Entries in Husband (3)


Men Struggle with Wives' Breast Cancer

Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Seventy two hours after Elissa Bantug's mastectomy, she felt broken. She was only 25 years old, but she had lost both breasts and her strawberry blonde hair to cancer. Drainage tubes still hung from her chest to remove excess fluid from the operation.

In that moment, she just wanted to have sex with her boyfriend.

"I just needed something to make me not feel so broken," said Bantug, who is now 31. "Anything to make me feel beautiful."

But instead of responding to her advances, Bantug said, her boyfriend pushed her off of him and told her it was crazy for her to have sex when she was so sick -- and so obviously in pain.

"It was awful," said Bantug. "It ended in a screaming match with doors being slammed."

Bantug said it was just one of the instances in which she and her boyfriend -- to whom she is now married -- didn't communicate well during her cancer experience. He had a hard time figuring out when he was supposed to let Bantug make decisions and when he was supposed to help her decide what to do. He didn't tell her how afraid he was.

When they did have sex, Bantug's boyfriend didn't know where to put his hands or whether putting them certain places would draw attention to Bantug's scars and upset her. He thought he should sleep in the guest room because he thought she needed the space to heal, but that made her worry that he was pulling away.

Now, Bantug knows better than to stay silent about these things, and it's her job to make sure cancer patients at Johns Hopkins Medical Center do, too. She runs the hospital's Breast Cancer Survivorship Program, where it's her job to answer the questions cancer patients and their spouses feel silly asking their oncologists.

Couples want to know about what to eat and how to tell their children about the diagnosis, but they also want to know about nipple sensitivity, body image and whether cancer patients will be able to have an orgasm again, she said.

Even though breast cancer is primarily about the woman fighting it, psychologist Jennifer Wolkin said conversations about relationships inevitably come up in her sessions with patients.

In addition to finding themselves thrust into the unfamiliar role of emotional supporter, men feel they need to deny their own feelings to be stoic, said Wolkin.

"They give off an air of self-assuredness to protect women, but, ironically, it comes off as rejection," said Wolkin, who works at the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU Langone.

She said men often lack support centers and have to journey through cancer alone. If they show their feelings, they worry it somehow makes them weak. Sometimes, a man's libido can even drop -- not so much because he's no longer attracted to his wife, but because of the uncertainty associated with the situation and her body.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Men and women just need to communicate and ask for help when they need it.

"Mastectomy is horrific, but I think it has potential to offer this place where a man and woman could really significantly grow in their relationship," Wolkin said.

It's important for both partners to be as informed as possible about what's going to happen during breast cancer treatment and recovery, said Lynn Erdman, the vice president of community health for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Erdman, a nurse who specializes in oncology, said men have their own set of concerns and emotional issues when it comes to having a spouse with breast cancer, but they often don't feel comfortable talking about them because they think it makes them selfish. She said many hospitals now offer support groups for men as a safe place for them to ask questions that would otherwise seem taboo.

"What we hear a lot of times is, 'What's the breast going to feel like after the implant is in and the tissue in it has been removed?'" Erdman said. "'If I hug her, is it going to hurt her?' 'Will it change our sex life?'"

"I've seen it often bring couples much closer together," she said."It's part of going through the cancer battle together."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Aging Moms Prefer Daughter to Hubby, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- An international study shows mothers prefer their daughters as they age.

Debby calls her 26-year-old daughter Beth three times a day -- and might add a few daily texts on top of that.

Mother and daughter, both of whom live in Denver, are close, much more so than when Beth was a teenager.

“We talk about health, work, food, shopping -- just touching base,” said Debby, 60, who was shy about using her last name.  “I am just checking to see if she’s alive.”

A study published this week in the journal of Scientific Reports suggests that as women age they shift their focus of intimacy from their husbands to adult daughters -- even as their husbands continue to retain their wives as their closest confidantes.

Researchers from Britain’s Oxford University and Boston’s Northeastern University did an analysis of two billion cell phone calls and a half billion text messages from a mobile telephone carrier in a European country over a seven-month period. The contact most frequently called was considered the “best friend.”

The study said that in early adulthood, men and women focus most on their romantic partner. With women, that continues until about age 27.  But when they reach their 40s, they shift attention away from the spouse to the daughter. And that relationship strengthens over time, peaking at about age 60.

