The Unwanted Conversation

How do you start a complicated conversation with your spouse when you both are not ready to have it?

Cancer leaves your immune system so vulnerable that emergencies happen when you’re not looking. Here are three ways to approach a conversation worth having:

1. Let’s talk about our spirituality:

Let’s talk about what we believe about the energy of our souls.

What happens to energy?

What happens to our bodies?

What happens to our memories?

What is the most important way we want to be thought of?

What legacy do we carry?

List the most important people in our hearts.

What is your belief about afterlife?

I know these thoughts are torturous to get out. However, it will also be a relief. You may find that you already have strong beliefs, and talking about them may open you to new ways of thinking — a discussion that brings knowledge and closeness. Remember, you are not looking for a right or wrong answer. No judgements — you are searching for desires. This is something you will need to know. Even if the answer is, “I have no idea.” Participate in the conversation. If you have older children, have them participate.

This is never something you want to guess at. Similar to guessing at, “Does my love want to be an organ donor?” Don’t guess. These questions are haunting after the fact. Hopefully, “the fact” won’t come for years–I mean, years. However, can you think of a more respectful, loving action, than to ask these questions and honor the person you love.

2. What are your medical hotspots?

Remember this is conversation for both of you! You’re sharing everything from, “Do you want me to spend the night when you go into the hospital?” — to medical directives. For example, if you are unable to speak, what decisions do you want me to just know you want, and what decisions do you want me to let the doctor’s make? Share important conversations so that it doesn’t feel like you are planning for the worst case scenario.

What you are doing is life planning. Think of it like laundry: It stinks if it goes too long without washing, and if you are out of undergarments, everything hurts. Emergencies need to be planned when you are caregiving. It isn’t fun. It is life — the part of life that you never want to guess because you are afraid to ask desires. You don’t want to live with regrets and self blame.

Remember, if it was a “What would you do?” conversation, if there was no illness in the picture, it would be a really interesting and important topic.  It is always better to have this conversation without being in crisis.

3. Look at each other. Out loud, talk about the depth of love you have for one another.

Make this a loving, warm, light conversation. This is not the time to make confessions. It is not the time to require anything from each other — accept appreciation and love. A great way to complete this conversation is to realize how much better it is to have this conversation when the sea is calm, even if it’s starting to get rocky — it isn’t a full blown storm.

About Jean Wolfe Powers, LMFT