic when he’s sick, get him chicken soup and turn on the humidifier, but don’t start doing more housekeeping because he won’t. Try not to argue about it – if he complains, suggest a solution that isn’t you, then, if he doesn’t like it, nod and say, “I’m so sorry this is hard on you. I wish you felt better.”

    Finally, you will have a community in the hospital where you do your residency – embrace that if you can. It’s not a bad idea to find a community outside of the hospital, if you can, but hospitals are big places and lots of people will get what you’re going through and there will be parent and spousal doctors who can hopefully become a kind of mentor to you.

    1. I just want to agree with this, as the spouse of a doctor. Residency is *hard*, moving is *hard* and doing all that PLUS a 16 month old means you are a goddamn superhero. I’m not sure it’s allowed here, but if you’d like to talk further offline – I could at the very least offer resources in Philadelphia or New Haven where my husband did training and is an attending, respectively.

      1. I am a doctor, am married, and have children. I have done residency.

        Based on what is in the letter, LW needs to plan with these two issues in mind:

        1) LW will need a FULL TIME NANNY once she starts residency
        – LW is essentially a single parent, and most resident single parents I know have had a full-time nanny or a family member (usually their mother) acting in that capacity; pretty much zero daycare providers will tolerate the hours needed.

        2) the captain (and lots of other smart people commenting) are correct that moving may not resolve LW’s husband’s symptoms

        LW — massive, massive, virtual hugs — If I could come babysit your baby so you could have a break, I would — you are right to feel upset and burned out. Remember — you are NOT a bad doctor — I predict you will at turns, be an amazing doctor, a crazy doctor, a mediocre doctor, and an angry doctor — because we all are — because doctors are just humans with a lot of schooling

        1. Maybe this is me having a hammer so LW’s problem looks like a nail, but… I have a history of responding to anxiety by trying to flee. LW’s husband’s desire to move sounds a lot to me like having a lot of anxiety about having moved to a new place + allergy flareup (psychosomatic or not) and responding to that anxiety by wanting to escape — wanting to move.

          If that’s the case moving will just restart the anxiety cycle. :/

          I’m struggling a bit with my SO right now — he is stressed because he’s overtired and not feeling well. He needs to go to the doctor to determine if there is a physical cause for this, but he’s so stressed and overtired he can’t bring himself to make the appointment, so he continues to be stressed and overtired. I empathize massively but also kind of want to scream and shake him. Or kidnap him and deposit him at the doctor’s office.

          1. Yeah, re moving + anxiety: I am really not a fan of moving and it has stressed me out exponentially in the past. But what I noticed every time is that the longer I was in the new home, the better (=calmer) I felt.
            Of course, this isn’t the complete answer when you’re having allergy troubles. But “wait” + “see a doctor already” might be one.

        2. As an alternative to a full time nanny, you could also consider someone part-time to supplement daycare.

          When I was in college I worked as a part-time nanny for a couple who were both doctors in their residencies and who also had a toddler son. When their shifts overlapped, or one of them was sleeping in after a night shift, I would get their kiddo ready in the morning and drive him to daycare, and/or pick him up from daycare in the afternoon, make him dinner, and babysit him until the parent got home later that evening. So that also might be an option to consider, depending on what you think is best for your family.

          Sometimes a smaller-seeming change (add part time nanny) feels less overwhelming than a bigger one (quit daycare and hire full time nanny).

          Best of luck, LW.

    2. I come from the ‘suck it up’ school of illness sympathy and yes, I’m well aware its a character weakness. I like your idea of the Hard Nos. I think the LW needs to make it very clear to her partner that his health is his responsibility because once you have a kid, the well of sympathy you have for a partner who will not help himself, let alone you, runs dry very very quickly. The kid is only 16 months old and she already feels like this and those feelings don’t go away as your kid gets older and needs more attention. These are health problems he already knows he has, so why isn’t he getting help for them?

      A story from my personal experience – a few years ago, my partner felt generally unwell and lethargic for a number of weeks. He didn’t want to see a doctor because blah blah he hates doctors blah blah its not that bad blah blah. Eventually, I said to him ‘your obligation to me and your children is to be the best man you can be. And that means looking after yourself. Whatever is wrong with you is not fixing itself so you need to go to the doctor. NOW.’ He did – turned out he had issues with his liver cell count. Since then, a firm rule was established that when one of us is sick for an extended period, you seek out help to get better.

      1. Yeah, I give myself two weeks to deal with non-emergent issues (nothing broken, on fire, swollen, funny-colored or squirting bodily fluids everywhere), because I’m in peri-menopause and also my depression likes to masquerade itself behind mystery aches and pains that are 100% real but are also 100% nothing that can be magically fixed by a body-doctor because they are depression-based and need head-meds and a head-doctor.

        If, after two weeks, nothing has improved, and it is clearly not just menopause crap or period crap or depression crap orinsomnia crap or stress crap, all of which can combine in new and exciting ways to make me feel a different kind of crappy every now and then, it is time to see a doctor.

        What usually happens is that even though I wait 7 to 14 days to call my doctor, US healthcare is SO AWESOME, even with my allegedly great work-underwritten health insurance plan, that the next appointment (if there’s nothing broken, on fire, swollen, funny-colored and there are no squirts of bodily fluids everywhere) is still three to four months in the future. Welp. That’s helpful.

    3. Seconding all of this advice. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to the husband’s health problems, but there seems to be a tacit assumption in this marriage that they take priority over everything else and I think they’re overdue for a re-examination of this. I mean, if the LW isn’t able to get some time off and support during pregnancy and after giving birth, are there any circumstances short of her being hospitalized herself where he’ll allow his issues take a back seat to hers? Or at least not make his health problems something else that the LW has to do? In fact, how would he cope with all of this if the LW weren’t around?

      1. Agreed. The husband’s health problems are legitimate and serious issues, but it sounds like he’s taking next to no initiative when it comes to managing them, aside from drawing up ‘to-do’ lists for LW.

  6. Telling someone “suck up your medical problems” seems very harsh. But it sounds like your choices are rapidly narrowing to “let him try sucking it up now” or “divorce later because you can’t take his failure to suck it up.” The current amount and division of labor *is not tenable*.

    Maybe there are other solutions. One thing that might help is to make a list of *terrible* solutions, to get it out of your system. Maybe he can pay for cleaners by working at mechanical turk. Maybe he can invent a cure for aging in the next week. Maybe he lives with his parents until you have doctor money to throw at his allergies… which isn’t a terrible solution. It’s not ideal, it’s hard to say, but it sounds like things are so bad you need to consider these kind of drastic solutions.

  7. LW, I completely sympathize with you on the “suck it up” thing. As someone who suffers from horrendous allergies (fractures, muscle strain, and cartilage issues are semi-constant) and anxiety, I can also sympathize with your husband’s desire to PLEASEGODMAKEITSTOP, and I get the mentality of this worked once (e.g. moving) so it can be a solution.

    But, reality yo. Let’s be real, suck it up and deal is a way of life for a lot of us.

    Prioritize you right now. Counseling, friends, a reliable babysitter. And yeah, that may include prioritizing some of your husband’s issues, but I think you could draw some lines in the sand, mentally if nothing else. Moving is not the only solution for allergies, and if your husband won’t consider any other options, that’s using a medical condition to be a controlling jerk.

    I had all this stuff I wanted to say, but I don’t know how to say it all in a productive way. I want you to get help with everything. I want you to be able to kick ass in residency. I want your husband to step up and be a parent so that isn’t another thing you’re juggling. And there isn’t an easy way to do it, but if your husband won’t put in the work you are, then that’s a major issue.

  8. We are a military family and have moved quite a bit, and four days is WAY too soon to know if this is an unacceptable living space. Moving companies can be … Not the cleanest, so it’s not uncommon to be battling cockroaches and mice even in perfectly clean houses for several weeks. Possibly even a few months. Not to mention dust as furniture gets moved around. I’m sorry for your husband. Allergies suck and they get SO MUCH WORSE during a move.

    I’m sorry this is happening to you. I would be stressed out too! But there is probably no need to move yet. Laundering everything you own including the comforters and blankets might help a lot, and give him an anxiety-soothing activity to do.

  9. Captain is spot-on that he needs a doctor who is not his wife. In my experience taking the Offspring to allergists (once when he was diagnosed and again when they changed/got worse) one of the big things they ask is “if it turns out you are allergic to your pets/home/baby products, what will you do?” This is not one of those questions that has a “right” answer: they are asking to get a feel for your priorities and also your current situation and stressors. Which… yeah. And they can hear your issues and concerns and give you new information based on that conversation.

    For our LW, finding someone to talk to who is paid and trained to listen is probably step 1, if not step 0. Then, if I had anything to add to the excellent advice above, it would be to practice getting a little distance when your husband lists his problems, and maybe respond along the lines of “how do you want to handle that?” (Implying that he needs to take charge of the handling rather than just presenting a problem and demand that you fix it.)

  10. Oh hon. You are not being a bad doctor or a bad wife for being mentally and physically exhausted by this. I felt mentally and physically exhausted just READING this. I strongly second the Captain’s idea of maybe him living separately for awhile–and not just because of the dust. It… sounds like? he’s fallen into a pattern of “thing broke, wife fix it” and maybe… that pattern is not healthy for EITHER of you?

    I’m disabled. I rely on my spouse a LOT for things I can’t do. But we’re still equals and I’m not a child that he cares for. I’m not saying that’s happening with you and your spouse, but… your letter has a lot of red flags that raised my shoulders up. Please take care of yourself and your baby, dear.

    1. “thing broke, wife fix it”

      This, I suspect, is where the problem lies.

    2. I agree. Actually, I would say he’s fallen into a pattern of “thing maybe not broke but distressing, wife fix it” or just “thing, wife fix it” and “child, wife fix it.” Look after yourself. You deserve care just as much as he does.

      1. This exact thing is why I was so grateful my late husband and I didn’t have children. The rubber hit the road for me when I started grad school and saw what he was willing to do to support me in my dreams and hardships, after so many years of me supporting him in his: nothing. He was willing to do nothing. I couldn’t bring myself to end the relationship (and he died before I got to the point where I could), but when it was made clear to me that if I wanted anything good for me to happen I had to do it myself, it was simultaneously a horrible shock and a massively freeing moment. I drew a line in the sand.

        My second life has been a lot better.

  11. LW, I’m so sorry. I think you’ve been dealt an enormously difficult hand, one that’s less visible to others. You’re in a field of enormous responsibility, you have enormous responsibility at home. And your field has been designed for people who simply don’t have that much obligation waiting for them when they leave the hospital, whether it’s because they have a house-spouse ready to take care of them, no children, money to spend on services…privilege.

    So my huge huge sympathies to you, and hell yeah for making it really really far. I’m so sorry that life at home is not lightening your burden. I hope you don’t have to move and that your husband is well, I hope that your husband doesn’t go into crisis mode again when your residency starts and you have less time for him. Best of luck in a really hard time in your life.

    One thing more is, please please take advantage of every resource your residency program provides. They should provide some programs, especially for interns. If you have literature already, please comb through it and feel no shame about using anything they offer.

  12. I’m seeing red flags with this one. It reminds me a lot of what I went through with an ex who had a bad back. It didn’t matter what mitigation/accommodation strategies I put in place, nothing was ever good enough. He wouldn’t sleep in my bed and coming to my house was too hard. It didn’t help that he was also a patently lazy person to boot. Turns out in the end, that sleeping in someone else’s bed wasn’t an issue and doing social things with her was different. But he always used his health as a get out of jail free card with me.

    I can’t help but feel that maybe the OPs partner is doing the same thing. Just finding issues everywhere. The fact he is seemingly uninterested in their baby is just cruel. I think he has buyers remorse on that particular decision but doesn’t know how to cut and run and wants to you make the decision for him (just like I had to with my ex, who naturally told everyone how horrible and unsupportive I was of his busted, broke, unemployable ass afterwards).

    I say cut and run. Nothing you do will accommodate or alleviate his symptoms to the point where your child has two equally supportive parents. Your child deserves better than a parent who at the least pretends she doesn’t exist and is a burden and at worst might actually resent her because he’s too caught up in his own drama to put her needs before his, which is what you do as a parent!!!

    1. This.

      Commenters are going to be caught up the issues around in his chronic illnesses, but the heart of the horror here is his repeated refusal to own his problems like an adult and manage them in an adult way. LW will never be able to do enough for him. “Distrust of doctors” is an excuse to make LW responsible for his well-being in a wholly inappropriate way. Waking up your spouse four days after moving and demanding you move again is not something that an adult who cares for their spouse does. He wants LW to do all the work and make all the decisions, while negging and undermining? He can’t pick the baby up at daycare without whining about it? No.

      Cut and run, LW, or rather, since you just moved, get a lawyer and inform him he’s free to seek his own allergen-free home on his own. You are a wonderful, capable person, and you’ll be fine.

      1. Yeah, this – I was exhausted/angry just READING the letter. I can’t imagine living it.

        What stuck out to me is that demanding that they move is an okay solution – but going to a doctor isn’t? And this is the SECOND time he’s demanded they move? I can understand being wiped out by chronic fatigue syndrome or another chronic illness that makes feeding yourself or taking care of a child hard, but it seems like the LW’s husband is making LITERALLY NO EFFORT at all to do anything about it. What would happen if the LW was incapacitated by an illness or an injury? is the baby just not going to get fed or picked up from daycare?

        I spent eight years with someone with an increasingly debilitating anxiety disorder, and making everyone else miserable/being miserable/slowly crushing our relationship was okay, but picking up the phone to call a therapist wasn’t (amazingly, it became a good idea that he would definitely do about thirty seconds after he realized I was breaking up with him!), so I will admit I have very limited bandwidth when it comes to adults who refuse to manage their illnesses.

        I respect the LW’s choice to say that she’s not done with the relationship yet, but…damn.

        1. I’m also very concerned with the logistics of how daycare pickups and drop offs are going to work when the LW is actually doing her residency. It’s not like you can just leave your job if there is a serious situation going on nor can you leave a toddler at daycare if your husband can’t pick her up! Like Adventures with Rachel said above, residency is a time when the partner of the resident really has to *step up* not add more stress to his/her plate!

          1. I agree. I’d want to ask the LW, how confident are you that if you’re in the middle of a shift, that he will reliably handle this task? Or if he can’t, that he will find some way to get the kid picked up or dropped off? If you think there’s a chance that there will be regular or even just semi-regular emergencies (or, in the worst case, “emergencies”) where he can’t get your child to or from day care at a time when you can’t leave your shift, I would make one of your early practical steps figuring out a workaround now. You don’t want to have to figure it out in the heat of the moment.

          2. @Turtle Candle – “a time when you can’t leave your shift” is pretty much the entire shift for a medical resident. Plus some, because she may not be able to leave at the end of the shift; she can’t guarantee that she’ll be home at 8 pm just because her shift ends at 8 pm.

          3. I figured that was the case, yes. And I can’t imagine the panic of “I can’t retrieve my child and neither can (or will) my husband.”

          4. That concerns me, too! You can’t just leave your child at daycare because “I can’t pick her up.” For that matter, you can’t just leave a child to marinate in a dirty diaper, or a feverish/sick child lying in a crib unfed and unwatered. I hope that LW has, or can assemble, a Team Her and Team Child.

        2. Commander Banana, that pinged me too. He is too sick to do housework or do the daycare run, but not too sick to move house again? That suggests to me that either he is able to do some things when he wants to, or that LW did all the work of moving last time and he expects her to do it all again. Either way, yikes.

          1. Well, sure he’s not too sick to move house again! You just know that she did all the work of arranging and packing for the last move.

          2. I’m assuming that LW handled everything related to this move and the previous move she mentioned, and that her husband would expect her to handle moving a THIRD time.

            I think it is completely possible to simultaneously believe that the ailments he’s experiencing are real and true AND to give him major side-eye for not taking any role at all in managing his illness.

            My ex really, truly did have an anxiety disorder and he really, truly felt horrible almost all of the time and he really, truly did believe that he could not do things like go anywhere with me ever, up to and including out to dinner or to the corner bar for a beer because he really, truly did feel like the world was collapsing on him all the time. All of that was real and true!

            THAT BEING SAID, however, he also did literally nothing to try to manage his anxiety disorder for the near-decade we were together. And ultimately, whether he had been faking it to get out of doing stuff he didn’t want to do (which a lot of friends thought was the case, since at the same time he was able to pull himself together to do things like go on long motorcycle trips with other people) or not, it really didn’t matter. Having a chronic illness isn’t a choice. Not managing it is. And complaining about things like having to pick up your child at daycare definitely is a choice!

      2. This. If there’s anything I learned, it’s that bending over backwards and doing everything you can to accommodate someone who won’t manage their condition leads to more of the same at best and becoming an emotional punching bag at worst. It’d be a dealbreaker for me.

        1. Yes. My husband’s psychiatrist told me (about my situation) that “going above and beyond the call of duty” for an extended amount of time ALWAYS ends badly.

          What really struck me was that he didn’t say “could, might, often, or usually.” Instead of waffling around the issue he actually said “ALWAYS” and he is right. I thank God that I found out he was cheating and I felt free to leave.

          Also, our marriage counselor finally told me that he didn’t need a caregiver and “It’s not a matter of health, it’s a matter of character.”

          LW’s situation is similar and also different, but his character is an issue to consider.

          1. It took me a while in the aftermath to realize that even when I was being agreeable, understanding, and not at all objecting, it wasn’t enough for my ex. Even when I was figuratively frozen in place, he left me. It taught me a very harsh lesson about love; namely that it isn’t enough. And also that some things are just not your job to fix.

          2. I think this is such a wise comment, and I’ve lived it both as the person being taken care of and the person trying to be the caretaker. Stepping up when one partner is incapacitated or needs more support is part of being in a partnership, but it’s not really sustainable long-term, and it DEFINITELY isn’t sustainable when one is also the primary caretaker for a child.

            Caretaker burnout is a real thing. The LW cannot balance being a parent, a residency, and being the full-time caretaker of her husband. She just can’t do it. You could do ONE of those things. You can’t do all three. That’s just a fact, the entire issue of her husband’s character aside.

    2. Yeaahh… I feel like the Cap was WAY too lenient towards husband because I have to tell you from an outsiders perspective he’s coming off as a man-baby douche. And he might not actually be one, might just be driven to end of his rope because of illness but DEAR GOD the LW is going to destroy her health burning both ends of the candle and REALLY? really, he can’t even TRY to take care of his own child??

      I can’t see this ending well, especially when he is showing ZERO effort to adult himself.

      1. I don’t see anything in the letter indicating that he’s grateful that LW is willing to do everything he won’t or can’t. I do see that he seems to have episodes whenever significant things are going on with LW; that’s a great way to shut down the successes in her life.

        1. I noticed that too. As soon as she’s under a significant amount of physical/mental stress (see: pregnancy, medical residency), his problems suddenly flare up. That’s, uh… not a great sign.

    3. This set off warning bells for me, too. I believe Captain A’s advice for DFR’s seeking a therapist/counselor she could talk this through with, is spot-on. I’m not saying cut-and-run outright. But I agree with K_c24, someone who has now demanded TWO major moves within days of moving in, who demands that his partner address and “fix” the issues, who is not available for parenting on any intimate level, who has had (has??) addiction issues, who won’t seek out a doctor, who–hey, does he even have a job?? What DOES he do all day??? And you are in MED SCHOOL, with a BABY??? Holy crap!!!! There are just too many signs that something deeper and darker is going on, more than just chronic health issues.

      I know that’s not for me to name or diagnose. But I hope DFR reaches out because this is not going to get better anytime soon. And may continue to get a lot worse.

      1. I’m thinking a strategy might be for lw to take responsibility for herself and child – – whether that involves childcare or whatever – – while spouse takes responsibility for their health issues and whatever needs to be done with the living situation to accommodate their health issues.

    4. Was I the only one who thought, if he doesn’t trust doctors, LW, you are a doctor, what does that mean about his trust level about YOU? Because you’re right, it sounds a lot like some bad relationships I’ve seen in my family (which have made me incredibly reluctant to do my own relationship building beyond friendship).

      1. I had the same thought. Temperance commented above that the husband’s crises happen during successful periods for the LW–I’m worried that the husband disapproves of LW’s career and this is a manifestation of that.

      2. This! This is what had my jaw dropping (well, one of the things), and I was wondering if I was the only one until I got to here.
        Yes – he distrusts doctors. LW is a doctor. This makes me very uneasy about his attitude to LW, and it also is very illogical of him, considering how much he is relying on LW to do everything for him and their child.

    5. I’m with you. If he can research a list of things that might mitigate his allergies, he can research a list of possible places to move to so they’re at least one step closer to the thing he wants to do without OP having to do all the work. And was there literally nothing on that list that he couldn’t make progress on himself?

      He may be suffering, but handing another adult who is not your employee a to-do list is unacceptable, as far as I’m concerned. If it had been presented as a joint project, or at least “I can’t do any of this, do you think you could tackle any of them to help me out?”, I’d feel much differently.

  13. I’m SO sorry this is happening, LW. My eye is twitchy just thinking about the load that is on you. I hope something on the list the Captain gave will work for you. The only thing I can add is, do either one of you have a family member who likes to pitch in? Even someone you can talk to for support? I think if there’s anyone you can get on your team, it’s only going to help no matter what the future holds with your husband’s condition.

  14. Feeding, playing with and cleaning up after a toddler is not a minimal accomplishment. It involves a huge amount of emotional and physical labor, and if you’re working or going to school, it makes sense that you want to focus on your child when you are home. I know this is only a small part of your letter, but taking care of your kid is not a small thing.

    1. This right here. My daughter is almost the exact same age as yours and I’m still working to remind myself that keeping her alive all these months is a big deal. I’ve had to shift from my old MO of “do all the things!” and honestly, I like my new life a lot better.

    2. Yeah, I have a toddler and this stuff is both majorly important. Caring for and playing with a toddler can be tons of fun and can be the lovely relaxing stress relieving part of the day*, but that doesn’t mean it’s not *important* or that you should feel guilty about not spending that time on cleaning the house or other tasks which are less fun or less rewarding. You and your toddler both need that time: love and time and attention and giggles and boredom and frustration and gritted teeth have to go into the Bank of Small Child and that’s what makes you the beloved trusted person who can comfort them when they hurt their knee at 5 or fall out with a friend at 9 or fail an exam at 18. Don’t apologise for spending your non-working time cuddling a small and playing silly games and rolling on the floor!

      *it can also be the teethgrindingly boring and frustrating part of the day, and sometimes both at the same time!

    3. YES THIS!

      I have a parent who neglected us due to her mental illness and other issues. We never attached/bonded whatever you call it, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it’s impacted me for my entire life thus far. LW, what you’re doing is important for your daughter’s self esteem, education, and happiness in life. Please don’t sell yourself short here. It’s good that she knows that Mom is there for her, and loves her. That’s a huge thing.

      1. And this is part of the reason I know I do not want to be a mother. Crying babies is one of my top 5 migraine triggers. How can I bond properly with an infant when every cry for food or attention literally incapacitates me? That sounds more like a recipe for HELL, for both the potential kid and me.

        1. Good on you for knowing that. My parenting-thing-I-definitely-couldn’t-deal-with is the constant need for attention. I hear from parents how they couldn’t even go to the bathroom without their kid calling for them when kid was small and shudder inside my head. Even if I wanted kids, which I don’t, and even if I were willing to put myself thought that, which I’m not, I would never ever ever put an innocent human being through a childhood of mommy telling them to go away and play on their own.

          1. Yup. I knew from a very young age (when I rejected playing with baby dolls) that babies weren’t going to be my thing. I also knew early on that if dogs (and I like dogs!) were too much for me to handle, I definitely couldn’t take a baby. Dogs are messy, loud, break stuff, stain stuff, eat gross food, require supervision and attention and etc., etc., etc., not that other animals don’t, but dogs are really IN YOUR FACE with it…and so are babies. I will love your dog. Dogs are cool! I will even look after your dog for a night or two. Your dog and I will have a good time. You’re coming back, though. That’s the key. I am not going to ever have a dog of my own, because HAVING to go walkies in all kinds of weather twice a day, etc., HAVING to deal with aggressive affection the minute I walked in the door, etc., was too much for me as an introvert who doesn’t talk much at home, especially with my depression issues and bad back issues (they are mostly but not completely managed, and there are Bad Days).

            Babies require as much, and probably a lot more, attention than do dogs. I can’t do baby care. I babysat, and was great at it, for years…because I knew it was temporary and I was going to be able to give those kids back and flee home.

            I can do plants, and cats, and ferrets, and they all thrive. Anything more complicated or that doesn’t crap in a box is probably not going to be happy. Cats and ferrets aren’t typically as in-your-face. A bad day due to back pain/inability to do more than hobble to the toilet and back, or due to crippling depression, won’t hurt them as long as they have a box to crap in, get some love/attention in small doses, and have fresh food and water. A dog or baby is nowhere near as independent.

            It helps to know one’s limitations in advance!

    4. +1000000

      These are so important. Feeding, playing with, and cleaning up with your child are so so so important. Not doing this, not doing it regularly, has so many impacts, not just on emotional attachments and bonding, but also on speech and literacy. I don’t know if there’s a library around you that does it, but a lot of libraries near me have a thing called ‘First Steps’ that teaches parents about how simple things– playing, singing songs, reading books, even clapping games, are steps that help all of these developments.

      1. I’m really glad that the small one has her mum – but I do worry that having a daddy in the house who *doesn’t* do these things – who doesn’t bond with her, play with her, take her places, etc – will impact her; and having a member of the household who does none of the chores or complains bitterly will *definitely* influence her. That’s not good for the kid, and it needs to change now, while she’s still small.

        1. Absolutely. She might not be speaking or understand language yet (no bets, though), but the bad feelings? She probably understands those. My parents went through a contentious couple of years when I was in the late single digits, and you better believe I knew exactly what was going on, even if they thought they were hiding it.

  15. Hi, LW. This whole situation sucks, I’m so sorry. I thought I would offer some tips that work for me, since I tend to catastrophize and can have a problem with things that are just too big, and my anxiety tries to bury me a lot.

    1. Put things into categories like “things that have to be done”, “things that have to be done BY ME”, “things that have to be done NOW BY ME”, and “things that cannot be done BY ME”. Prioritize. Sometimes things have to be done, but don’t have to be done *now*. Sometimes things have to be done, but can’t be done by you, or *shouldn’t* be done by you.

    2. Things that have to be done by you include your schooling, and might(?) also involve certain aspects of childcare. It might be that you have to do X, Y, and Z, but those other things that don’t involve picking up the kid, such as laundry, cooking, dishes, etc, need to be done, but maybe not by you.

    3. Similarly, if you do end up needing a new apartment because you can’t make this one allergen-safe through whatever means, it might make even more sense for you to NOT do that. Your partner can do online searching for listings, can contact landlords and ask about potential allergens, and, if it’s safe to do so, be the one to tour the place.

    I also completely second the point that it might be too soon to know if the apartment is live-able or not. I have the kind of sensitivities where I have to wear a mask to do basically any cleaning (let’s not even get into walking near freshly-mowed grass), and for several days after moving, allergy stuff is just EVERYWHERE.

    1. Rereading the letter, I feel I should clarify that when I said “picking up the kid”, I meant physically lifting the child, not “taking the kid to or from from another location”. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    2. I agree on the waiting-it-out option for the apartment! I have allergies/breathing issues that are worsened by dust *and* by stress. I just moved. Wearing a mask during the moving process helped a lot on both fronts, because a) I was physically safe from the dust/mold/whatever and b) I was able to stop worrying about “but what if all the dust this is kicking up makes it hard for me to breathe?” because I knew: well, in that case, I’d put on a mask! And now that we’ve settled in: breathing is fine. Good luck. You have options!

      1. any tips on what types of mask work best?

        …also, that reminds me, there was some mention of construction noise. good earplugs can do wonders. The ones that got me through construction – drilling into concrete under my apartment during the worst of my noise sensitivity – were Vater VSAS, but lately I’ve also been using the cheaper ones by Pluggerz because they have soft ones that are easier to sleep in. They all need to be broken in at first, but after that they feel like a natural part of my ears 🙂 yay silicone.

        1. For me, earplugs work when I put them in _before_ I get stressed, and I don’t always notice when I start to get stressed by noise. (Oh, they’ll turn it down in a moment. Oh, it’s not so bad. Oh, I AM FULL OF RAGE AND NEED TO LEAVE THE HOUSE NOW BEFORE I SHOUT AT THE NEIGHBOURS OR BREAK DOWN CRYING!!1!) With construction, it’s also the vibrations that add to my stress. Moving into a place only to find that it’s haunted by construction is lousy, and I have every sympathy for needing to get out NOW. (I also feel that this should have been disclosed before moving in.)

  16. The thing that strikes me first is (and perhaps I am misreading this letter): LW, has your husband considered or started applying for disability? I realize that is INCREDIBLY difficult, and applying is no guarantee of getting the help that you need, but the combination of his allergies/anxiety is definitely inhibiting his ability to live a full life with you.

    I have an ulterior motive in suggesting this, which is: I think that, if you can swing it, him living apart from you for a while is really going to ease up the pressure on you (though, caveat, only if you make a clear schedule that says when you are available to help him and when he has to make arrangements to help himself.) He needs doctors, and he needs regular therapy, and he possibly needs a professional to help make his day-to-day life happen (possibly a meal service and a once-monthly cleaner person?) and, most importantly, those needs are running counter to YOUR needs, which are to have some time to yourself to heal and get stuff done. His presence seems to be putting an inexorable weight on you right now.

    I would recommend going to the Friends of Captain Awkward forum and reading around for posts by people in long-term relationships with people with severe mental health problems, and what things make those relationships work vs. what things make them crash and burn. To be blunt, the ones that explode in a fiery ball of badness are usually the ones where the sicker partner abdicates their responsibility for their own mental health to the other person. I am not sure that this is what is happening in your relationship — it sounds like your husband has tried to access care a lot, and not had good luck with what care was available — but it sounds like something that *could* happen, or which you feel is happening, which are also pretty concerning.

    Here is a thing I want to say: even inside a marriage, you get to set and redefine boundaries. You might have thought previously that you would be okay taking care of your husband during an extended sickness. Just because you thought that before doesn’t mean you don’t get to change your mind; it doesn’t mean you don’t get to say, “You know what, I can’t actually do this.” Like: you can respect your husband’s struggles and needs and love him deeply and still say, “I need a space and a time that is not about you or your problems.” You get to say, “The point of my life is not to take care of you.” You get to say, “I can’t fix this problem for you. I will support you while you look for a solution, but I am not the person who is going to find that solution.”

    Saying those things out loud will probably have consequences? And I’m not sure that if you are hoping to rebuild this relationship from the place of mutual pain and fear where it is resting right now that I would go with that last one right off the bat. But I would maybe start by making a space inside your head where YOU are the primary person you are concerned about, where what YOU want and what YOU hope for and what would make YOU comfortable are the main things you think about.

    Your letter reads like you are suffocating, and it makes me really sad.

    1. I should clarify one part of what I wrote above — many relationships are between two people with mental health problems. The pattern that I have seen regularly in not-good-ways-of-handling-that is: one partner defines themselves as the “sicker” partner, then pushes the responsibility for their health onto the other person, regardless of what issues that person might also struggle with.

  17. I think she might have married my ex-husband. It is so, so hard to be that person, and just as hard to be married to that person. I don’t have any shoulds and coulds to offer, only sympathy. I do think that the Captain’s first response–you only just moved, the dust has literally not settled yet–is likely to be best in the short term. But the long term reality is that this will keep happening; his allergies will spike every time your family experiences stress forever. Are you willing to live with this?

    1. OP, it sounds like your husband is getting a lot of your attention, and a lot of your spoons right now. Let’s stop talking about him for a little bit. Let’s take him right out of your post. Let’s talk about you. Here’s what I see:

      “I’m now so stressed…”

      “I found it pretty traumatizing…”

      “The division of domestic labor… has proved distressingly stable. To put it bluntly, I don’t feel I can rely on… I expect a lot of complaining.”

      “I’m pretty limited by anxiety, lack of energy, and attention problems…”

      “Sometimes I’m so unmoored by this feeling that I worry I’ll be a bad doctor…”

      OP, it sounds like right now, it’s your turn to be in crisis mode. I think you need to ask yourself some questions.

      What will happen if you tell your husband that you are now in crisis and need the same level of support from him that you have given?

      What will happen if you tell your husband that this time, your needs have to be prioritized above his?

      What will happen if you ask for help from him?

      What will happen if you tell him you’re scared; stressed; overwhelmed; panicking; anxious; hurt.

      What will happen when you tell him that you need him?

      How does the answer to these questions make you feel? Do you feel safer, thinking of his response to these questions? Do you feel more stable, as though he provides a ground for you to rest some of your burdens on – even if it’s just one or two, as he can support? Do you feel comforted, because you know that even if he can’t fix things for you, he will sympathize with you? Do you feel appreciated, because you know that even if he doesn’t have enough spoons to address any of these questions, you know he will respond to you with compassion anyway?

      Or, OP, as I fear – does the answer to those questions make you feel more anxious, more alone, and more stressed – because you know that he will respond poorly?

        1. Seconding this. The reframing really helps to see this situation from a different angle/gather more insight.

      1. This, so much. I was in a much milder situation than LW, but I never felt I would get any support, and I always had to be the breadwinner, the emotional support, the bill payer, etc. I could never have down time. He actually accused me several times of trying to one-up him on who felt worse. Like I was competing for that honor!

      2. Laura — this is important and well stated

        Also critical to remember that many doctors are attracted to the profession because they are helping types (this is also true of nurses). This leaves us (I am a doctor) very vulnerable to always being the “helper” in any relationship.

        Balance is really important in relationships. Also, I think others have mentioned this before, but medical problems (including mental health stuff — because mental health problems are *real* health problems) do not excuse acting like a jerk. It is always okay to ask for what you need and to let your partner know that it hurts when you don’t get it, even if they have a health problem and ESPECIALLY if you are the assigned “helper”

        1. THIS THIS THIS. Plus the socialization that women are supposed to do the emotional labor in a relationship anyway. I am also a doc. My husband is physically healthy and over the years has realized that he has significant anxiety. He now manages this himself with meds, therapy, and self-care, and he manages it himself because I finally made it clear that I could no longer tie myself into a pretzel trying not to “make” him anxious. That was step 1. Step 2 (several years later) was when my mother’s dementia worsened, I was working as a hospice medical director, we had a preteen, and I told my husband that I was tapped out and he needed to do way more of his own emotional work and the emotional work of our marriage. It me years to get to to the point where I recognized that I had the right to say that, and it took a long time for him to really get it and to develop the skills to do it – but he did. It is possible to stop being the assigned helper and the designated “supportive spouse.” Both spouses should be supportive to each other.

      3. Adding my appreciation for this wonderful comment. Thank you in particular for the less common sketch of what *good* responses from the husband would look like.

  18. I second the Captain’s advice to re-frame all future conversations to a “we” tone. LW, you are wise to recognize the signs of co-dependency already visible. The last thing you need is to continue the co-dependency where it’s all on you to solve all problems….and then become a fully practicing doctor, with all the stress and crazy hours that entails, plus (I assume) the stress of paying back medical school loans, plus (maybe) more children…..year after year while every responsibility continues to be put on only you! You’ll implode.

    My stressers aren’t as great as LW’s. But, if it helps, I often feel pressured to “do it all”, as many women do. When I recognize those feelings, I step back and have conversations with Spouse like this, “The floor needs to be mopped and the bathroom needs to be scrubbed. Which one do you want to do?” “We have to price a new mattress and call the cable company about the weird charges on the bill. Which one do you want to tackle” I frame it like that so it’s clear that we’re tackling our household projects together, as fair and square as possible.

    1. I think that is a good approach and I use it myself but I do feel a bit sad when I realise the division still isn’t fair. You are doing all the noticing, planning and motivating. Unless of course he sometimes says to you “today we need to sort out the panty and do the grocery shopping, which would you like to tackle?” But I am guessing that is not the case.

  19. LW. There are some separate but conflating issues going on here. One is your husband’s health, which is super important. But the other is the implicit assumption in your marriage that you will do everything and nothing will be expected from him. You say “The division of domestic labor that was established when I was on leave and husband was incapable of holding the baby has proved distressingly stable. To put it bluntly, I don’t feel I can rely on him to do more than occasional daycare drop-offs and pickups, and even with those I expect a lot of complaining.” He also seems to have given you a task list for ameliorating his allergies – what’s that about? What is on his task list?

    If he’s not willing to try very hard to remedy this by doing what he can to lighten your load, I’m afraid it’s not going to work. Or it wouldn’t work for me. You need someone who is utterly committed to being a more than equal parent and partner while you are in residency, which is so so so hard. He does not seem to be that guy. I’m so sorry.

  20. Lots of good advice for a really tough situation that sounds like it’s going to get tougher before it gets better.

    Just one thought to offer: I find it curious that husband’s position is “_I_ am uncomfortable, YOU have to move us” with the added assumption that moving will solve the problem(s).

    Between the ages of nine and eighteen, I (was) moved eight times. Three different countries, two provinces within Canada. On the one hand, I had the opportunity to re-invent myself to a new audience every 15 months, on the other hand, I quickly learned that the only thing you can’t move away from is: …………. yourself. Eventually, you have to learn to live with yourself.

    So, while my experience is not completely analogous with your situation, I hope it at least adds another data point to consider.

  21. Dear LW, as a chronically ill person in a household of three chronically ill adults and a 16-month-old child, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to get other people involved. Pay for a cleaning service or an unpacking service, ask friends to come over, join a meetup group or a playgroup, hire a babysitter, see a therapist, get a massage, call your mom, do whatever you can to spread the work around. You cannot shoulder all of this yourself. You just can’t. I know being in a new city makes this challenging, but ideally you have at least one or two friends there or within reach—can someone visit you for a weekend or a week to help out? Our friends did this after our baby was born and it helped a ton—and Craigslist or Yelp or Angie’s List or Meetup or Psychology Today can help you find both friends and service providers.

    Also, this really jumped out at me:

    To put it bluntly, I don’t feel I can rely on him to do more than occasional daycare drop-offs and pickups, and even with those I expect a lot of complaining.

    This is where I am fully on Team Suck It Up. If you’re limited, fine. Lots of us are limited. But the way to deal with being limited when you’re part of a family is to do as much as you sustainably can, communicate honestly about your limitations, thank the person or people who do what you can’t, and compartmentalize your much-needed times of wailing and gnashing your teeth about how much your limitations suck so that your valid complaints and concerns about your condition aren’t associated with being asked or required to do things. Complaining to your spouse, who is doing the lion’s share of the labor, about needing to contribute to your child’s care: not okay.

    Hang in there. I hope things get better for you soon.

    1. Yeah, that’s sort of key isn’t it? It’s one thing for practical capacities to contribute to be different because of factors beyond everyone’s control. It’s a whole other thing not to be able to trust that your partner is doing their best to contribute as they are able. One’s about the situation, the other is about the people. Separating out ability from attitude might go a long way to helping with how this problem feels (right now it sounds really overwhelming and lonely), and is in many ways a separate issue from putting a set of supports in place for the health situation. This aspect of partner sounds like it might continue no matter how the health issues fluctuate.

    2. Yes! This is compassionate advice, and it helped me frame something about this issue I was grappling with: LW, a marriage doesn’t have to be split exactly equally in terms of work. Most times, it isn’t. One spouse may not be able to contribute half the housework, half the parenting, half the income, especially if they are dealing with chronic illness. But what a marriage DOES have to be is a partnership of two people working together. Right now, it sounds like you are not working WITH your husband, and he is not working with you. It sounds like what is happening right now is that you feel like you have to work *against* your husband in order to survive. That’s not fair to you.

  22. My partner has a similar situation of part physical/ part mental issues, and it can be very hard for anyone to tell which is which. When I went to counseling due to life stuff, one of the things that helped our relationship was the idea of the “new normal.”

    So right now (ok, after a few weeks, because the Captain is totally right about the literal dust settling) is the new normal. What does that look like? How much can your partner contribute to the upkeep of the household? In my relationship, I’ve outsourced a lot of organizational stuff to my partner. She is excellent at it, and she can work on it even if leaving the bed is not possible. She also has a list of the chores that she does as she can. These tend to be things without a specific time line (dusting, vacuuming, wiping down the counters, etc), so that if they do not get done on a set schedule, my life is minimally impacted. I handle most of the regular chores (laundry, cooking, grocery store, picking up meds).

    It is not a 50/50 split, but it does make me feel like she is doing what she can to make our lives together nicer. She also is able to contribute financially which helps. I make more, but we pay rent proportionally. Also, the standards of the house are flexible, and if something is bugging me, I can just deal with it without triggering guilt. For example, the bathroom was bugging me, so I did a fast wipe down earlier this week: just enough time and energy to make it live-able for me. Bathroom is still on partner’s list, but her allergies have also been kicking her butt.

    But before the new normal and finding things that my partner could take on, I was wearing myself down to the bone trying to fix everything and get through the day. She felt bad for not helping, but when I asked her to do things and it did not happen, it felt like a betrayal. I had to give up on the prefect split, but being able to take things off my list was SO helpful that I care less.

    So, what is your partner good at? making sure bills get paid? Scheduling appointments? Amusing kiddo for a while? What adaptive things can HE do to help lessen the burden? An example: partner is SUPER allergic to dust. We got a fancy face mask rated for biological contaminants that she wears while dusting. She no longer get sick from dusting. Loading the dishwasher is hard for partner, but she makes sure dishes end up in the kitchen so it is easy for me to load the dishwasher.

    Even half-way is better than nothing. If he is not willing to meet you in the middle or close to it; if he is making things HARDER for you by complaining and being picky; if he is not trying to actively manage his own illness then you have a much bigger problem.

  23. Oh, LW, so many Jedi hugs to you. The combination of work, parenting, and husband-related stresses must be one hell of a burden right now.

    I don’t have any amazing advice to offer, but I will say this. I am also a person, like your husband, with weird chronic Health Stuff (of a very different variety) that can be anywhere from debilitating to unnoticeable on any given day. I also have bad anxiety, and my symptoms, too, can be a terribly frustrating blend of physical and psychosomatic. So I feel for him as well–it deeply sucks to feel like your whole life is held hostage by your health problems.

    I am lucky enough to have a spouse who is incredibly understanding and accommodating, who goes above and beyond to take care of me on bad days and helps me enjoy the good days as much as possible. And there are absolutely times when our relationship gets “unbalanced” by my issues. But the thing is, I’m *acutely* aware of that, and while I’ve been learning to let go of my guilt over it (because it’s just unhelpful), I do everything in my power to contribute to our shared needs when my body and mind allow me, because he also deserves a partner.

    Obviously I can’t know your husband’s mind, and I don’t mean to imply that our issues are the same or that he’s Being a Terrible Partner. I just want you to know that you are not wrong to feel frustrated by this; you have every single right to chafe at the imbalance, *whether or not it’s his “fault”*. His needs definitely matter, but SO DO YOURS. I’m sorry I can’t come up with any specific advice to fix the situation, but I really want you to know that you matter, your needs matter, and you deserve space to take care of yourself.

    ❤ ❤ Best of luck to you.

    1. because he also deserves a partner.

      I want a little forest of point-up emoji pointing at this. This is what partnership MEANS.

  24. >> He has a long list of tasks he wants me to do to banish all possible allergens from our home,

    Oh LW, this rang all sorts of alarms. Does he have a list too? Are you confident that he’s doing what he can? Can you go through the list together and see whether there’s anything on the list that he can take responsibility for?

    If the answer to all of those is no, then you’ve lost the essential ingredient: you’re not partners any more. No matter how bad his health issues, you need to feel like you’re working together to manage them, and “he gave me a list of what I have to do [with the threat of ~something~ behind it]” is … not good.

    Secondly, what access to support do you have as a doctor in training? Here in the U.K., medical students and doctors have access to lots of listening support, stress support -and counselling through their universities and their professional organisation/union (because a lot of med students don’t want to admit difficulties to their Unis.) Similar things must exist in the US. Check the AMA website, google “stress management doctor”, “counselling service for medic”, and whatever else you can think off. There is almost certainly significant help out there, and it will be confidential and specifically targeted at doctors. Find it, and get in touch. This is exactly the kind of situation it’s for: consider it part of your professional responsibility to find out what help is available and to seek it. They are there to help!

    1. Also, as someone who was a trainer and careers counsellor for doctors for 3 years:

      >> When people hear that I have a young toddler and am finishing medical school, they often assume I’m extremely competent and type-A, but in fact I’m pretty limited by anxiety, lack of energy, and attention problems. Most days I’m home I find it hard to do anything other than feed, clean up after, and play with my daughter.

      This is CLASSIC doctor stuff: “oh, people assume that as a doctor I’m competent, but I’m not like all the other doctors, I’m totally anxious and hardly do anything outside work and really I’m barely coping.” So, SO many doctors are thinking this: it’s classic imposter syndrome, of course, but I think there’s an extra layer because doctors are held in such high esteem and honestly, at least half of you think that everyone else deserves to be held in high esteem but you are uniquely less hardworking / innately intelligent / organised / naturally energetic than the others. It’s particular common for women, in my experience – you don’t get to be a doctor without putting a huge amount of pressure on yourself to achieve all the way through school and college and for several years afterwards (and I got really used to women apologising to me for choosing one of the presumed “less stressful” branches of medicine at postgrad training level, because it was literally the first time in their life they’d made the “less stressful” not all-out choice.) I don’t think most women get to position of doctor without being the kind of person who always puts pressure on themselves to be doing MORE, BETTER, and constantly measuring themselves against a DOING MORE DOING BETTER version of themselves in their heads. You’re definitely not alone on this one!

      1. (That said, I don’t mean that if you have ADHD or fatigue or something that you’re not dealing with limitations that other doctors aren’t dealing with – but even then, do just check yourself for imposter syndrome now and then. Normal doctors really truly aren’t superhuman, and you’re not a abnormal or unusual doctor for having limits and getting tired and being, well, human!

  25. This reminds me quite a lot of my father, who has real, definite physical health problems, plus mental health problems he is incredibly reluctant to acknowledge or treat, and finally a pre-existing tendency to outsource all responsibility for literally everything to my mother (or an adult child if she’s not around.) We have all experienced the frustration you’re obviously feeling: suspecting, but not knowing, that he could do a bit more for himself — even while knowing that he genuinely is suffering, so you end up feeling guilty about the suspicion.

    There isn’t an easy solution, but the captain’s advice is good. The best approaches we’ve found are 1) to work out what you can do and be clear about what you can’t 2) treat all problems as real and expressed in good faith 3) refuse to make major changes on hunches. My dad’s gone back and forth a lot on whether he is or is not allergic to cats and whether this might be worsening his more serious problems. (This already led to me taking in the family cats which were all of 13 years old a few years back.) Then, for one reason and another, he decided he wasn’t allergic after all. My mum got cats. They’re ridiculously lovely cats and relieve the stress of taking care of my dad a lot for her. Then Dad decided he was allergic after all and wanted her to get rid of them. Mum’s position was “I am so sorry you feel wheezy and congested but I want to know FOR SURE that the cats are causing your symptoms before we discuss getting rid of them.” Not only did the GP exculpate the cats but after that Dad’s symptoms got better. I think air pollution and stress had probably accounted for most of them.

    So I think it’s fair, in your scenario, to accept that your husband feels grim and that he doesn’t like doctors, and that is a hard thing for him to have to deal with – but that you’re not doing something as huge as moving out without knowing all the facts, including whether there’s anything else that can be done and whether moving is even guaranteed to help.

    And as the captain says in her closing remarks, it is also fair, if it comes to that, for you to leave. There is part of you that feels taken advantage of, that assesses that he is not taking adequate responsibility for his child or for his own well-being, and you do not have to keep fighting back against that part forever.

    1. “1) to work out what you can do and be clear about what you can’t 2) treat all problems as real and expressed in good faith 3) refuse to make major changes on hunches.”


  26. I think this has to come down to a balance of both your needs.

    We know that he needs to live in a space where he feels like he can breathe, and where he will be able to sleep. We know that you need to have time to meet the commitments you need to meet for your residency, and stay reasonably stable and functional yourself. We know that as a couple, you need to stay financially okay, and you need to take care of your daughter.

    First: Is he aware of all those needs? If not, talk them out. Right now he’s told you what he needs, but that’s only part of the picture.

    Second: His proposed solutions (you doing all the work, basically) aren’t doable once you consider all the above needs. You’re in residency–obviously you can’t do all the childcare AND super intense cleaning AND coordinate the logistical and financial stuff that comes with a move AND manage his health for him! That would be a heavy load even if you weren’t working at all, and a residency is an intense job.

    So, you need different solutions. What is he physically able to do, in terms of childcare and household management? What about planning and logistics–managing finances, planning a move if it does come to that? How many hours can you realistically devote to these tasks each week, given you’re a resident with an intense work schedule? (I feel like the answer there should be something like ‘half an hour total, because the rest of my time is either at my residency or sleeping’, but you know yourself better than I do.) What outside help is available to you (doctors, landlord, pro cleaners, better air filters, babysitters, family, etc.)?

    Note that whatever solutions you land on need to consider ALL the relevant needs–not just his allergies, but also your career and sanity, you guys’ finances, etc. There probably isn’t a single easy fix (in my experience, when there are several competing needs, often the obvious solution to A makes B worse), but I’m betting you can find ways to at least make things a little better across the board. It’ll take a lot of communication, though, and both of you really respecting one another’s needs.

    1. Oh! LW, if he says something to the effect of “I can’t manage anything more, I can’t take on any of those tasks” you’ve learned something important (and sad). You will have learned that he perceives you as a helper, subject to him, and not as a person with agency and needs.

  27. Your hospital probably has an employee assistance program. USE THEM. They usually offer free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems. They address issues affecting mental and emotional well-being, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems, and psychological disorders. If nothing else, they can give you referrals to services.

    You may also want to look into getting a social worker involved, to help your family cope with all of your husband’s health issues. Can he apply for disability insurance? Can you then use some of that money to do some of the allergy mitigation work? Can the social worker help your husband with his possible emotional issues, or refer him to someone who can? They should be able to evaluate and give you a sense of what services are available in your (new) area.

    I’m also going to agree with other posters that this happens to be a terrible horrible no good allergy year. You might want to look up the pollen count in your area to show your husband if this is a provably bad time, and that will not remain as awful as it seems at the moment. One thing that helps me is a good air purifier with hepa filter.

    The captain mentioned dust from moving, which I think is also a possible culprit. I’ve worn dust masks/surgical masks when moving a lot of books, other wise I end up wheezing. Those can help with pollen too.

    I am not a religious person, but one of the agreements my ex and I made before we got married was to join a temple so that our kid(s) could get bar or bat mitzvahed. After the divorce, I became ill, and the temple basically send out an email asking people to help our family, and dozens of people showed up to take up carpooling duties, bring food, and do other stuff. These are not people I knew previously. They just stepped up. It was a beautiful thing.

    It sounds like you could use something like that. I know that adding another task to your list (find a religious institution you can live with and ask for help) may sound daunting, but it may end up lightening your load. And perhaps some of the counseling can go through the temple/church/mosque.

    In your letter, you mentioned “The division of domestic labor that was established when I was on leave … has proved distressingly stable.” This was a huge problem in my marriage. I was a stay-at-home mom of a disabled child, and when he was well enough for me to go back to work, I ended up doing all the housework I had been doing, plus pick up/drop off at school/afterschool program, carpooling, taking off time to take kid to doctor, etc., in addition to my commute, and stressful full-time job. Honestly, when we got divorced, I kept doing all those things, but it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders because a) I no longer had resentment that hubby wasn’t doing his fair share, and b) I actually had less work, because the ex wasn’t there creating more work for me. I’m not advocating divorce for you (though you can consider it, as no where in your letter did you mention any loving feelings towards your husband or joy in being together), but that if you do plan to stay together, you would be wise to address this division of labor issue. One partner being resentful all the time is not a recipe for a happy union.


    1. I had the same experience upon divorcing! Since I was already doing all the things, there was no new load from doing it alone.
      I was surprised by a significant unexpected lightness of not carrying another adult. I knew he wasn’t carrying his weight but until he left, I hadn’t noticed how much extra work he was making for me. It’s been years and I am still notice that lightness and feel grateful about it every day.

  28. I don’t know that much about the situation, but knowing what I know about being a woman in the medical field, and the way some men react to that perceived power diffential, is it. possible that this whole thing some weird dynamic in which your husband uses his health complaints to control and gain power over you? Some red flags to me are: 1. The fact that he’s making such a huge demand up front (move now!) without trying anything else to mitigate the situation 2. Him wanting you to solve the problem as if he’s not a competent adult who can get stuff done 3. Your feeling that he should suck it up. Sure, the last thing could be some lack of empathy, but being a doc gives you a lot of experience with sussing out people’s motivations and a strong ability to recognize bs just from the sheer volume of human interactions that come with the field. Your instinytcts might be telling you something.

    1. Not only this, but the way that crises his dovetail with times the Letter Writer is focused on career, their baby, her own health (moving twice during pregnancy oh my god I cannot stop thinking about that), to turn her focus back to him and make helping him the center of what she needs to do.

      1. Right. I was wondering what’s on the list of things Husband desperately wishes he could do but can’t because of his health issues. It would seem that he’s able to eat, drive and travel, but he’s not able to do childcare or housecleaning. Unknown if he’d be able to spend a weekend with his buddies or how he manages to work– if he works.

      2. Yeah, I was latching onto that too. Residency is scary-busy for residents, they are at work and on call for insane hours, and his anxiety and/or physical medical issues spike at very inconvenient times. Obviously moving and stuff is always stressful, even for people with healthy minds and bodies, but, well, yikes.

      3. I KNOW RIGHT!?!?!

        I’m afraid I’m jumping to the worst conclusion, but it seems like rather that supporting her pregnancy and residency (and the ongoing high-need situation of a toddler) he’s demanding more attention for himself.

      4. Yes. That as a pattern sets off big alarm bells for me. I admit, it’s because I’ve seen it not once but twice just among my friends. Every time something big and good happend to her, or she had some major life upheaval that required a lot of her attention, he had a major crisis that required her to take care of him. A few times can be coincidence, or stress-is-contagious. Over and over, though…. With one of them, the crises coincided with her promotions, the death of her father (he actually tried to prevent her from going to the funeral because he needed to be taken care of), and her getting a book contract. With the other, it centered on any event that directed her attention onto someone else (being maid of honor for her sister’s wedding, for instance). In the second case, she left him about a year after she had a baby, because it rapidly became clear that since the baby/child was always going to divert some of her attention/caretaking, he was going to have continual crises basically forever to get what he felt he “deserved” from her.

        I don’t know if that’s going on here. I hope it isn’t. But it’s a pattern to play close, careful attention to, and to take seriously.

        1. I’ve also been through that sort of thing–the stakes weren’t as high, but still: if I was ever happy OR sad about something that wasn’t Asshole Ex-related, he would pick a fight with me over something ridiculous to get my attention back onto him. When I had a great job interview, he locked us out of my apartment at 11:00 on a Friday night. When I had a good day volunteering/hanging out with friends, he called in a noise complaint on my downstairs neighbor even after I begged him not to. When I was robbed, he went on a victim-blaming rant. Et cetera. It was a pretty predictable pattern.

      5. We just moved while I was working full time and going to school nearly full time, and my husband carried most of the effort (including Zillow and touring by himself) and I’m still exhausted.

        I ain’t moving while pregnant.

      6. I caught that, too. I’m single, not a parent, and don’t know much about either marriage or parenting, but imagining physically recovering from having a child? While taking care of the baby single-handedly? While taking care of a spouse who can’t or won’t take care of himself? That’s overwhelming. Who would willingly let their spouse go through that?

    2. Blerg. I am a female doc and I felt this too. My gut agrees with your gut, Sarah — it seems like everything is her job all the time
      — I know several female docs in emotionally abusive relationships like this — they have to earn all the money, do all the housework, and all the childcare, and meet ALL of their husband’s emotional and physical needs in whatever way he decides at that moment.

      Also — he distrusts doctors but is MARRIED TO ONE — is this like when you date one of those misogynists where you have to make up for every wrong any woman they ever dated did to them before you? Where you have to prove you’re not *those women* — or in this case *those doctors*?

      1. “Also — he distrusts doctors but is MARRIED TO ONE” I also was very WTF at this. Like…does he not respect the work you are doing, then? That does not sound good?

      2. Right. I wonder if there’s an element of “you have to do all these things to prove that you are One Of The Good Ones” to that. It can easily become a manipulation tactic; if you express a boundary or a need they quickly pull out a “oh I guess you really are one of the untrustworthy cold demanding doctors/women/whatever” to get you to back down, and you’re always operating from a position of owing them soemthing (becuase, you see, they were kind enough to overlook your being a doctor/woman/whatever).

        That may not be happening here, but it worries me.

    3. I’m glad you brought that up because I wasn’t sure if I should. It seems to me that he’s using his health issues, consciously or not, to keep control in the relationship. As long as she’s scurrying around tackling his list of anti-allergen tasks and planning a move and doing all the housework, and caring for the kid, and doing a medical residency, she’s too busy to think straight or wonder if he’s really doing his best.

  29. Wow, I feel for you, LW! This is huge and messy and I can’t even begin to presume to have insight for what to do short-term. But I do have one idea for the indefinite future:

    If, at any point in the future, your family does end up choosing to move to address your husband’s allergies, he should be responsible for the legwork of finding a new place to live. Solely responsible, if you don’t have any major criteria that are in the same scope as his allergies. Since the big decision factor is what triggers his allergies, he has to be the one to test it by taking his allergies into prospective homes.

    As an added bonus, this could help address any subconscious issues that may be at play. If there’s a psychosomatic element that might be mitigated or outweighed by the fact that it was fine when he visited, or he might independently arrive at the conclusion it’s not worth moving for in the face of the work to be done in finding a new place. If he’s feeling any resentment towards you for living in an apartment that makes him allergic, that would (hopefully!) be eliminated if he chooses where you live.

  30. Doesn’t “he doesn’t trust doctors” boil down to “he doesn’t trust you”? It looks like he didn’t trust LW to choose a good apartment in the first place. He may not mean to, but it’s like he’s playing a game of “Guess Again!” I get that he’s not happy either, but people who make unreasonable demands that end up being controlling generally aren’t happy. So many of the things that have shown up on this list seem to be in play. There’s moving goalposts since we don’t know what will make him feel okay, and there’s an astonishingly long list of things that the rest of the world would suggest would help that he already won’t try– like seeing an allergist. (Oh, wait, he doesn’t trust doctors so that’s out.) For far more minor issues when I’m having trouble convincing someone to see a doctor, I suggest “Just go. You’re still in control of following what the doctor says, but go, get examined, see what the diagnosis is, and decide after that.” In this case, it might be a matter of seeing what allergens might be the problem (dust? particular sorts of tree allergens? the neighbor’s cat?), then deciding what to do. (Probably not chopping down the oak tree across the street but maybe drying clothes in a drier instead of hanging them out on a line.)

  31. Dear letter writer, I would not think moving is a viable First Response. You do not know whether the allergies are related to the new city or to the new residence or, it sounds, if they are not partially psychosomatic.

    As a fellow allergy sufferer, may I suggest first investing in a portable hepa air purifier? Having one in the bedroom maybe a huge difference. They are about a hundred bucks. That may help in the short-term while you figure out longer-term solutions.

    Secondly, I think you are the last person to plunge into a long list of tasks to fix the environmental problems. I think you should call the landlord and ask for a mold panel. I think that if the budget allows, you could hire someone in to help with some of these tasks your husband wants to have done.

    But the most important thing is for your husband to get to an allergist immediately and determine what the triggers are and what the best treatment will be. Anything else is just a Band-Aid. Frankly, I think it is far more reasonable for your husband to seek treatment then it is for you to uproot your life again in such a short period while caring for a child and preparing for a stressful new job.

    I don’t think you are uncaring or unsympathetic. I think you are simply tapped out. I wish you and your husband the best in this difficult adjustment.

    1. It’s at least as likely that he is allergic to the city, other state, than that it has something to do with the specific apartment building.

      does he understand that? is the move idea part of a larger manipulation? perhaps he wants an excuse to break up (and, you be the bad guy suggesting it so he doesn’t have to). or is it a tactic to make you break down and quit medical school? Ugh, so sorry either way.

    2. You do not know whether the allergies are related to the new city or to the new residence

      I second this so strongly. I can empathize with husband’s possible panic because he feels so terrible, but there’s no point moving unless you have a solid reason to believe a different apartment will be better. If he seriously cannot stand to be in their current apartment, he needs to handle his own hotel or trip to stay with friends or family for a little while to let his allergies calm down.

      He has a long list of tasks he wants me to do to banish all possible allergens from our home

      LW, this is where I started going nope nope nope as I read your letter. Why can’t your husband do some of those tasks (okay, he might need you to pick up protective gear for him so he can clean without making himself worse) or manage hiring someone to do them or take on other tasks so you have the time and energy to do them? It just doesn’t sound to me like your husband is trying to meet you halfway and that’s not fair. It sucks being sick, and it sucks even more not knowing what exactly is causing it, but it also sucks to have to do all of the housework and all of the childcare on top of moving and preparing for a very stressful job and you matter too!

      Even if husband is trying his absolute hardest and is just so sick and miserable he can’t help out, it is still not possible for you to do everything all of the time. He could be the nicest person ever to nice and it still wouldn’t be okay to ask you to do everything all of the time. You’re not a robot, LW, you’re not a failure if you’re tired and you just can’t face another move.

      To put it bluntly, I don’t feel I can rely on him to do more than occasional daycare drop-offs and pickups, and even with those I expect a lot of complaining.

      Oof. LW, you deserve better than this. This made me nope even harder. Seriously, he complains about occasional ferrying your child back and forth from daycare when you moved the both of you to a new apartment while you were growing a baby?! Honestly, what did he think was going to happen when you two had a child? I have a terrible feeling the answer to that question is: LW will take care of everything, that’s what she’s for!

  32. I realize that this might not be possible, but is there a way to delay starting your residency? There have to have been situations in the past where, because of sudden family or medical problems (death of a parent, car crash) and arrangements could be made. Would it take enough pressure off of you to not start the residency until September?

    Even if it’s unthinkable, I’m curious about your husband’s reaction if you told him you would do this. I can’t help but think that his reaction may tell you a whole lot more about him. I mean, if his reaction was, “Oh, honey, I don’t want you to do that; you’ve worked so hard and this is your vocation; let me try to take on some more so you’re not so pressured,” that’s very different than, “You can’t do that, how are we going to have any money to pay for all my meds?” or even “Oh, good, then you can take care of the baby and clean the apartment and do everything on my list and I won’t have to worry.”

    I don’t know. I guess that involves being deliberately deceitful, which isn’t really fair. But the situation isn’t fair, and it seems like doing this may shed some good light on why it isn’t fair, the better to solve.

    Hugs and prayers.

    1. Delaying residency would really have to be a last ditch option. The OP would start behind her class and the options of asking for a non-emergency would be not great. Depending on her specialty, not-great optics could be really hard for her to come back for.

      Usually residency is the time when the non-doctor spouse steps up and does a lot more than their fair share. I’m not sure the OP will have anything left to give after work and parenting.

    2. Delaying her residency would serve to isolate the LW. It offers no sustainable benefits. It offers short term benefits to LW’s husband but nothing to LW.

      I don’t recommend it.

      1. I think she means LW suggests she delay her residency, of plausible, and see how her husband reacts to determine his motives.

        1. How heart-breaking, though, if he did react with excitement and pleasure to this evidence that he has seriously side-tracked her career? And then when she says “Surprise, I was testing you, I have no intention of delaying my residency”, how is he going to react?

          I really think this is not the best strategy.

          1. I don’t see the conversation as necessarily being that combative. More like, “Babe, I have an option of delaying my residency.” “GREAT! Then you can take care of meeeee!” “Huh.” {Gets up and goes for a walk to think.}

            Her heart is already broken. She’s asking if it makes her a bad person to need more than she is getting — which, resounding NO. I can say from experience that sometimes you need to force a clarifying moment, no matter how much it may hurt, to hang onto as proof that you’re doing the right thing, when you start having doubts.

  33. I have some moderate-to-severe issues with anxiety (including OCD), along with a few physical issues (asthma/allergies/back pain). I agree with LW that the anxiety can exacerbate symptoms and it can be hard to tell what’s psychosomatic and what isn’t. I would like to address the anxiety side of things.

    My husband has been a huge help to me in our 20+ years of marriage. One thing we’ve learned is that if he accommodates my anxiety too much, the anxiety grows. It reinforces itself. So if he says, “Yes, I’ll check to make sure you didn’t leave the oven on,” that doesn’t make me feel better for more than a moment. Instead, it makes my brain think “He checked and the house didn’t burn down, so he needs to check from now on to get the same results.” And soon he’s checking the iron, my curling iron, the plugs to make sure they aren’t defective…etc., etc. That’s just the nature of anxiety. At this point our agreement is that if we leave for a long trip, he checks everything, but otherwise, he checks nothing. I tough out my anxiety (which spikes and then subsides), the house doesn’t burn down, and my brain thinks, “Ah, I guess he doesn’t have to check.” And the anxiety gradually is improving.

    I think the best thing LW can do for herself, her husband and daughter is set reasonable boundaries and say, “I can accommodate your needs to this point, honey, but no further – not without risking my own mental and physical health and damaging our marriage. I know it is hard for you to hear this, but I will not do (X, Y, Z).” For instance, maybe you agree to pay X amount for a mold inspection but he has to set it up, and if the results are within the normal range, you don’t move house. Or whatever you are comfortable with.

    If you set these boundaries, he will probably be very upset and experience further symptoms (many anxious people feel much more anxious when they’re up against a boundary!). This is part of the process. However – I wouldn’t do any of this without help from a good therapist and a doctor who can help with meds if needed. If he were my spouse – and remember, I’ve been the one on the other side of this equation for years! – I would insist on this, and soon. This kind of situation doesn’t tend to clear up by itself, and it’s no way for any of the three of you to go through your lives. With treatment, it is very likely you can all be happier and healthier.

    Whatever you decide, I wish you all the very best, LW.

    1. I do this with my partner’s anxiety too. I used to react very quickly and sympathetically whenever she was anxious – but after a few years I just started to get irritated, especially when she was behaving in ways that said “I am anxious”, but without being conscious that she was experiencing anxiety. (Things like jumping when I spoke, coming up with irrational/impossible “solutions” to problems that didn’t exist, over-apologising or assuming I was blaming her for something when I wasn’t. Classic example: “Have you fed the cats?” “No, no, no sorry, I haven’t, I’ll do it right away, I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I was going to do it, but I also had to make lunch and answer a work email but I’ll do it right away, I won’t take lunch today, I’ll just not eat, I’m sorry, I’ll feed the cats right away.” “No, I’m just asking so they don’t get fed twice!”)

      And sometimes now I show that irritation, and actually it often calms her down faster than sympathy did. The way I frame it is to do with rewarded behaviours being repeated: anxious behaviours = sympathy and attention -> yay, more anxious behaviours. Anxious behaviours = irritation and sometimes me removing myself -> crap, that’s not what I wanted! If she can recognise her own anxiety and say, “ok, I’m anxious, I’m trying to manage this but I could do with some support”, that’s a ton easier for me to deal with, and we can make a joint decision about whether this is something we need to discuss properly and if so when’s a good time to do that, and I don’t feel manipulated. (I’m also super careful now because now I know her parents I see that a lot of this kind of very jumpy behaviour being used – unconsciously, but still used – to get soothing attention from others is learmed from her mum, and I don’t want our kids to learn it the same way.)

      I don’t know how much this is me justifying my own irritation, but we talk about it a lot and she always says she relies on me being honest about what the impact of her anxiety is on me, and I rely on her asking for that honesty and caring about the impact it has on me. Without that, we wouldn’t be a team.

    2. ‘At this point our agreement is that if we leave for a long trip, he checks everything, but otherwise, he checks nothing. I tough out my anxiety (which spikes and then subsides), the house doesn’t burn down, and my brain thinks, “Ah, I guess he doesn’t have to check.” And the anxiety gradually is improving.’

      As a fellow sufferer, just want to say this is so awesome and incredibly strong of you. You’re basically giving yourself Exposure and Response Prevention, in a team with your husband. It’s so admirable that you were able to work this out together.

    3. The other day I could spot very clearly the moment where my anxiety hit a certain level, and promptly I felt a great need to check the oven. It was kind of cool to observe ‘oh, this is why I’m feeling anxious about turning things off’ because it had nothing to do with the oven at all.

  34. Ok I skimmed the captain’s reply because she said she didn’t quite know how to answer. I think I can give some helpful advice and support as someone who has experienced extremely similar circumstances as your husband (horrible environmental allergies to everything, fibromyalgia weighing me down, possible mold issues and other horrible living conditions).

    1. If you/he don’t know the source of the allergy or whatever is causing the reaction, that limits your knowledge to put into action. If it is outdoor allergens, moving across town may not help at all! He needs to find a good allergist he is comfortable with and get tested. That should be non-negotiable and a first step.

    2. Allergens can only be managed if you know exactly what they are. I am most allergic to dust. This causes a lot of indoor remediation. But I am also allergic to everything else. This necessitates medication – at a minimum, Flonase. An antihistamine is extremely helpful as well. There are many and it takes trial and error (for me, Claritin plus another added to Flonase – dymista – works best). Allergy shots may be necessary. I started them this year and regret not doing it sooner. Global warming makes pollen and mold allergies worse every year!

    You can’t manage your lives and move forward without taking care of the underlying allergies. I really really sympathize with your husband’s situation, as what you describe is so similar to living situations and health issues in my past. They will drag you down perpetually if you don’t deal with them directly. Moving can help (especially if it’s mold or cigarette smoke, two major problems from my past). But it won’t get better overall until you two know what you’re actually dealing with.

    1. Sorry, I wanted to add, even if he’s been tested in the past, he needs to be tested where you live, because the allergens will be different and a doctor in that area will be able to give remediation specifically to them.

  35. The thing that gets me about the “distrust of doctors” is… the LW is a DOCTOR. I know she doesn’t want to treat her own family members, but I’m dumbfounded that he can show such a general mistrust of the entire profession that his wife is part of.

    1. Doctors aren’t perfect and he’s trying to kick a prescription drug habit, and if you have a chronic condition it can be really hard to find a doctor you can trust, and if you’ve had to go to the doc a lot and be poked and prodded that can also suck a lot and wear down your desire to go through it again. So, feelings of mistrust are understandable. But “I don’t trust doctors, it’s easier if you just deal with it” isn’t gonna work.

      1. I mean, I get why he has issues due to the prescription drug habit, but… yeah. This just isn’t good for everyone involved, and he really, really has to get past it one way or another. Would he perhaps trust a doctor that his wife had semi-vetted, I wonder? She could ask opinions of colleagues and give him names to check out.

        1. One of my best friends is a P.A and I don’t really trust doctors too much either. So I don’t think that’s weird. I’m assuming he views his spouse and doctors as different, and the relationship may have occurred before the distrust arose.

    2. His wife only just joined the profession though. That wouldn’t suddenly make all the folks who were already doctors trustworthy. I’m also guessing that the husband didn’t spend much time hanging out with the letter writers cohort in school.

      So if anything LW is the exception (you would throw pain pills at me just to make me go away) that proves the rule (doctors are untrustworthy and I know it’s not me being unfair because my wife wouldn’t do this to a patient).

  36. LW: It sounds like his needs, because he’s been so ill, have been paramount and you’ve both gotten used to that. Also, with so many things coming at you (school, baby, getting a job, moves) it’s easy to just put your head down and do the next task.

    When I get like that – it feels like my chest is tight and my head is about to explode, it’s a small thing but I also find 5 minute writing sessions into a journal that is only yours – only yours – helps enormously for me.

    You are doing amazing! You will take great care of you and your daughter, and support your husband into taking great care of himself (that’s his job – not yours) Good luck LW.

  37. The only relevant data point I have is that my sister’s allergies got much worse when she moved to northern California, and better when she moved back to Wisconsin. It might be the area, rather than the apartment, that’s causing husband’s increased allergies, in which case moving to another apartment in the same city wouldn’t solve the problem.

  38. I realize this is not likely to be of help and a little condesplainy, but I had a roommate who experienced this EXACTLY before.It turned out the apartment had roaches, so she would use roach spray (which is ineffective and terrible, anyway), and she was ridiculously allergic to that. You might want to have a word with your landlord about not spraying without your permission and maybe switching to Advion— use the gel, not the baits, and be warned, it’s nightmarishly effective. (Then again: I am wheezily allergic to any Febreeze-brand products or their knock-offs, which has actually caused me to lose a place of employment…)

    1. Just to add to the list of questions to add to the landlord, I mean. Plus “do you have other open apartments?” Please baleet with extreme prejudice if this is crossing the line.

  39. love it when there is very specific guidlines for comments to certain letters. shows how much captain pays attention here, and her compassionate protectiveness of her letter writers. so i got a good chuckle outta “BALEETED”
    captain advice is soo good as usual ❤

  40. LW, is your husband seeing a psychologist for his anxiety issues? Because I have a feeling his anxiety is contributing more to his physical problems then he might realise and much of this could be remedied with a good therapist. (Both myself and my bff struggle with anxiety–and attendant psychosomatic issues–and have gotten a lot of help from good therapists, so I know of what I speak.)

    1. I on the other got a lot of benefit out of treating physical issues because they were responsible for my anxiety and depression.

      The bottom line is always the same: He need’s to see some kind of medical professional ASAP!

  41. I haven’t read the comments so I might be repeating something; if so I apologize.

    I have multiple physical health problems and an anxiety disorder (among other things). If in your husbands place I could absolutely see myself panicking and saying “I absolutely cannot live here and I need to be somewhere else NOW NOW NOW”. I might latch on to that as THE solution because my panicking would hinder me slowing down my thoughts to think of other options and accept those as better options. (And my anxiety really comes to the forefront about my health because I feel so miserable most of the time that the thought of feeling even more miserable is not something I deal with well.)

    I have tried to not do the latching on to one option because it’s unfair to my own spouse. Sometimes what I latch on to as a solution is absolutely not going to work for him, as it seems the moving thing will not work for you. I have had to practice being able to be more flexible and trying to make plans and contingency plans.

    It does help me to slow down my thoughts when I feel validated – when I know that my husband sees my problem as important and that we will both be working to solve the problem in a way that works for *both* of us. Having my husband say “I am hearing you, and this is really important, and I am not willing to solve it in X way but we will work to get it solved in another way” feels so awesome.

    But that is emotional work from him, and sometimes, understandably, he is not able to do that. I have to try to talk to someone else and/or do tactics like meditation/cbt/etc to get my mind in a more slowed-down place. (And to be clear, these tactics are not a “second-line” option just to be used when my husband is not available.)

    I guess the point I am making with regards to your situation is: a) maybe validation will help him, IF that is something you are able and willing to do, and b) with or without that, I would hope that he would practice being able to not latch on to one solution if you’ve communicated that that solution isn’t going to work, as well as practice techniques in self-care/self-soothing and in general working on his anxiety.

    1. I should say:
      I would hope that he would practice being able to not latch on to one solution (in general but especially if you’ve communicated that that solution isn’t going to work)

  42. “To put it bluntly, I don’t feel I can rely on him to do more than occasional daycare drop-offs and pickups, and even with those I expect a lot of complaining.”

    I know others have commented on this, but this really speaks to me. If you can’t call him on the complaining about doing the least parenting he can do, then that indicates a severely unbalanced relationship. It seems like he gets what he wants (not contributing to the shared tasks) by griping about anything he has to contribute. And that’s not right. I don’t know if you can salvage the situation, but please don’t let his complaining stop you from getting the minimal help you can get out of him.

    1. Yeah it makes me feel like her first question to him should be “DO YOU LOVE ME THOUGH?” because it sounds like he’s making all his problems about her lack of … everything. Does he want to be in the relationship? Clearly she does, for her own reasons, fine. Does he? Because he’s throwing up all these obstacles to being able to show he loves her and demanding that she prove her love by doing six impossible things before breakfast. Just another possibly clarifying question she can ask him. I know people can lie and say of course i love you etc. but maybe she can get something from asking it.

    2. I am super worried about the childcare situation during residency. This is a huge problem because LW is going to be gone a LOT. Daycare is great, but no daycare I know of is going to cover all the hours of a residency – overnight call alone! Who will be caring for the toddler when LW has to stay at the hospital over night?

  43. I just want to second a lot of the above comments (and Cap’s advice) which suggest that the first practical steps here are to put additional supports in place. A long time ago, I dated someone with a chronic condition (environmental sensitivities, which sounds maybe similar to your husband, LW?). Everything in our lives was easier when we each had our own friend networks and my partner was well-supported by medical practitioners; everything in our lives got harder when those things diminished. We broke up for unrelated reasons, but losing those things did not help.

    Right now, everything is falling on you. The more you can spread out the impact of each new problem amongst communities of friends and paid experts, the easier it will be to assess your physical, emotional, and medical situation(s).

  44. LW, I’ve gone through similar phases with my husband where he has expected a level of support and caregiving from me that I don’t have the emotional bandwidth for. The question I found useful to ask myself was,”Would my life be easier if I was able to set new boundaries in my relationship, or would it be easier for me to live on my own right now?” Usually, boundaries are an easier starting point, but with a partner unwilling to change, leaving might actually be easier. The way I’ve heard people describe it is that when you’re a de facto single parent with a partner, you still have to communicate with and accommodate that partner. If you’re actually a single parent you can call the shots yourself and it’s less stressful than having an unreliable partner.

    For me it came down to how much I was willing to financially sacrifice to live on my own and whether more solitude was really the solution to my issues. In the case where arguments with my husband were tipping my mental health from “precarious but manageable most days” to “I have no spoons left and self harm seems appealing” I did have to say to him that we either needed to get therapy and stop fighting so much or I was going to have to move out for the sake of my mental health. I was willing to wipe out most of my savings to not feel so close to untethered all the time. He chose therapy but until that point his view was more that his stress level justified how him acting hostile towards me and that I was “too sensitive.” It took couples therapy, self help books, and a medication change for him to unravel all those patterns but I can honestly say it’s been so much better in the last few months with those changes.

  45. Oh jesus. Keep saying sweetly, “no, I can’t do it.” No, I can’t move now. No, I can’t take care of your allergies for you. No, I can’t do all the housework.
    And say, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that now. You’ll have to take care of it.” Sweetly. Sorry he feels so badly. But if you don’t want to crash and burn, you have to keep saying these things.
    When you stop taking care of people who are used to letting you do all the work for them, they get mad. So, he’ll get mad. You don’t know where that will lead. But it might lead to him sucking it up and taking care of himself and his child.
    Repetition, no explanation.

  46. I’ve basically been the husband for the past six months or so– serious and debilitating illness, well-earned distrust of doctors, haven’t been able even to take care of myself. How do I not be a giant jerk to my spouse? I’ve been looking for doctors as aggressively as I can (which is pretty slow, because I need to have a referral from a doctor I already know in order to have enough trust to go), picking up chores what little I can (which is nowhere close to being my share of running the household), and I try to spread the stress around my friends instead of relying on my spouse alone to carry me emotionally. But more ideas or insight would be awesome.

    1. Have you discussed this very question with your spouse? Ask them what they need from you. Even if you can’t do everything, the simple willingness to talk about it will go a long way.

    2. Have you let your spouse know you much you appreciate all they are doing to keep the household running and support you? I think that is a huge, huge thing. It doesn’t seem like LW’s husband is appreciative of all the sacrifices she’s made for him. It sounds like you do.

    3. I think one of the things that stood out to me in the letter as “oh, no, oh, that sounds awful” on the husband’s part was the part where when he does do something in the way of housework/childcare, he complains. One huge huge huge thing that makes a massive difference is just… well, not doing that. 😀

      If I’m doing forty-seven things and someone else is doing two, and they occasionally say “Thank you so much for doing more when I’m not up for it,” it makes me feel so much better. (I don’t mean groveling or huge thank yous for every little thing, I just mean occasional acknowledgements, you know?) My forty-seven things might not be tenable long-term, we might have to figure out alternate solutions, but I won’t feel taken advantage of.

      If I’m doing forty-seven things and someone else is doing two and consistently (not occasionally–everyone gets some occasional complains) complaining about them, then I kind of want to run away screaming into the night.

      That isn’t to say that if you can only do two things, that you never get to complain about those things. But it’s often easier if you mostly do the complaining to someone else. (And it sounds like you have that part down well with spreading the stress to friends.)

    4. My partner’s been dealing with a chronic pain issue for 3-4 years now and can’t do as much either around-the-house stuff or fun-together-coupley stuff as before, and it’s been an adjustment. What’s helped is that they’re good about making me feel appreciated for doing extra work around the house (I don’t need or want constant praise but a few thankful comments go a long way); being clear about what they can still do, what I need to take care of, and what we can agree is less important right now; taking care of the ONE chore – washing dishes – that I HATE with a burning passion; and reminding me that I need to take breaks and not burn myself out.
      It’s been an adjustment, for sure. Sometimes it’s really rough and sad for both of us, but we’re making it work.

    5. Hi, both my partner and I have disabilities which we struggle to deal with – him: chronic fatigue, social anxiety and asthma; me: severe depression and a devil-may-care attitude to bicycling. Things I’ve found helpful for the ill partner to do include:
      – Knowing yourself and keeping track of how your illness cycles over time (so you can predict relapses and rallies more accurately in the future)
      – Telling your partner as soon as possible when you feel a downturn coming on, even if it’s a false alarm, so they can prepare for rearranging responsibilities and / or plans
      – Find a support group for your particular disease, either online on irl
      – Research new treatments, medical trials, good specialist clinics, and complementary treatments (but keep chill and sceptical about dramatic claims)
      – Research and apply for whatever disability benefits and assistance you can get from federal, state, and local governments, councils, and charities
      – Have something small that is exclusively your chore, so you can feel like you’re still regularly contributing to the household when you’re at your minimum, and can build on when you’re feeling better
      – Factor tidying up after yourself into your energy budget
      – Keep the romance alive by planning fun spontaneous events once in a while, but not so fancy that your partner ends up doing all the work
      — e.g. If you’re unable to drive or cook, suggesting a gourmet picnic in the forest might result in more chores for your partner, whereas a backyard picnic with takeout and a spotify playlist could be well within your abilities

  47. Speaking as the primary parent of a young child, that sounds like an absolute nightmare; it’s hard enough even when you have a partner who’s supportive.

    But here’s what jumped out at me from your letter: the way you describe your husband’s presentation of the situation – wake up one morning and declare that a move might simply be necessary whatever you feel about it, that all the work of allergen-removal will fall to you, and that even if you do it he may have to move – suggests to me that … well, to put it as charitably as possible, he’s panicking rather than thinking calmly.

    Because the thing is, he didn’t say, ‘My allergies are playing up, let’s see what we can do to figure out what’s causing it and go from there.’ He didn’t say, ‘It’s possible that this is partly about the stress of moving’ or try to figure out what the intersection between physical and psychological causes was. He woke up and gave what sounds pretty much like an ultimatum.

    I don’t think you’re a bad doctor if this frustrates you. From a medical point of view, it sounds like he has a complicated set of underlying problems, and he’s forcing major life decisions without doing a differential diagnosis first. Since those major life decisions affect your life, of course you’re not going to be professionally detached about them.

    At the same time, putting together what you say in your letter – it sounds to me as if your husband does have reasons for anxiety to be a big issue right now. Specifically:

    – He’s had a problem with substance abuse that sounds fairly recent.
    – The two of you fought about moving out of an apartment where he had trouble breathing. (I’m not saying you were in the wrong, but it sounds like the kind of thing that would play into anxiety issues.)
    – You’ve just moved cities in a way that means he had to follow you. (Again, not saying that’s at all unreasonable – it’s really great that you’ve got a residency, and incredibly impressive that you managed it with a small child, and you have to go where the work is. But it’s possible he’s feeling a bit displaced as a result.)

    So while I can’t diagnose him, it does sound like there are, at least, reasons why he might be in a state of high anxiety.

    The problem from your point of view is that:

    a. You’re not invulnerable yourself, you’re shouldering more than 50% of the work, and whether he can help it or not, that’s a heavy load to haul.

    b. From the sound of it, you suspect he could help it more than he does.

    It also sounds like the room for negotiation in the marriage is narrowing under the stress. Moving from the previous place involved fighting rather than discussing. He’s giving ultimatums. It’s getting to you.

    So all in all, how much of this is physical and how much is psychological/relationship-associated is pretty difficult to call. And without that information, how can you make a good decision?

    It sounds as if what’s most important is for him to start taking responsibility for managing his symptoms. It would take the burden off you, and if he’s acting in good faith, it’d make him more secure. So it seems to me that it’s pretty urgent that now you’re in a new city, he gets out there and finds a doctor he can trust.

    Yes, he has trouble trusting doctors, and that’s understandable. But after all, you’re a doctor, and presumably he doesn’t think you’re an irresponsible pill-pusher – and if that’s the case, then he must understand, at least intellectually, that a trustworthy doctor is a person that can exist. So he needs to get out there and find one, even if that means going through a variety of different doctors before he finds one he can rely on.

    In the short-term – well, you have a point when you say there’s no guarantee that another apartment would be any less allergenic if it’s a physical issue. If it’s an anxiety issue, what would it take to manage that anxiety? That’s probably a conversation you need to have.

    What if you said to him, ‘Given that we don’t know whether these symptoms have physical or psychosomatic causes, you need to find a reliable doctor whose opinion we can both trust before we make any further decisions as to how to act on them?’ What if you said to him, ‘If we have to move once my residency starts, you’re responsible for making the arrangements and overseeing it because I simply can’t manage it?’ How would he react? I think those questions might tell you a lot about the willingness he’s bringing to the situation.

    Also – if you’re cleaning up after, feeding and playing with your daughter, you’re doing an ENORMOUS amount. Toddlers are a vast amount of work. Finishing a medical qualification at the same time is amazing. So take it from me, you’re impressive.

  48. This is my first comment here so, uh, hellooo.

    LW, you sound like a truly empathetic and caring person. Just because you’re having problems with your husband doesn’t mean you’ll have problems with patients. After all, you don’t have to live with your patients! So please, give yourself a break on this.

    I think also totally normal to have “suck it up” moments every once in a while. I feel that way about sick people sometimes and I’ve been chronically ill for the past 20 years! I think individual therapy would be good, along with the couples’ counseling, once the current situation is under control.

    I’m also with the other posters, the seasonal allergies this year are KILLER. I woke up with a sinus headache of huge proportions, unlike anything I had in YEARS and that’s *on* antihistamines.

  49. Don’t try to be your husband’s doctor. That’s a definite NOPE right there.

    Now. Does your husband know that it’s perfectly okay to tell a doctor no? Refuse to follow a doctor’s orders? Even fire a doctor?

    He can tell a new doctor, “Before we talk about anything else, I have to tell you that under no circumstances will I take prescription drugs that have a known risk of addiction. This is not negotiable.” He can go to the doctor’s office with this printed on a card, if anxiety makes it hard for him to get the words out.

    Other posters are right: you have to have as much information as you can get before making a decision, and that means your husband getting examined by a doctor! (And not Doctor Google!)

  50. Like a lot of other posters here, I’m seeing a whole lot of red flags. A whole red flag factory, just churning out yards and yards of issues. Honestly the thing that worries me the most, LW, is that you say he has a mistrust of doctors – and you’re about to start your residency. Given his past issues with physicians and his current problems that he’s more than willing to heave onto his already overburdened wife, are you sure this latest flare up isn’t at least somewhat routed in an attempt to keep you from your goals? Let’s say you don’t fix any of these issues and you start your residency in June, how long do you think it would be before you’re completely burnt out not just from what is about to be a horrendously grueling period of your professional life, but from also having to come home and do literally all the housework, all the child minding, and frankly all the husband minding he seems ready to foist on you? Something has to give and I have no doubt it will be you.

    I have chronic asthma and allergies, have been hospitalized for both, and know how terrible it can be when you just can’t breathe (once spent almost half an hour going up ten steps because my chest was so tight I had to rest and wheeze my way up to the next step at a snail’s pace), so I do have sympathy for him on that account. I also have past issues with someone who had both legitimate mental/physical health issues and an alarming ability to always, always, *always* suddenly have an emergency right when someone else was about to go through a major life event and thus force everyone else to make accommodations that went above and beyond. Given that your husband’s attitude towards his chronic health issues seems to be “here are my problems, you deal with it,” I’m not unconvinced that’s not what’s happening here. My health issues are my responsibility, your husband’s are his.

    I agree with the many above posters that say you have every right to sit him down and discuss boundaries and expectations. Right now I think you need to lay it on the table that both the literal and figurative dust has not settled with this new move, and that you and your child will not be moving any time soon. You also need to tell your husband that while you are willing to make reasonable accommodations (I’m sure you’re not going to suddenly take up simultaneous cigar smoking and indoor pollen ranching) he needs to start seeing doctors (plural, allergists and whatever other specialists he may need) YESTERDAY, and that this ~list~ of his is his responsibility while you are at work. Call me cynical, but I have a feeling the more time and effort consuming aspects of his allergy management might not be so critical once they are his responsibility.

    You also need to have a separate-but-not-really conversation about division of labor and child care. You can be sympathetic to his problems, but you are also allowed to have problems and feelings and whatever else of your own. You are not the sole adult in this household, and it is not fair for him to act as if you are the de facto end all be all of shit getting done. There’s a lot of great advice in the archives about how to have/guide these conversations so one party doesn’t feel attacked, but to be honest I’m too blunt and my advice is sitting his ass down and (as calmly as possible) telling him that from now on, there are Things We Do Together, there are Things I Do, and there are Things He Does by Himself, all of which fall under the header of Shit That Needs Doing. It’s on you both to figure out what falls under what category, but I imagine you’re going to get a lot of push back when it comes to housework and child care. Don’t let him guilt you into taking on more than your fair share, it may not be an equal, 50/50 split of every little thing, but if you can make a list of a reasonable amount of tasks for him to do while you are working 80 hour weeks away from your home and child – even if you have to say no, I will not be doing ABC, you are, I will do XYZ, have fun – you can shift the balance more towards a much more equitable household. Remind him that everyone is allowed to have bad days, and if Wednesday is a bad day, but Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday weren’t, neither of you will feel as stressed as you are now because hey, shit’s been handled 3 out of 4 days, and that’s pretty good by most anyone’s standards.

    LW, I do genuinely hope that you and your husband can come to a solution that benefits and fulfills you both. I just want to gently remind you that if you make an honest attempt at bettering both your lives and it doesn’t work for whatever reason, you aren’t wrong or terrible or a bad spouse because you leave an untenable situation. Your husband has issues that can’t be fixed by anyone other than himself and only with a lot of outside help that can’t come from you both from a medical and just a simple human standpoint. Like I said before, everyone is allowed to have bad days, and his bad days don’t somehow negate yours, no matter what.

  51. Hi LW. I hope it’s ok to send you hugs! If not, may I offer an understanding handshake? Something I’ve not seen mentioned yet in the comments is that your husband is in recovery from prescription meds – Ive been in recovery from alcoholism for multiple years. For me, I’ve found that remaining active with the recovery community and attending 12 step meetings (which I know isn’t everyone’s thing, and that’s ok!) help me immensely and keep me much saner. Again FOR ME, I found a lot to work on once I put the bottle down. I also think Alanon may be a resource worth checking out for you. It doesn’t matter what the addiction is in the family – what is covered in a meeting may apply to you. (Captain, if I’ve overstepped, feel free to edit. Thanks!)

    1. This!! I may be way off here but the “patterns” in the letter remind me a lot of addictive patterns. Maybe it’s an idea for the husband to continue his treatment of his addiction?
      Hugs LW. I’m sorry your life is so hard.

    2. If you overstepped, I am running as fast as I can to stand right next to you! THIS x 10000000000

      I am a grateful Al-anon – my ex-husband’s mental health issues (anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms) led to a drinking problem. My first meeting, I sat in a room full of strangers. I didn’t say a word … but I heard my story told several times over – the details are different, but most of our stories have a lot in common. I was nervous just being there and also worried that they would not be welcoming to an atheist (or that the program would not be helpful to an atheist …), but that was not the case! A room full of people who “get it” – people who were newcomers like me, people who were well past crisis and in a really good place, and people everywhere in between. The others in crisis made me feel like I was not alone and the “old timers” were living examples that doing the hard work is worth it.

      I find myself many years later my happiest, healthiest self and I am proud to be someone who gets to model for newcomers how worth it the hard work is. One of the things we say in meetings is “take what you need and leave the rest” – not everything will apply to you, but there is a lot of wisdom and comfort in that room, maybe some of it would help you find the best way forward. Jedi hugs if you want them – I am rooting for you LW.

  52. I am sorry, LW. My husband is currently in a fellowship and we moved last year after moving a lot prior. I remember moving here and I cried the first night. Over the last couple years I have gotten anxiety and have some health issues, so it was tough for me. He was reassuring and I realized it would take time to figure it all out. We communicate and he helped me out a bit before his fellowship started, but I was willing to work too. I love it now. Moving stinks and allergens are everywhere when you move, so giving it time may be what he needs.

    For you and your husband, are there groups he/ you can join? Does he like an activity? Does your neighborhood/ building have a group? Does your residency have spouses events? I say this because maybe getting out of the house would be good for him. I also say this because once I started making friends here, I asked about referrals to doctors and felt better when they came from people I knew. I also tried a couple before I found the one that worked best for me. Yeah it was a hassle and cost a bit more, but was worth it in the end. Maybe he will feel better getting a referral from a doctor once he makes some friends. Would he be more willing to talk with someone about alternative medicine? Acupuncture?

    I also don’t think it is fair you are doing the lion’s share of the work. I think it’s important to have a conversation about you both, as a couple, family, and individuals. Does your husband work? What will he do when you have 80+ hour residency work weeks? You can’t just say “whoops it is 5PM I gotta go!” Who will take care of your daughter? I say this as someone whose spouse works 80-100+ hour weeks and has been for years. It is tough, but we worked it out. Some weeks are better than others. I do more of the house work, but I have more time (he loves to clean and cook so does when he has time, I know, I am lucky), but it can be hard sometimes to be the one cleaning, cooking, laundry, whatever, even if you don’t have the crazy work week as spouse. We appreciate one another and try to be helpful in ways the other needs, does your husband do that for you at all?

    In prior years when we couldn’t afford a cleaner we did research and bought an amazing vacuum and air filter. Spending more money on the vacuum saved so much time cleaning! My aunt bought one of those vacuums that does it on its own (doesn’t clean as well, but she loves it and is sufficient). We also made sure we found a place with a dishwasher and laundry. Time is money. In a previous country we lived I had to do all. the. laundry. by. hand. No. laundromat. No. dry cleaners. Nada. But if you can afford it even once a month try and get a cleaner. Or ask family or friends for help or assistance.

    Also for child care look around a university for those studying education, nursing, whatever. Getting a sitter even once in awhile so the two of you can go out together and reconnect is worth the money.

    I know you said you were not ready to let go of your marriage, but maybe you should seek counseling together and alone. If you are at all thinking about divorce, I would try and work through that in the next couple years before you are making a lot more money and may have to spend your life supporting an ex-spouse. I don’t mean to be cruel or harsh, but this happened to a dear friend of mine and she wishes he had divorced him sooner, not just because of the money, but for herself and her family. Your spouse is a partner and everything is not always 50/50 and some days you will feel like you are doing more than the other one, but it shouldn’t be as frequently as you do. You should feel lucky, happy, and like you have someone you can conquer the world with and someone who has your back. You deserve that, don’t forget it.

    Good luck!

    1. I was trying to kindly think of a way to phrase the issue relating to LW’s salary, and you said it much better than I ever could.

  53. I wonder whether OP’s husband is trying to deal with his very scary and worrying health issues by outsourcing possible solutions to OP. This might explain why he is focusing on things which he thinks OP can take charge of, like moving house and allergy-proofing the home. These are things that someone tired through difficulty breathing etc. would legitimately find difficult. It’s interesting that things which he could do more easily himself, like telephoning to make a doctor’s appointment, attending, and trying new medication, are not apparently an option.

    I’m saying this because I know how terrifying it is to be left in charge of a health condition which is debilitating, possibly fatal, and poorly understood. There is so much exhausting trial and error involved, and every time you try something which doesn’t work you feel like an enormous loser. It is tempting to give up and ask others to look after you, even if it means losing the chance of solving problems in the long run.

    However, as adults this approach is unfair on those closest to us and we do indeed have to suck it up. Managing one’s own chronic health problems forces one to face some very unpleasant facts about our weakness and vulnerability – but our loved ones have the right to ask it of us.

  54. My anxiety occasionally manifests itself as feeling like I can’t breathe/am choking. This is so horrible, and your experiences so awful, that I’m simultaneously wanting to hug your husband, and wanting to scold him for causing you distress.

    This situation just sucks, and in no way is a reflection on the quality of either your character or your relationship.

    And honestly, doctors have been telling me to suck it up all along. You would not be a bad doctor because you feel this way. You will be, like my doctors, human. And sometimes not able to help as much as you’d like.

    1. Sometimes doctors DO have to tell patients to suck it up! Last year, my PT told me to suck it up (more nicely than that) when I was frustrated at my slow progress and tired and in pain and feeling hopeless. I’m glad he called my ass out, because it did motivate me to work harder, even when I was embarrassed at how I was in worse physical shape than the senior citizens in treatment.

      1. My MIL does sports 5-8 times a week. A LOT of people are in worse physical shape than her. (I want to be like that when I grow old.)

  55. LW, there’s a lot in your letter about your husband’s health and your husband’s needs all all the accommodations you do for him. But you were pregnant! That’s a pretty big medical need! It impacts your health in a lot of way. You also say you have “anxiety, lack of energy, and attention problems,” but you don’t mention any accommodations for your needs. I wonder if your needs are being addressed at all in this relationship?

    And this is not to say, at all, that your husband isn’t genuinely ill or genuinely in need. However, it’s been my experience, that men, especially straight white men, have less willingness to work in spite of illness or mental health stuff than women and other marginalized people. And men, generally speaking, usually feel much freer to dump the burden of coping with their illnesses on caregiving and nurturing types around them. The stories I could tell about my father’s diabetes and high blood pressure diagnosis and how every ounce of work, from entirely upending the household’s diet to making doctor appointments to filling prescriptions, fell on my frail (and yet still working outside the home full time!) mother. Augh.

    LW you also say you need your husband’s help (however limited it is) with childcare. I have two questions:
    What would happen if you left your daughter to your husband’s care? If you woke up early and left for work early and it was entirely up to your husband to feed and clothe the toddler and take her to daycare? Would it happen? Can you trust him to do what needs doing if you are magically MIA? Or does that make your heart clench up in fear?
    How would it feel to you to not have to manage your husband’s illness? If you didn’t have to carry the burden of worrying about another impending move, or waiting for another shoe to drop or another health crisis. If you could go to sleep every. single. night. without anxiety that you’ll have to get up for a middle of the night ER trip, without fretting about what all the expensive vitamins and supplements are doing to your budget and finances? Would removing the burden of these disruptions free up enough spoons that you could manage the entirety of childcare?

    Lastly, I wonder if you’ve laid out for your husband the impact his actions are having on you. Have you said something like “Husband, you are very ill. In the last six months, your illness has impacted me by [list everything: from disrupted schedules for ER visits to sleepless nights to stress and anxiety]. These aren’t little things. Anxiety about the possible need to move again has made me [list physical symptoms: stomachaches, insomnia, brain fog/decline in cognitive functioning, everything you’re feeling]. I know your illness isn’t your fault and you aren’t doing this to me on purpose. I’m not blaming you for any of this. What I am saying is the situation is not sustainable for me. I cannot [whatever it is you cannot do: complete your allergen remediation task list, continue paying for vitamins/supplements, do as much childcare as you’ve been doing, pack up and coordinate another move]. I need you to take on more of the work of managing your condition, such as [list tasks/chores you will not be doing any more].” Is that even a feasible thing to think about telling him? How do you think he’ll react? I think the exercise of imagining this conversation and how you feel, thinking about having it for real, would tell you a great deal of information.

    Best of luck OP.

    1. I was thinking this, too re: childcare

      Do you trust spouse to look after the children? Will he change nappies when they need it, or will he procrastinate till the kid has been sitting in poop for an hour? Will he wake up if they’re crying? Will he feed them appropriate meals, take them to the usual checkups and appointments that small children need? Cause if he can’t provide these basic needs for them then it is literally dangerous to leave them in his care.

      I don’t want to heap more stress and anxiety on you, but as unsustainable as this situation is for you, it is also unsustainable for the kids. They need a stable and supportive environment and right now they don’t have that: they have stressed-to-the-limit mum and chronically-ill-and-unwilling-or-unable-to-care-for-ownself father.

      I left my husband because I couldn’t trust him to take care of our children. I left him because he wouldn’t take responsibility for his health and other issues and routinely left it to me to deal with the fallout.

      It’s hard being a single parent but sometimes it’s better than the alternative.

      I trust you know your situation and you will make good decisions to address the problems at hand. But I also want you to know that walking away is a perfectly valid and appropriate response too.

  56. Many other people have given you a lot of good advice. I won’t bother rehashing the topics they’ve already covered.

    My suggestion to you is to open a bank account he doesn’t know about and put a little bit of money into it whenever you can. You need a just-in-case emergency fund. You’re already contemplating the end of this relationship at least in possible/one day/theoretical terms, and he’s showed signs that he might not act in responsible adult ways in a crisis. Money is already tight, and to put it bluntly, with someone who has a history of drug addiction there is always the chance of a relapse, which includes a possible chance of all of your money suddenly disappearing.

    You need to have enough money set aside that you (and your child) can survive sudden upheaval, possible relocation, etc.

    I know it might sound cold. But if you need it, you’ll *really* need it. If you don’t you can always spend it on a holiday in twenty years.

  57. This sounds sucky and horrible and I’m sorry for what you’re both going through. Doing the talking thing though, as suggested, is a good first step.

    As an anecdotal, allergies are weird thing, I’ll share this: about a year or two ago I suddenly had problems breathing at night. Only at night, stuffy nose, and the weird choking awake thing. Asked my doctor about it, and she suggested it was apnea and I should just work on loosing weight (that’s a whole ‘nother conversation). I didn’t end up taking her advice, because I got a wild hair and decided to try changing out my pillows. I’d been sleeping on the same down pillow for about a decade, so I bought new down pillows. Believe it or not that made it worse. Bought a synthetic pillow (a claritin brand one for those curious). Boom. Sleep returned to normal. I’d somehow gained an allergy to something I hadn’t been allergic to and had been using almost all my life. So weird, but apparently it’s something that can happen. With that said I totally sympathize how those things can disrupt your life. I hope your disruptions end as easily, or just improve and stabilise soon!

  58. LW, I come to you as someone who literally just moved four days ago and the Captain is right, four days is NOT enough time to figure out if breathing issues are from the dust of moving or the house itself or (in my case, mostly) from the anxiety of moving. This needs more time. (And I need another inhaler :/ )

    LW, what really struck me about your letter is your mention your husband is not only doing the bare minimum in terms of co-parenting and co-habitation, he’s doing the bare minimum and complaining about it. This does not strike me as the behaviour of a caring partner with chronic illness that is invested in the relationship but restricted in their ability to add input, this strikes me as someone who is extremely irresponsible in addition to their chronic health problems. Guess what? Just because your husband has some challenges right now, that doesn’t mean he’s not being an asshole to you right now and IT’S OKAY TO WANT BETTER.
    I feel like those of us who use she/her pronouns are taught that we can’t wish for better behaviour from the people around us and I sense that may be at play here, I can’t recommend enough the Captain’s suggestion of finding a professional you can unpack all this with.

  59. My sister and her husband were once in a situation where his allergy problems DID dictate that they move after only a few weeks in a new apartment. Key to them being able to afford this move, they could prove that it was a dangerous type of mold and they were refunded their security deposit/first month’s rent and did not have to pay a penalty for breaking their lease.

    Your husband is saying the new rental is making his allergies worse, while that would be terrible if true as the partner who is requesting the move it should be his responsibility to prove that
    1. The allergies are caused by something in the apartment and not the geographic location
    2. That a different apartment would solve the problem
    3. Determine how you as a family can afford to move
    4. Find a new apartment that will not aggravate his allergies
    5. Organize the whole shebang

    I am chronically ill myself but when I get sick although I may request my spouse do things such as pick up my prescriptions, drive me to appointments etc. I am responsible for making those appointments, filling those prescriptions, doing everything that is within my ability to do because I am an adult and my partner is not my caretaker.

  60. So I’m a doctor and for many years had a spouse with severe anxiety and other health issues who did not pull her weight in our marriage for many reasons. I have quite a few physcian colleagues (5 and counting, all identify as women) who are/have been married to folks who sound a lot like your husband. As we have approached and (some of us) hit our forties there has been a flurry of separations and divorces like you would not believe. The theme that keeps coming up is that because it was in our nature and profession to care and to manage things, we overfunctioned at home and overfunctioned at work and overfunctioned in trying to compensate for our underfunctioning spouses until one day something broke. The pain and bitterness of this (especially if you are forced to financially support someone who refuses to work) some days threatens to drown me.

    LW I have so much empathy for you right now. So much. Please, please don’t get so consumed by your baby and your work that you neglect to check in with yourself as to whether this arrangement is still working for you. I also have empathy for your husband but not so much that I think that what he is doing is okay. Because lord knows (and deep down you know) that if your arm was broken and you had a fever and menstrual cramps and depression all once? You would still find a way to hold your baby and make her supper and probably go to work too. His suffering is legit and perhaps he is doing his very, very best. But it is okay to admit if his best is just not enough to sustain your marriage.

    1. “His suffering is legit and perhaps he is doing his very, very best. But it is okay to admit if his best is just not enough to sustain your marriage.”

      THIS. I fully believe the LW’s husband is suffering, but I also fully believe that she can’t shoulder all of this on her own.

  61. LW what if you just said ‘no’? What if you just ‘no I’m not moving again’ and that if he needs to leave he’s gotta do it on his own. And I do mean on his own. He packs, he looks, he pays. What if you made it clear you were done with catering to his every stuffy nose and now it’s his turn to start taking care of himself?

    Because I don’t think you need an allergist. You need a divorce attorney.

  62. This was only a small part of the letter because I don’t have anything very helpful I can say about the rest.

    But your emotional reaction is what everybody feels when stuck for a long time in a relationship with a serious medical problem, especially if it feels as if someone is refusing to help themselves and shovelling all the problems onto you.

    Being a doctor is exhausting in many ways, but it’s not like that. Most patients you see for a short time. Many are grateful. Many continue in self-destructive behaviour. Your job is to help as much as you can, and when you’ve helped, hope for the best and move on to the next patient with some compassion left. Some doctors can continue to feel as much compassion for patients at the start of their career as at the end, but most don’t: they learn how to summon compassion when needed[1], and they learn how to manage burned-out compassion with self-care, black humour and tenacity.

    You have plenty of compassion. You’re self-aware and good at managing your own emotional state. Those are all the things you need to be a kind and effective doctor.

    Living with someone who’s slowly sapping your good will for years while never getting exasperated with them is not a reasonable target for most human beings, and not a healthy one to attain.

    [1] Or some suck and become mean and misanthropic, but hopefully not you!

  63. Captain, thanks so much for your speedy and compassionate reply. You too, commentariat. I haven’t had time so far today to give your words the attention they deserve, but I’ll read and respond as I can.

    In the light of day, I’m embarrassed about how coldly and resentfully I’ve described my partner. I do love him, and I guess my tone is evidence of how burned out I am. He’s not actually demanding to move – he does want to give this place a good try first – but hearing him even float the idea made me worry that he’s going to get worse again after a lot of improvement.

    One thing I left out for length is that husband has a full-time job. We only moved about 70 miles, so we do have access to some of the connections we have in our old city, but it’s important to me to get as settled as we can locally before I start work.

    1. Hi LW! I think you are incredibly burned out but I think that’s something you should think about going forward – the next few years are only going to be harder and this is probably a really good sign that you and your husband need to change a lot about how your marriage works.
      I wish you the best of luck! I’m sure you’re going to be an excellent doctor.

    2. Please don’t be embarrassed. Think of us all as a version of Team You and Team Baby Girl. It’s okay to feel stressed and resentful sometimes. You have taken on an enormous burden, and you have achieved so much.

    3. Hi Friend! So glad that you came back – there’s a LOT in the commentary.

      Jedi hugs your way, and just wanted to validate your “OH GOD, I’VE DESCRIBED A MONSTER” feeling as a place of truth, and not something that you must feel guilty for. Sometimes want to burn with crimson fire those we love most.

      An example from LogicLife!
      Having just undertaken a six-month back and forth of breaking and making multiple deals to sell our condo and simultaneously buy a house with a toddler and infant, Mr Logic and I stood in the bay window of our icy cold new home as movers brought our stuff into the new house in 5F weather. This, THIS is the time Mr Logic decides to muse “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe this is all a mistake.”
      Six months. Of careful staging of our condo (WITH KIDS FFS), of dealing with mounds of paperwork, of multiple points of “are you SURE” check-ins, of meetings and calls and bullshit. NOW is the time-


      And I did not kill him. And as we talked it out, he didn’t really mean it, just that it was cold and currently inconvenient and he was grumpy. BUT OMG. THE FLAMES WERE REAL.

      Your Flames are real. You have a ton on your plate, and you need your husband to step the entire fuck up. Like, a full skyscraper stairwell of up. You don’t need to feel guilty for asking for that, because you are a team, and right now your /team/ needs to survive your residency while also keeping a toddler alive/cleanish/happyish while also breathing normally and maybe sleeping sometimes. That is HARD enough for TWO people – heck, it might even be a stretch for 3 – and your team is essentially 1.5 people until the breathing thing is locked down.

      Get your team bigger if you can, but even if you can’t, time will make things easier. I promise. The toddler will become more independent. Residency will end. You’ll find a rhythm that works.

      We all are rooting for you.

    4. It’s possible to both love someone and find them impossible to live with.

      By the time one get this burned out in a relationship, the frame is charred. *He* has to start doing his structural repair work.

      If you want to live with this man, have a bottom-line, this-is-it talk with him (in which he listens and does not push back, contradict, qualify, or otherwise derail you) about the costs he is offloading onto your marriage and your wonderful baby, and do mention the impeding blood and sweat of residency, because he needs to understand that you cannot do the entire relationship and marriage and childrearing yourself. Have a meltdown and vent everything, total catharsis. Medical issues notwithstanding, he’s got a job, that’s great, but he has to step up at home, and in real, material, no-complaining ways, and he has to knock it off with the emotional sucker punches. He has to behave like an adult to enjoy the privilege of an adult relationship with you and your child. Otherwise, there is no relationship because there is no mutual care and support and you have a high-maintenance roommate.

      Most men never see how close their wives have come to leaving them until it’s over, one way or the other.

    5. I think you should cut yourself some slack on that one, LW. Moving and taking care of a toddler and taking care of your husband and being a medical student are all incredibly stressful things, of course you’re burned out!

    6. It sounds like moving was very stressful for your partner. Is there someone other than you he could talk to about his worries that he will need to move in order to feel better? A therapist, a doctor, a friend who won’t feel obligated to repeat what he says to you, a family member? It is okay for you to say “I can’t actually talk about the prospect of moving again right now; if you need to escape the new apartment temporarily, you should absolutely feel free to go to a hotel, and if you still feel bad after X amount of time in the new apartment, we’ll talk about possible solutions including potentially moving, but right now, this week, I can’t be the one who helps you figure out what to do about this problem, and I can’t listen to talk about moving again.”

      In the somewhat longer run, do you have a plan for when you start your residency? Your partner will need to take care of your child when she’s not in day care, including any times that she’s sick — or someone else will, and you need a plan for who that someone else will be — and you will have very limited ability to take care of your partner. It might help relieve anxiety for both of you to figure out what your plan is if he has a flare-up of his physical or mental illness that means he needs significant amounts of help from someone and/or isn’t able to care for your child reliably. That plan can involve willing relatives or friends (line these people up in advance) or paid/professional help (ditto), but it can’t be “you take care of everyone while working 80-hour weeks.”

    7. Good to know he is working full time!
      Boy do I know how a frustrated letter to the captain during a stressful time can paint a picture that may not be truly representative (my partner has some anger management issues – he has never ever hurt a human or tried to, but it can make projects tough sometimes etc. Captain said “get thee to a shelter” and I was like “uhhhhh, no.” – I’m sure my letter painted a different picture than how things really are)
      I’m currently in my medical fellowship with two children under 4. My partner was employed full time, but he follows me and in the last move had to start working half time. I used to try to do 50/50 domestic work (from when we were both full time, and then when I was on maternity leave and more than willing to putter around). And who likes doing chores? Of course he’d prefer not to do ALL the chores (outside of childcare). I did have to have the talk of “I am miserable and I cannot go on like this much longer” because full time work + young children + any chores was just impossible. Partner said “I don’t love chores but I love you and I do not want you to be miserable!” and he is currently doing all the chores. I also hired a part time nanny which is great because if there is a particularly busy week they can usually be flexible with some advance notice and watch the kids while I do notes. (Yes partner watches the kids a good deal too)
      So anyway I think you need to have that sit down with your partner because you sound exhausted and residency will be even more challenging. It’s time to come up with a new arrangement. Make that clear it must happen, and it’s okay for you to ask this. Heck, as a physician later on a big part of your job is going to be knowing when and what to delegate because your time will be super valuable!!!
      Good luck!!!

    8. Hi Letter Writer! I hope this helps you figure out how to move forward. Much love to you. I’m closing comments now.

  64. Oh LW, do I ever feel you. Keeping a small person alive is a tremendous amount of work. Being pregnant is a tremendously vulnerable time and it sounds like you’ve had little to no support from your partner when you were valunerable and little to no help doing all of that work. (I remember holding my clingy baby and thinking, “this is why wolves chew their legs off to get out of traps,” because I was so desperate to have 5 mins where no one f%@king touched me.) Even if it’s not his fault, it’s almost impossible not to resent your spouse for not being there, even if it’s not his fault, because it is just so tiring. Like making up a sleep debt, it will probably take a good amount of time and energy and a long stretch of days where you have time to actually breathe to recover from.

    The captain and other commenters have great advice on the move and managing his health, but I would like to suggest one more big question to consider: taking all of his limitations at face value, how involved a parent is he? Maybe he can’t hold the baby, but does he talk to her? Play games with her? Dote on her in the ways he can? Does he try to weigh in on how she’s raised, where she goes to school? Or does he abdicate those decisions to you? Does he seem to regard her as a chore or inconvenience? Does he chose hobbies or singular pursuits over her a majority of the time? And most importantly, does he try to shield her from the fall out from his health issues? Or do you think (or even see already) he will try to put the management of his health on her? You don’t have to be in perfect mental or physical health to be a great parent, but you must always BE the parent. Every family shapes its normal to accomodate their needs. But your child cannot be put in the position where she feels responsible for your husband. It’s not fair and deeply frightening for small people who need predictability, order, to feel like they are loved unconditionally, and that their parents are in charge. Even if he doesn’t get much better, can your husband BE the parent? And if he can’t, how will you protect your kid?

    Good luck to you on finding somr respite soon.

  65. Another thought experiment: what do you think would happen if you started complaining about making day care pickups, feeding the baby, and everything else that is currently your job? Or answering his complaints about having to do a day care drop-off with “I know; it’s hard for me too”? That is, call his attention to the fact that you don’t have infinite resources, or enjoying cleaning up after a toddler.

    It sounds as though he is reasoning from “this is hard for me” (which might be true) to “therefore I shouldn’t have to do it” and thence to “I want LW to do it, and that’s okay because it obviously isn’t so hard for her” (because if it’s as hard for you as it is for him, expecting you to do all of it is selfish). It’s easy for someone with fewer resources to overlook the difference between “that person can do more than I can” and “that person can do everything,” especially if they’ve got any kind of framing by which the other person is “supposed” to take care of them—and it’s pretty clear that, for whatever reason(s), your husband has decided that his day-to-day needs are your responsibility.

  66. LW, I have all the sympathy for you.

    I’m also sympathetic to your husband, because I was allergic, physiologically and mentally, to my last home – among the issues I had with it were the years and years of smoking that took place within it before I moved in (my allergies and asthma flare up around cigarettes) and the fact that I discovered, between the time when I’d signed all the papers and transferred the money and when I moved in, that it had been a hostel of sorts for the area’s transient population. Unfortunately, none of them ever paid hotel fees nor even had the courtesy to tell me they were sleeping in my master bedroom before I moved in, so I slept uneasily for multiple reasons the entire time I was there.

    What I did may not be an option right away (especially as the specifics apply to owning, not renting): I put that place on the market eight months after I bought it. Because I’d put some work into spiffing it up, because it was in a desirable location, and because I neglected to tell prospective buyers about its hot prospects as a transient boarding house (one of the upgrades I made was getting windows that were actually securable), it sold right away, I netted a nice profit, and used the money to purchase a gorgeous condo in my home city that was being rented out (legitimately so!) for long enough that any residual smoke smell is long gone due to the previous owner’s insistence on her tenants taking their cigarettes outside. I’ve never sat bolt upright in bed, panicking at the faintest creak of a loose board outside since I moved, and my allergies, while still aggravating due to the fact that we’ve had spring about three times already this year (Denver: where you can get all four seasons in the span of fifteen minutes!), are greatly reduced by the fact that I can now get some relief by going INSIDE my home.

    All of which is a long-winded way of saying that he may have to move, and maybe (probably?) without you. And I feel confident based on what you’ve written (since I assume you would have mentioned in your letter any conditions he had that would prevent him from doing so) that he is capable of managing it on his own – I’ve got issues up the wazoo myself, from Type I diabetes to some kind of executive (dys)function clusterfuck that seems liable to be Aspergers but hasn’t been diagnosed yet (because, well, executive (dys)function makes me freak out about taking the first step of going to an insurance-approved therapist), and yet, I STILL managed to navigate the process of selling one home, moving states, and then buying another home mostly by myself (though with appreciable help from my family members, most of whom live in Denver, for the last step)!

    Good luck to you, LW.

  67. On your tiredness with your husband and your worry of that making you a bad doctor:
    There’s a reason they recommend people have hobbies that aren’t their job. Your job is doctoring, you come home and caretake your child and husband, doctoring and caretaking and medical, all you all the time. That would cause anyone overload. You don’t have anything to recharge those batteries right now. Presumably when you are a doctor there are some classes/support/something to help with the compassion fatigue? Hopefully you can get something else in your life soon. All the hugs. (I just finished grad school and I was like, oh hobbies? I get those now? So I totally understand putting some things off for now, but remember there’s a you in there who needs to be taken care of)

    1. +1

      I handle nonprofit legal work for my day job, and I avoid family caregiving obligations/requests so I can keep myself mentally healthy. My hobbies are more like, watching crap TV, but it’s still nice.

  68. LW, you sound so exhausted, and I’m so sorry. You got through med school! With a Toddler! And a husband who isn’t contributing to childcare or housekeeping. You are a rock star. A rock star who I think needs a Team Rock Star.

    LW, a friend of mine, who was in a relationship with a man who, for many reasons (namely, his inability to hold down a job and his complete unwillingness to keep house or care for his children) was a drain on her, was afraid to leave him because she felt like her life was easier with a partner. Long story short, several years later, she ended things, and became a single mother to 3 kids. She was terrified, worried about doing it with no help, etc.

    My friend actually is happier, more comfortable, and less stressed without her ex in her life. She came to the realization that her life was harder with this extra person making demands of her and not contributing to her lifestyle. This may not be your situation, of course, but I’m responding to the piece about you depending on him for the little bit of childcare that he contributes.

    1. :/ I hate to say it but any spouse who says within a few days of moving “we need to move or maybe you can do a ton of work” while their spouse is doing all childcare and starting an intense new job sends up major red flags to me. Even if it is for health reasons it just doesn’t seem like the way to handle it.

      1. No, I totally get it. I’m trying to be kind towards him in my responses, because I want to keep the spirit of the comments per Captain’s notes above, but internally, I’m screaming. I also grew up with a parent with mental health issues who neglected us because she “couldn’t” do the things parents need to do, so I might be slightly triggered thinking of LW and her daughter suffering so much.

    2. I have a handful of divorced friends, and even the one who was blindsided by her husband’s request for a divorce later said that life was SO MUCH EASIER after the dust from the divorce had settled and they had gotten into their single-person groove. At least two have actually said that their husband was like having another child, and although they had been telling themselves it would be harder without a partner it was actually easier to just do it themselves (which is what they had been doing, although with someone who also criticized, nagged, and added to their burden).

      Please also don’t discount how hard emotional labor is. It’s exhausting. I think everyone here is probably familiar with the emotional labor thread on metafilter and the article by Jess Zimmerman, but I’d recommend the LW look at the thread and article if she has time. I would seriously rather clean up someone’s physical mess than have to do hours of listening and validating. I find the latter way more tiring than just doing housework.

  69. LW if you are in the US, I don’t want to scare you but residency is MUCH HARDER than medical school. I’m sorry, I don’t think the situation I hear is a recipe for success. You need a bigger team you. Residency alone is hard. Toddler is hard. Taking care of spouse on top of it all? I’m not actually sure it is possible.
    I know I went to a fairly intense residency; I did have a baby during my second year. I got through it all because I had a spouse who helped with finances (earned as much as me) as well as domestic stuff when things got intense. Intern year was the hardest.
    Again, I don’t mean to tell you all this to scare you, but to warn you. I think you need to figure out a new arrangement where you are doing far less of the domestic work. I don’t know what options you have available but I think you need to have a sitdown with your spouse and figure out what they are capable of and what you can hire and so on.

  70. Since I haven’t seen it mentioned yet, I’d suggest looking for a support group for people with any combination of husband’s illness woes. Best of all worlds would be one group focused on spouses/family of people with X, and one for people who actually have X. If nothing else, support groups for addiction are abundant. But there are some lovely ones out there for chronic diseases and mental health as well (both online and in-person; your hospital likely can refer you to some of the latter type).

    Aside from any problem-solving, it’s just an immense relief both for you AND your spouse to have people you can vent to who will completely get it. Dealing with chronic illness and/or disability can be SO isolating, so anything that makes you feel less alone is a good thing. In some groups, you can crowdsource concrete ideas or services. Used carefully, they can also be helpful for “is this normal” checks. They give you a new context in which to have your internal questions about what you should put up with or expect – you can gauge things against other people in similar situations, instead of comparing yourself to people who don’t have near as much on their plates.

    I don’t know what groups would be appropriate for LW in particular, but it’s something to look into. If an in-person group is too daunting to consider, a well-moderated online community can provide much of the same support without as much pressure.

  71. Dear Needs Roots,

    I am the grown up child in your family’s situation – swap out allergies for unexplained pain and all the rest is quite unbelievably similar to the way that my own father was (and is): addiction to prescription drugs, deep distrust of medical professionals, blind panic = intense need to FIX IT NOW despite no easy fix, extreme anxiety, extreme reliance on partner for everything and so on. I don’t have any answers, but I’m thinking of you. You are in a hard, hard situation and your response seems to come from a place of “just don’t know how to keep going like this” rather than any lack of compassion (I’m sure you’ll make a great doctor).

    From a child’s perspective, I’d just like to echo CA’s suggestion of getting a counsellor for yourself. Your toddler is not going to be fully aware of how anxious and chaotic emotionally your partner’s life is right now, but it won’t take long. Kids need (at least) one stable parent and the situation you are in is inherently destabilising. Other people’s medical stuff will always be “more important” than your own seemingly “insignificant-by-comparison” struggles to cope with their medical stuff. But your toddler’s sense of safety in terms of having someone who is “there emotionally” and “safe and capable and reliable” is more important than anything. You need someone squarely on YOUR team in order to be able to be that for her in this very difficult situation.

    Take care of yourself.


    1. This letter reminded me of my childhood; I, too, was the kid in this situation. My mother made her problems our problems by the time I was in 1st grade. Her instability made my life unstable. I would hate the husband’s issues here to impact the child.

      I love your whole comment and I wish you the best.

    2. All the upvotes! In addition to everything that other posters have said regarding the issues in your marriage, once you have a child, THE CHILD AND CHILD’S WELFARE ARE FIRST PRIORITY. You are doing great by your toddler now; you want to be sure you have a safe and happy home for her as she grows up. Husband needs to be on the same page that the child is first priority, and needs to get help for her sake, not just for his and the marriage’s.

      I hope LW has, or can assemble, a Team Her.

  72. Regarding adding of the new place has been checked for mold: be very, VERY clear with the landlord that your not saying you think there is mold. You only want to be sure that there isn’t. If you get testing done and it looks like there is mold, don’t tell them until you are ready to move.

    Because the second you say you think there is mold, they are going to throw you out.

    We had this happen to us at our last apartment because we thought the radon was to high. We had a detector that measures over time and it was high for months. We wanted to get professional testing done but apparently it’s cheaper to give tenants one week to move into another unit (and of course just rent the unit you just vacated to someone else).

    Maybe this particular management company is uniquely asshole-ish in this regard​ but I think your better off if you don’t make them think you think there’s a problem yet.

  73. I know this doesn’t address the behavioral nonsense, where your husband isn’t putting any effort into parenting, but I second (or third) the suggestion of getting a hepa filter. Since you mentioned that part of his problem is anxiety, even if the hepa filter doesn’t solve the problem completely, maybe sitting near it or in a room with it just may have enough of a placebo effect boost to help him manage his symptoms long enough for the dust from moving, and the pollen in your new area, to abate.

    I can’t help with the rest of it, except sending All The Hugs.

    That transition from adolescent “everything is taken care of for me” to adult “I’m the one taking care of things” sometimes doesn’t happen voluntarily. I secretly think that a lot of men aren’t trying to fit into the mold of their parents’ marriage they saw growing up when they get married, but the mold of their high school relationship with their Mom, where Mom did everything for them while they just did them. Which is why they can get belligerent when asked to clean up after themselves / take care of their own kids / cook their own meals / stop playing video games for 9 hours straight and participate in family time / ditto instead of going to the bar with their friends.

    1. “I secretly think that a lot of men aren’t trying to fit into the mold of their parents’ marriage they saw growing up when they get married, but the mold of their high school relationship with their Mom, where Mom did everything for them while they just did them.”

      Ding! That explains a lot about certain things. I feel that women should be given this paragraph as part of a life primer. Particularly if they are involved with men who had super-competent mothers…

      1. Or super-accomodating mothers. I know that I am not accomodating enough as a cis het woman even in Western culture, and unsurprisingly, I remain unmarried.

        1. I know a guy who moved out of his parents’ home at 22 to pursue an advanced degree in philosophy. He mentioned that he didn’t have any salt and pepper shakers, and his mom mailed him some. I repeat: rather than say, “I bet there’s a dollar store near you, or hey, there’s this thing called ‘the Internet'”, she *mailed him salt and pepper shakers*.
          I know this guy because he’s the brother of my ex-boyfriend. This was the ex who thought it was absurd, ridiculous! for me to suggest that he get counselling for his anxiety during his doctorate, but not for him to ask me to travel four hours to visit him (after we’d broken up, by the way) because he was having a crisis of “what if I’m not smart enough for this?”
          Their mother was actually a really nice woman whom I was very fond of, but I do think there were a number of unhealthy family dynamics at play.

    2. “I secretly think that a lot of men aren’t trying to fit into the mold of their parents’ marriage they saw growing up when they get married, but the mold of their high school relationship with their Mom, where Mom did everything for them while they just did them.”

      Oh my ears and whiskers! That explains so, so much about my past dating life! And that of many other women I know. I want to hire a skywriter and blazon this quote on the heavens.

      1. I’m pretty sure they don’t even know they’re doing it… it’s not like the ones who pull this nonsense are usually all that introspective.

        But it can be a hard dynamic to break when they think, “My Mom always did this stuff for my Dad.” Um, maybe. But they also didn’t deal with all the tensions when Mom tried to get Dad to pull his own weight, too. Teen just got the benefits of coasting through the house, everything done for him while he got to go goof off with his friends.

        Wish I had some answers. “I’m not your Mom” just seems to turn off their ears entirely.

        I lucked out, and husband #2 is a fully formed adult. I hope you find one, too, someday!

  74. “When people hear that I have a young toddler and am finishing medical school, they often assume I’m extremely competent and type-A, but in fact I’m pretty limited by anxiety, lack of energy, and attention problems. Most days I’m home I find it hard to do anything other than feed, clean up after, and play with my daughter.”

    Others have covered the husband and chronic health issues end of things quite well, but this quote caught my eye. LW, you made it through medical school. That is no small thing. I don’t have any offspring, but my understanding is that most of my friends who do often find it hard to do anything other than feed, clean up after, and play with their offspring…and they’re not finishing medical school. I work a pretty demanding job (TT academia), and there’s a tipping point for me at about 60 hours in the office per week where the rest of my life falls. to. shambles. Exercise, healthy eating, anything other than bare minimum grooming (hello, air-drying my ridiculous hair; goodbye, makeup!), laundry, restful sleep, etc. With my husband’s assistance on cooking and cleaning and reminding me that I should put away my phone and go to bed, I can usually keep the eating and sleeping somewhat on track, but toward the end of each semester, I’m basically hanging on for dear life.

    All this to say: it’s really hard to gauge how competent you are when you’re busy hanging on for dear life, and I’m pretty sure you’re hanging on for dear life right now. So please be kind to yourself. If you can manage it through finagling of money and time resources, take a few hours off per week and spend it however you want: sleeping, getting a pedicure, lying in a dark room with your eyes closed, watching a show on Netflix, seeing a movie by yourself, whatever. You need a break.

    Jedi hugs, if you’d like them. This sounds exceedingly difficult.

    1. This! I think I’d have “anxiety, lack of energy, and attention problems” too, if I had to tackle the looooong list of things that she needs to do every day. I don’t think she’s drawn the connection between these three problems and her husband’s behaviour. She says she’s not done with the relationship and feels it would hard to manage without the minimal amount of childcare that he does, but I can’t help wondering if her load would be lighted considerably if she left the marriage. She’d still be dropping the daughter off at daycare, still cooking and cleaning, but not doing all the special anti-allergy tasks that he insists he needs.

      1. I know you mean that comment kindly, but please consider that if LW’s anxiety and attention problems have clinical causes, it sounds kind of minimizing. Everyone feels stressed and frazzled with a difficult job and a young child, but if LW is dealing with a difficult job and a young child *on top of* affect/executive function issues, that’s a lot harder.

  75. I wanted to specifically address the compassion fatigue part of this because I have STRONG OPINIONS about compassion fatigue and I didn’t see a lot of folks talking about it. LW, you say,

    “Most of the time I’m utterly incapable of applying my medical curiosity or compassion to my husband’s suffering. If I’m honest, what I truly feel, deep in my body, is that I wish he would just suck it up. Sometimes I’m so unmoored by this feeling that I worry I’ll be a bad doctor.”

    To quote Dear Sugar, there is a word for this and it is called normal.

    I am not a resident. I am a nurse practitioner hospitalist. I work 84 hour weeks (and then take a week off, so this is easier than residency by a lot). I have a 3 year old and a rocky relationship with my husband. This so you know where I am coming from.

    Dear LW, you cannot feel all the feels. You just cannot. One of the most liberating things I ever learned about life was that *I don’t owe anyone my feels.* Neither do you. Not your patients, not your husband, not *anyone.*

    You can owe people respect and consideration and “the rent that’s due to love,” as the poet says. You do not, not ever, owe anyone your emotions.

    Compassion needn’t be an emotion. Sometimes it is, but it doesn’t have to be. Compassion can be letting someone cry on your shoulder while you remain calmly dry-eyed. Compassion can be quietly listening when you don’t want to. Compassion can be the strength of character it takes to respond gently when grieving family members scream in your face. Your entire letter is full of compassion. If you did not have compassion you would have walked out on this marriage long ago.

    You have a really, really hard and emotionally exhausting job. You are not going to be able to do everything you do at work and at home and be fully emotionally alive to every bit of it. Sometimes you will weep with your husband and sometimes you will weep with your patients and most of the time you will not be able to do both because the human body has a limited capacity for weeping.