Men, at least in their cell phone communication, stick with a female best friend -- presumably their wives, according to the study. They call their sons and daughters equally.

Researchers suggest that the shift in communication may be biologically driven as women in their childbearing years move closer to motherhood. Debby agrees.

But her daughter Beth views the relationship differently, and Debbie admits that she might consider her a “helicopter parent.”

Beverly Hills psychoanalyst Fran Walfish said that while she appreciates “warm and close” families, when the lives of mothers and daughters become too intertwined, it can signal trouble in the husband-wife relationship.

“I am wondering if the women who were looked at in this study, they turn to their daughter because the relationships and communication with their husbands had decreased and fallen off track as they aged.”

The “main requirement” for a healthy coupling is that the male and female “create or establish a reasonable separation from their family of origin,” said Walfish, author of the 2010 book, Self-Aware Parent.

“The new husband is first, front and center,” she said. “What that means is the mental space that is taken up in one’s mind of who we think about has to be husband first, then, children, then parent.”

Adolescents need to separate to enter the world as adults, according to Walfish. “It’s necessary to create the bricks and mortar of the foundation of the couple and the foundation of a new family.”

Walfish said she has seen a rise in the number of couples in their 20s, 30s and 40s coming in for counseling because of “mother-in-law problems” … "I never get the complaint about fathers-in-laws.”

She agrees that biology may drive aging mothers closer to their daughters, especially as they become grandparents. “That’s a positive and wonderful thing,” she said. “But if reasonable boundaries aren’t created, it can be poison or toxic.”

Mothers like Debby say that constant calling and texting their daughter has nothing to do with their love of their husbands.

“She’s much more interesting than he is,” she says. “And I like her opinion on things.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Study: Happy Wife, Happy Life

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is,’” Kurt Vonnegut wrote in A Man Without a Country.

It’s good advice for ladies in serious relationships, according to a new study from Harvard researchers that suggests that men appreciate it when the women in their lives let them know they are happy.

On the other hand, the study suggests, women find happiness when their men open up about being frustrated or upset.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School recruited 156 couples in committed relationships and asked each person to recall a time in their relationship that upset them. The researchers then compared how each of the partners reacted to that moment.

The intention was to examine how accurately one partner perceived and responded to the other’s feelings.

When men felt willing to express their anger or frustration, women took that as a sign that their partners were investing in the relationship, the study found.  For most women studied, this translated into a sense of security or happiness for the women.

Men, by contrast, commonly expressed more fulfillment after their female partners expressed to them that they were fulfilled and satisfied in their relationships.

While the study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, ultimately found that happiness stems from a willingness to try and understand whatever emotion one’s partner is feeling, men tend to disengage when negatively aroused, while women tend to engage and want to discuss the problem.

The findings, “suggest that men may be more satisfied in their relationships when they can accurately read their partners’ positive emotions, while women’s relationship satisfaction may uniquely benefit when they can accurately read their partners’ negative emotions, and both partners equally derive relationship satisfaction when their partners are emphatically accurate to their negativity,” the authors wrote.

The findings are particularly consistent with the beliefs of many marriage counselors, said Susan Heitler, clinical psychologist and author of the online relationship skills program, There is a certain skill set that goes into a successful marriage, she said, and one of those skills is being able to express positive feelings. The other is being able to discuss negative feelings in a way that is intended to heal and resolve the problems.

A relationship needs at least one person in it who can help lead a “repair discussion,” Heitler said.  If neither partner can do that, the hurt does not get resolved, and a bigger and bigger tear forms, she said. At that point in a relationship, “the fabric falls apart,” said Heitler.

Yet since most women tend to enjoy being nurturing, she said, the idea that a woman wants to console or understand when her man feels blue makes sense.

“We get a serotonin fix from it, a spurt of well-being from having been nurturing in that way,” said Heitler.  "On the other hand, men find that happiness in knowing their woman is happy. It goes with the saying, ‘happy wife, happy life.’”

Relationships tend to grow under positive conditions, she said, and that means a couple needs to have fun together, have sex together, laugh and enjoy one another’s interests.

For some people, though, the skills needed to maintain and grow a healthy relationship do not come naturally.  While some people grow up in environments that foster such values, for others, those communication and understanding skills must be learned.

“The article validates the need for these types of skills and coaching,” she said. “Those skill levels are about equal between men and women, so women shouldn’t get the idea that men are dunces with these types of things.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio