I am not what anyone would ever refer to as the “traditional” or “religious” type BUT in traditional marriage vows, there’s some decent verbiage not just for married couples (as so many of us cannot legally, THANKS LAWZ) but for any couple attempting to make their relationship work in the long term. During this especially precarious flu season, one rings particularly true about being there for her “in sickness and in health.” I was fortunate to have a lavishly nurturing mother, ripped from the pages of a Normal Rockwell painting, who coddled me well through my late teens and into adulthood. I never suffered any fools nor weathered a scratchy throat without her hastening about the house for cough drops and Earl Grey.
Perhaps my views on the value of nurturing one another in sickness are slightly skewed for this reason. I can’t imagine going it alone nor do I think you should have to if you have a handy dandy lady-friend nearby to do your NyQuil bidding and pet your dewy head with her cool, celestial hands.
When Natalie and I first met, as coddled as we both were by our mothers — neither of us were natural caregivers. One of us would fall ill and the other would sneer around the apartment day-dreaming about all the thrilling misadventures we could be having with a more robust counterpart.
Of course the other wouldn’t forget this betrayal and offer up the same heaping teaspoon of gravel when the situation reversed and the cycle of abuse continued. Since both of us valued being cared for when we were sick, resentment swelled that we didn’t even fully understand the origin of. It also made us question what the other would do if one of us got really, seriously sick. We would get into fights about small, meaningless issues when all we really wanted to say was; “why don’t you take care of me?” When Natalie didn’t take care of me, it felt like she just didn’t care about me.
Obviously, this wasn’t the case because I did the same thing to her and I cared for her very deeply. We couldn’t be each other’s Florence Nightingale, that was clear, it wasn’t how we were wired and we were both too stubborn to admit it’s what we needed.
Finally, we came to blows over something very inconsequential and admitted to each other that we both felt forsaken by the other when we got sick and that felt pretty miserable, it made the already unpleasant situation of sickness feel even worse. We both could completely relate to the sentiment and promised that even though it wasn’t in our nature to do so, we would make more of an effort to give more of a shit when the other was sick.
But how do you give a shit when you don’t? Let’s face it, nursing someone isn’t everyone’s favorite recreational past time, some are naturals at it but a lot of us just aren’t. You feel like a martyr for a second and that’s pretty righteous but eventually you just get bored and want to poke her with a stick. Don’t get me wrong, I love Natalie with all of my grinchy selfish heart and if she became seriously ill, I would put my world on hold without delay but remaining nurturing and positive while she undulates in torment for what seems like an exorbitant amount of time for a common cold isn’t without effort. Here are some easy things you can do when she falls ill to remain a virtuous beacon of comfort, even if you do about half of these things you should be golden and on your way to durable forever relations:
1. Make Her An Awesome Bed On The Couch!
Natalie is a professional couch bed maker and nothing makes me feel more loved and safe. You simply patch together all of your granny throws and blankets (NOT YOUR BED SHEETS, this defeats the purpose of the couch bed) kind of like Charlie’s car-bed from All Dogs Go To Heaven. The key is to tuck a base blanket into the couch that won’t slip out despite her clammy late night tossing and turning. What’s also important is to take a couple pillows from the bed (but that’s all you take from the bed, remember it’s a couch bed, don’t ruin it) for maximum comfort. Some may prefer the comfort of their beds during sickness, but this is a nice alternative for those that need a change of scenery through an extended illness.
2. Make a trip to the store for Ginger Ale, NyQuil, chicken/veggie soup or whatever other random craving she’s having.
It’s important not to judge her on this mission.
3. Touch Her
If you’re feeling extra loving, a massage is just the ticket to making your loved one feel like you are truly there for her because you want to be. You may not have the energy for the massage after catering to her every whim all day and I know she looks really unsavory covered in snot and tissue fibers, but she needs your ass right now so don’t be stingy. A Brigham Young Study actually showed that human touch lowers blood pressure and stress hormones, so get to touching, it’s SCIENCE.
I love and hate myself a little for this.
4. Check In At Least Three Times A Day
Make sure that you are actually asking her how she is feeling, if nothing else. Not acknowledging that she is sick or not feeling well will make her hate you secretly if not overtly. I know that there is no way that you would intentionally do this, right? You are probably caught up with some task at school or work but it’s important to let her know you’re thinking of her, even if you aren’t.
5. Stay Home With Her
This may not always be realistic, a lot of you have jobs or class that you can barely miss when YOU get sick but if you can swing it this is an extra special gesture.
6. Binge Her Favorite Show With Her
This pairs well with “staying home with her,” there’s nothing like robo-tripping to an all day 30 Rock marathon to bring you closer together.
7. Take Her To The Doctor
There is nothing lousier when you are sick than driving yourself to the doctor. I recently fell ill to The Flu and Natalie had to peel me off the couch and drag me to the doctor between convulsions, if she hadn’t I probably would have suffered immensely and eventually died in a pool of my own tears and vomit. At the end of the day, you might be saving a life.
Cooking for someone else can be an incredibly loving gesture and even more so when that person is literally unable to cook for themselves. She may not eat what you cook and that might hurt your feelings a little, but remember she is sick and you are nursing her back to health like a baby bird or maybe you’re a terrible cook. I don’t really know, I don’t know you but it’s important that you tried.
9. Fetch Things For Her: tissue, ice water, heating pad, etc.
Pro tip – if you see her starting to get up, ask if you can grab something for her.
Do not sit idly while your sick girl hobbles into the kitchen to blot what’s left of her raw bleeding nose into generic paper towels. That is so sad!
10. If you can muster it, interjections like “aww” or phrases like “poor thang” go a long way.
This may be really difficult for some of you stone colders and if you cannot do it, I get it, you have to maintain that exterior at all costs even if that cost is your girlfriend’s sense of well being. But there is nothing like a saccharine acknowledgment from your loved one that she feels your pain that makes everything seem a little less unbearable. That’s what this is really all about.
This is not meant to disparage or make light of any persons or couples dealing with serious or life-threatening illnesses together, my heart goes out to you. This is mainly for you fools with head colds and stomach bugs.
What makes a relationship last? I’ve been with my GFF (girlfriend forever), Natalie, for 10 years as of April 24th 2014, and we are often asked how we got here. In How to Keep a Girl for 10 Years, I will attempt to breakdown the ideological construct of my healthy relationship with the hope that through my experiences, you can build your bridge with fewer casualties!
I got so excited when I saw this was posted lol the celestial hands picture…I was done.
Also, had an ex get poison ivy all over her legs, hands, *and* around her eyes. I snapped out of my ew.omg.no mindset pretty quickly and tried to be the best super girlfriend I could. She spilled some hot chicken soup on her legs while sneaking into the kitchen to dig in the pot before it was done. As if I wasn’t already all -lemme take care of ya-…
nyquil, secret weapon to colds. i take the stuff the moment my throat gets all itchy and i make a big pot of chicken soup to reheat before i feel too crappy to do anything. and when i do get the cold nyquil knocks me the hell out for the night, its like a horse tranquilizer, asking a genuine question, is that enough for my love or am i stingy on the sick loving?
I have a tendency towards bizarre and horrifying illness, so til I figure out my immune system, I’m in the market for a chicken soup maker.
They do tend towards both the bizarre and horrifying. “Pics or it didn’t happen” means I have the pics to back this up.
This was hilarious and I will be laughing forever at that robo-tripping pic. I think the “touch” part is super important. Like, I never understood those people you can hire to cuddle you until now, when I’m dealing with a pretty serious depressive episode in a country that is foreign to me. Forget massage, it would do me a world of good if someone would just put their hand on my back for two seconds. Unfortunately, everyone who would do such a thing for me is across a wide and cold ocean. Cherish your girlfranz
oh god, i know what you mean with regards to touch & the feeling. : ( it is the absolute worst, the depression coupled with needing touch & not being able to get it. i wish you didn’t have to deal with that.
The hardest part of my rtw trip a few years back was realizing that I hadn’t been hugged in eight months. I hope you get your much-needed cuddles soon. :(
I don’t do gifs, but this would be a good time for that one of Jack Donaghy petting Liz with a broom while she is leaning over the toilet.
Good post! Those are great tips really. My wife and I both nurses but it doesn’t mean we’re very ‘nursing’ when it comes to one of us being sick. I think she does a better job though. The cooking thing is a plus, I was like “all i want to eat is a quarter pounder from mcdonalds then for dinner potatoes and soup” and she was on the horn. I think that’s love. Aaaaaaaand when they don’t mind you having a fever so bad you wake up every 2 hours alternately feeling freezing and burning.
I’m from one of those families where unless a limb was visibly hanging off or there was actual evidence of extreme illness (vomit, blood, pustulating tonsils) you were considered to be fit and well. Thus my patience is shorter than my missus’…but I try.
I threw out my back last week, and my girlfriend was ON TOP of Operation Couch Bed. Also fetching.
Oh man I ma a total nurturer when my wife is sick and a total hardcore denyer when I am. The best thing my wife does is make me actually acknowledge being sick and stop trying to power through it.
drugs and hugs are my secret weapon.
I hadn’t seen my signif other for a month and I was excited fora planned visit when he told me he was sick. He made it sound like I shouldn’t visit because he wouldn’t want to do anything. We ate soup and watched GoT and football for 3 days. We were both really grateful for the time spent being lazy, antisocial hermits.
I was sick last weekend, and my girlfriend ROCKED this. A+.
SO TOPICAL RIGHT NOW
Girlfriend or no, I still call my mom every time I get sick
Same here. Always ask her which is the best medicine to take.
When I first got into my current relationship, my problem wasn’t that I didn’t care, it was that I wanted to help somehow but seemed to be incapable of doing much more than sort of uselessly hovering around while making various expressions of sympathetic worry. This is an area of relationshiphood that is VERY important to my gf, however, so I learned fast. All points above are great pieces of concrete advice.
This post was awesome, funny and informative. Kind of a tricky situation, my gf was sick for the first time since we started seeing and i’d like to think i’m nurturing (my mom was), except i suck at cooking and home remedies type-of-stuff. But i can be good with things like couch bed, fetching, touching, etc. Sadly when they still live at home and they’re not out to family, makes it reeaally difficult to care for her :/
wheeeeerrrre was this post literally three weeks ago?
i literally NEVER get sick, and after resigning from my job in preparation for my new one (aka NO HEALTH INSURANCE) i got so sick. cold that devolved into bronchitis (thanks WebMD!), and i literally blamed it on my gf (long story…she also got me super sick before i started my last job, so i thought she hated the idea of me working amongst other things…).
long story short, she took the most amazing care of me (i’m talking soup from scratch, walked the dog every day, L Word marathon [my first ever viewing!], and just all-around crazy nurturing). she then gets sick the week after and i literally said “i can’t be around you: you’ll get me sick again”, and while i made her incredible tea concoctions, i slept at my own house.
while i’d like to consider it self-preservation and being smart, let’s be real: i’m a horrible human. definitely could have used this. although i think i redeemed myself by helping her through a debilitating migraine…
I love this advice! I am currently quite sick, so maybe that’s why this really resonates with me! It’s definitely a wonderful thing when a girlfriend is super supportive when you are sick!
This article was EXCELLENT. I try really hard to take care of my partner when they’re sick, but sometimes I get grumpy…but this article put everything in perspective. =)
My girl takes very good care of me when I’m sick and it makes me feel extra special!! Even when I wake up a few times in the night she wakes too to get my apple juice for me :) ( sorry babe!)