    And that is normal and even *good.* You cannot die every death; you cannot go down with every ship. Even if you could you *shouldn’t* because then who will be there to captain the next Good Ship Crisis? The times you are not feeling the things you want to feel or not feeling the things you think you “should” be feeling are times when your mind is taking care of itself, shutting down a little to protect itself, just like every other compensatory mechanism in the body.

    The abilities of both your body and your mind to do that and do that well (and return to feeling things again when it is safe) are part of what is going to make you a *good* doctor. I really believe that as much as I believe anything, and I promise that this is true to my experience.

    That was my sermon. Here is some concrete advice:

    Do you have a close friend from med school you can talk about this sort of thing with? Or a mentor? Or any friend who is also in the medical field? If not, what about the hospital chaplain? Hospital chaplains know *all about* compassion fatigue. (There is very likely an “interfaith” chaplain who, if they are any good at all, will be able to communicate across any lines of belief/lack thereof. A hospital chaplain who cannot talk to an atheist about problems like this is not a good chaplain. So I think worth trying even if not religious.) Try reaching out to this person, whoever it is, and comparing feelings. I think hearing about how normal this is will probably help.

    I personally have found it helpful, when I am feeling the most numb, to take a few minutes at the end of every working day and sort of check in with my emotions. I close my eyes and just sort of let myself be. Usually I listen to Bach. Very often some emotion will come up as I sit there quietly, and then I realize — ‘oh. That’s what I was feeling all along. I am not an ice queen. I am not a compassionless horror of a person. I am a mother of a 3 year old and the wife of an unsupportive husband, and I just dealt with three dead bodies and four sobbing families in one twelve hour shift, and I needed a break from feeling things.’ I think that being able to see this about yourself might help too.

    I am sure you have heard all about self-care and many of the comments did mention that, so I won’t belabor that point except to say I agree.

    That was a novel I know but that part of your pain really jumped out at me. I have so, so, SO been in that self-flagellating-for-not-being-compassionate-enough place, and it was really much more painful than anyone who hadn’t been there was ever able to understand, and, well, I DO understand. And you and your compassion are just fine the way that they are, and you are a good person and will be a good doctor, and you don’t owe *anyone* your feels.

    Take care!

    1. Wonderful comment. :::Hugs::: for all the hard days you’ve had to get through to learn that.

  76. I just want to send love to all the disabled and limited folks reading this thread and wondering “Am I doing enough? Am I dead weight? Am I manipulative? If my partner described our relationship, would other people tell them to leave me or say I should just suck it up and deal and not ask for anything?”. Every situation is different, and if you’re doing your sustainable best and actively participating in partnership then that’s all anyone can ask. Please take good care of yourselves today. ❤

    1. I love this comment a lot, and I wanted to add to it, as a disabled person with a super caring partner, if you’re reading this thread and are actively asking yourself “am I doing enough?” you’ve proven that you care about contributing to your partnership. And guess what? Your partner probably knows that.
      It’s not about 50/50 workload splits. Good partnerships should be from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.

    2. Absolutely. I wouldn’t change a thing about my partner, he is awesome. His illness doesn’t make him any less lovable, worthy or whole, as much as I wish I could take his pain away, his life experiences have made him the man I love.

      Our life can be hard but loving him isn’t hard. I am damn lucky to be with him.

  77. How to get someone who doesn’t trust doctors to see a doctor:

    Explain that doctors can’t force you to do what they say. They can make diagnoses and suggest treatment, but they can’t force you to accept the treatment. So the reasoning goes: Let’s just go and see what they say. Maybe they’ll have a good suggestion, something we haven’t thought of.

    For example, I know people who were allergic to cats and didn’t trust allergists because the allergists always said to get rid of the cats. But by saying just go and you don’t have to do what they say, they found an allergist who said “there are a number of medicines you can take that will help you breathe despite living with cats, and there are a number of things you can do to minimize the problems the cats are causing.

    The funny thing about not trusting doctors is that I’ve noticed that people who don’t trust them don’t want to follow doctors orders when the doctor orders them to do something they didn’t want to do in the first place. Were the doctor to recommend something like a great vacation with one’s friends or recommend that they not stress themselves with childcare or housework, all of a sudden the doctor’s orders have to be followed. People who don’t believe in science suddenly start using all sorts of scientific arguments when the arguments are in their favor. Doctors who tell me not to eat chocolate don’t know what they’re talking about, but ones who tell me never to eat lima beans are brilliant and wise, and I’m glad to do what they say.

    1. This assumes that the distrust is based on suspicion or preference not to follow medical advice, and it reads like maybe you’ve never had a chronic illness or long-term condition (especially one that wasn’t cut-and-dried). Folks with chronic illness tend to lack trust in doctors not because they don’t want to follow doctors’ advice, but because they have been let down by doctors over and over in various ways. Not only is that letdown frustrating and demoralizing, it’s also really goddamn expensive.

    2. My partner has an incurable illness with a likelihood of early death via complications. He spent his childhood being taken from specialist to specialist and once he hit 18, swore he would never have to sit through a doctors consultation to be told ‘there is nothing we can do.’

      The task has been to get him to seek help for the symptoms we can relieve and to look after his health. He will live in grinding pain for another fify years at least. It’s true that he cannot be cured and I get why he might refuse to go down the ‘maybe there is another solution’ route. But his blood pressure needs testing and he did get better sleep after taking a med so off to the doctor he had to go.

      I tried to emphasise that while his choice not to I was making life extremely hard, I would never force him. He’s an adult, I am his partner. That was important for me to respect.

    3. Also, based on the letter it sounds like there’s a possibility that a doctor or doctors prescribed him the medications that caused the dependency problem he’s currently in recovery from. That might not have been the doctors’ fault, but it might; a doctor who prescibes addictive meds without due caution can do a ton of harm. (Google ‘Oxycontin scandal’, for instance.) So it may be that he has good reason to doubt whether doctors will act in his best interests.

      This doesn’t mean he shouldn’t go to a doctor: he has debilitating health conditions that impact on both himself and his family. It does mean he’ll need to work harder to find a doctor he can trust. But it’s quite possible that his past includes doctors’ orders he doesn’t want to follow because the orders were, ‘Take this addictive substance, you’ll be fine.’

    4. I think it’s also notable that general practice doctors can be specifically unreliable around issues of mental health, in terms of taking it seriously and providing full and exhaustive care for people who have symptoms that may be ambiguous or difficult to treat. For example — the medical department for the college I went to (which was known for pushing students to a point of exhaustion/illness/depression, and for a large portion of its history had one of the higher suicide rates of universities in the U.S.) was rather notorious for casually dispensing a lot of psychoactive drugs to desperate students, without carefully examining underlying causes or all the possible methods of treatment.

      In my own situation, I found that I could acquire a prescription for antidepressants (and, more dangerously for me, addictive benzos to mitigate their potential side effects) after a single 15-minute meeting with a GP. That could have been disastrous, and very nearly was, due to the Ativan. Thankfully I realized it was not a safe drug for me to have around sooner rather than later and stopped picking up my prescription, but it would have been easy to go down that road.

      Like: I have all the respect in the world for the medical profession. But doctors are humans, subject to the same failings and prejudices that every other human is.

  78. I am an accounting student, and I can’t imagine being in a long-term relationship with someone who didn’t trust accountants. I can’t imagine that aspect of it is helping at all.

    1. Seriously. It’s perfectly understandable that someone who has had bad experiences with medical professionals might have anxiety about going in for treatment – but “I don’t trust doctors” when your partner IS A DOCTOR suggests some really ugly things about how the LW’s husband sees her.

  79. I’m someone with chronic illness and often have similar struggles as the husband in the letter, from the sounds of it. From that perspective, I have a few thoughts:

    -I really don’t think you should move again.

    -This dynamic is REALLY unhealthy.

    -The thing about chronic illness/disability is that it’s CHRONIC. This isn’t gonna go away. And as great as your compassion is, the onus is on him to try to find a way to cope with this in a manner that doesn’t put responsibility disproportionately on you.

    -He’s whining when he’s only being asked to pick up or drop off his daughter?This isn’t me being insensitive when I say that’s crap. He had his issues before you had the child, and maybe he misjudged the work involved, but the kid isn’t going anywhere and he needs to figure out how to be a father and a partner.

    And, like, I get it. I do. Because chronic illness is hard and it sneaks up on you and I’ve been there, where everything’s too much and I can’t handle it. But life doesn’t stop because you’re having a hard time and people can’t upend their lives over and over and over again because things are hard. Your husband doesn’t have a monopoly on feeling bad; you have hard days too and you can’t handle taking care of an adult man and a child while also maintaining your house and working on your career. And you shouldn’t have to! Just because someone is struggling doesn’t mean that you don’t count, and chronic illness isn’t an excuse to railroad people.

    -There’s this point in chronic illness where you can kind of benefit from the bad symptoms. I think every adult has a small urge to have someone come and takeover, just for a bit, and make things easier, but chronic illness almost creates a built-in excuse for that. And things can be so tough and difficult that for me, if someone comes along and decides to make my life easier, it’s so nice for a while. But there’s a point where you can let people do too much for you, and I’m not going to say your husband is there (because I can’t say that, I genuinely don’t know) but I will say, I would NEVER dream of delivering unto someone a list of demands for making my life comfortable. Honestly, if I have the energy and focus to make the list, I can probably get some stuff done off of it.

    I guess I just want to say, I don’t really know what you or your husband’s situation is, but as someone with chronic illness, his behavior is dinging a lot of red flags for me and it sounds more manipulative than anything else. Please don’t baby him anymore and recognize that he’s a grown adult, chronic illness or not, and he needs to take some responsibility here.

  80. You might want to consider joining the Physician Moms Group started by Dr. Hala Sabry. It’s a closed group, and there are sub-groups based on geographic area or specialty. You can’t be the only women who has encountered this.

    I’m Team Cut & Run on this issue. Terrified that an adult who is incapable of caring for himself might be also responsible for a child. Terrified for you that he is actively trying to undermine your success in residency, and worried about how bad things could get when you simply aren’t there 80 hours per week?

  81. I have only one tangential piece of experience, from medical history and meeting other people who had it harder: Sometimes the world throws people impossible problems. Sometimes it ruins people’s lives. People are allowed to fail. It is, in a certain sense, okay.

    I don’t mean to imply you will fail, I have no knowledge for that, what I know is you might reasonably be thinking about the possibility. And I see people hurt by the grip of /I have to get through this/, with shame and anxiety and cognitive dissonance. So I found it freeing to say, look, I’ll do my best, and I’ll keep my family or I won’t, I’ll rebuild a life or I won’t, I’ll be okay in ten years or I won’t. This actually made me dwell less on the negatives than when I was trying not to look at them.

    You may hear things like: *God never gives people problems they can’t overcome. *You were given this child because you can be a good parent to them. *What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. *This will make you a better doctor in the end. *There’s a silver lining to everything. *I know you can do this!!! — If these work for somebody, great, you’re welcome to them, but offering them to someone in a hard situation can be poisonous and just untrue.

    LW, you don’t actually suggest you’re getting hit with any of those helpy wisdoms, or feeling the bite of “I don’t know if I can get through this but I am required to get through this”, so ignore this if it’s more about me than about you, but I thought it was a possible thing. My heart goes out to you.

  82. I think there’s a difference between LW’s husband being told “suck it up, you have to take these medicines/do this course of physical therapy” and LW saying “I’m tired of sucking it up, and you have to do more of the work of taking care of yourself.” A person can rule out an entire category of medical treatment, such as prescription painkillers (which seems likely here) and still be willing to look at diagnosis (what is he allergic to?) and treatments in other categories, such as over-the-counter antihistamines or non-medicinal approaches like dust masks, air filters, or changing detergents.

    Analogy: i had shoulder problems, years ago, and was told there were three basic approaches: physical therapy, steroids, and surgery, to be tried in that order. But even “we have to try these in this order” (whether the reasons are medical or that the insurance company wants to start with the cheapest) wouldn’t have forced me to try any of them: I could have walked out of the doctor’s office, gone home, and done nothing except try to rest that shoulder by carrying as little as possible.

  83. Ugh, allergies. They’re crappy, whether its you or the people around you suffering. And yes, this year is bad (thank the mild winter).

    So yes, new city = allergy misery for a while, your body needs to adjust. You do what you can and just survive until things settle into whatever the new normal is. There is no getting around this, and moving apts is not going to help (might even make it worse actually).

    Being miserable from allergies doesn’t excuse you from daily life though. I have allergies and asthma, and the bathroom still needs to be cleaned (major trigger for me). You try different things to figure out what helps. I turn the bathroom fan on, take frequent breaks, and take the asthma meds, THEN I start cleaning the bathroom. It’s still a problem, but it’s not as bad as a problem. Dusting causes short term issues for me, but long term it helps. So does vacuuming.

  84. I wonder how his support network narrowed to just you, LW. If he has a family and friends they might be able to help him by listening, visiting to help out, lending him (or you both) money for different kinds of cleaning, etc. I think if you are also able to lean on others – even remotely – for a bit you might have more clarity around this situation. Please please tell people what’s going on – friends, family, whoever.

    1. I agree with this comment. People with *no* chronic illnesses/conditions, who have oodles of energy, and mutually supportive marriages, STILL need help when a baby/toddler is added to the mix. It’s amazing how one tiny human can suck up so much energy and brainpower but they do! It’s not healthy for parents when they just have each other, let alone parents who have a chronic illness.

      Obviously, if Husband’s parents/family are abusive or addicted and pose a danger to Husband or child, estrangement makes sense. But if the family is functional and kind, it would probably help if they were part of Team LW and her family unit.

  85. Dear LW,
    your husband is undermining you, the allergies are a red herring. If you can convince your physician-phobic spouse to go to couples counseling you may just have a chance. By focusing on the little things you are missing the bigger pattern. I was married to a man with a chronic health condition. As my career progressed the things required to “manage” his condition became ever more arbitrary and onerous, and of course, I was always the one who had to make concessions to “the condition.” Everything “we” planned to make things work around “the condition” was always completely “the wrong thing” and “100% my fault” at the last minute, including abandoning building a house designed around “the condition.” He did all kinds of “accidental” things to keep us poor which I only saw clearly in hindsight (don’t arbitrary moves sound expensive to you?).

    Once I got a proper footing in my then field he began to actively sabotage my job. I promise you that nothing short of you quitting medical school to spend all your time with your husband will make him happy, though he will tell you about what a terrible person you are for throwing away your opportunity.

    I can’t tell you what to do, but your letter has made me cry with frustration and delurk after five years. Whatever you do please be smarter than me and think about the future for you and your daughter and do it before you’re so exhausted that you lose your support network entirely. Whatever support your school/hospital offers please grab it with both hands.

  86. I have been a caregiver for a chronically ill person – someone I *knew* was legitimately sick and struggling – and still felt frustration sometimes when they couldn’t *do* more for themselves. Every time they got sicker, I felt more swallowed by the added load of what needed to be done for them because they could no longer do it for themselves. Even though I knew, really genuinely knew and *understood* that they weren’t able to do certain things – their body wouldn’t allow them, they were suffering, they needed help, I felt almost weirdly envious that they got to spend time in bed, with people handling everything, while I stole 10-minute naps in my car on my lunch break.

    Caregiving for someone with a chronic condition is hard, and it’s made harder by the fact that all the (somewhat normal) thoughts we have in passing and out of exhaustion can be kind of dark. I definitely didn’t want to admit to myself I was feeling that way, let alone say any of it out loud. I felt like a bad, awful person. I felt selfish. Really, I was just tired. So just know that, even if this was something very straightforward, like cancer, where there was no ambiguity about how “real” or serious it was, you might still be feeling some of these very same things. Resist the urge to pin them on, “this isn’t real; he can suck it up.” It’s a red herring.

    The only thing that helped was just grieving the things I no longer had help with and proceeding as though that ship had sailed. While yes, I did want the person I loved to get better and do those things for themselves again someday and yes, sometimes they even could do those things, it was a recipe for resentment to count on that happening sooner than later.

    I agree with all the Captain said about encouraging husband to get care, but in the meantime – assume this isn’t changing. Look into resources for long-term caregivers. Outsource as much as you can. Take all the Captain’s advice. Get counseling. Try to build small moments of joy into the slog – like listening to a favorite podcast or book on tape while you do a hated chore. Wear your comfiest, softest clothes while running errands. Trial and error a few easy recipes that you actually look forward to eating. Engage your kiddo in active play that also makes you feel good in your body. Make your workspaces prettier and more engaging with some cheap, cool art that you like. You can’t give yourself less to do, but you can try to find little areas of relaxation and recreation.

    And I know and respect that you are not ready to leave this relationship. I’m not telling you to do that. I think you 100% can do this, and I think it’ll get better – kiddo will get older, you will eventually find a place, you’ll have more income and more wiggle room very soon! But instead of looking at this as temporary – just one perfect apartment or better doctor away! – really have some think time around how you’d feel about being a partner to someone who was/is chronically around this level of ill. Approaching this challenge from a place of acceptance will do a lot to cut down on your resentment feelings as well as take the edge off the fresh disappointment every time it doesn’t change. Alternatively, deciding that isn’t for you is also useful information. But have the relationship you’re having now rather than waiting for some unspecified future date when this goes away.

    This is really hard, you’re not abnormal for feeling defeated and prickly, and I’m rooting for you.

  87. Dear LW:

    I’m glad your marriage isn’t quite as grim as it initially appeared to me.

    That said, I was married to a man with a chronic illness and the illness was ultimately o a major part of our split.

    Oh not because of the acute phases where I bathed and dressed him. The issue was that the core of our marriage was that I’d be healthy and ok. When my father had a stroke and it was pretty clear that I wouldn’t be healthy or ok anytime soon, our marriage fell apart.

    The proximate causes were adulteries. The adulteries wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t withdrawn into separate social worlds. We wouldn’t have withdrawn he could have taken care of me, or I of him.

    (Both of us made outrageous demands. Certainly demands of time and patience that were difficult for healthy people, and impossible for us at the time)

    My point is, things happen and you won’t be able to devote yourself to him. Indeed, such things happened already! You’re a resident. With a toddler.

    Something has to give.

    Jedi hugs if you want them.

  88. “He has a long list of tasks he wants me to do to banish all possible allergens from our home…”

    That’s nice. So what is HE going to do about those tasks he is assigning you? Any plans to take on some of those tasks himself, or is he just, like, barking out a long list of stuff for YOU to do to fix his discomfort? Why do I sense that his discomfort might not be 100% something that can even be fixed by all the tasks he wants you to do? Is his feeling better contingent on making you do a lot of labor on his behalf because He Said So and is he also waving around a “Get out of chores free” card because he is either sick or “sick”?

    That sentence, taken as it is, was a big red flag for me.

  89. I just came down here to emphasize the Captain’s advice to make sure you have support systems in place for yourself.

    Residency is unfathomably exhausting work. I am Not A Doctor, but my best friend is. They didn’t have systems in place (therapists, medication, etc) and made some poor choices that led to them being kicked out of residency. They’re getting help now, but it’s unlikely that they will ever be a practicing physician.

    I don’t say this to scare you. I say it to emphasize the need to take care of yourself. I hope you do.

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