Why do women over-function in the face of illness, and why do men sometimes under-function?
Surviving the Man Cold
This year’s flu season has been rough. With viruses like Covid, RSV, flu, and the common cold running rampant, we might be playing pass the Kleenex for another couple of months. Here’s the question: Why do the same viruses often affect people so differently?
Yep, we’re talking about the “man cold,” and it needs no further introduction. In fact, when I googled “man cold” there were over five billion search results. It’s so ubiquitous that the term officially appears in both the Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries. Not that I need Google to tell me that the man cold is real… as is the wife’s very irritated response to it.
I remember meeting a friend once who was obviously under the weather — her puffy eyes, pale skin, and croaky voice told me everything. “Shevy, go home and go straight to bed!” I implored.
“I can’t,” she croaked. “I’m meeting the plumber in ten minutes at the supply store.”
I did a double take. “What? That’s crazy! Can’t your husband take care of it?”
“He’s been in bed with a man cold for four days. He’s sleeping — except for when he wants tea, soup, a magazine, a sefer, the heat up, the heat down… you know how it is,” she said, her eyes glazing over.
As a marriage and family therapist, I try not to incite frustration, so despite my deeply ingrained annoyance toward the man cold, I just said, “Refuah sheleimah! Sounds like he has it really bad.” She nodded, looking like she wanted to say a million things, and that’s when I noticed she had four kids in tow, all in varying degrees of health, and she was carrying her teaching bag.
Why do women over-function in the face of illness, and why do men sometimes under-function, and how can we not get totally annoyed at our spouse for four months a year when winter sickness prevails?
Why do man colds exist? Turns out, men and women actually do experience sickness differently. A Harvard Medical School study found that women’s immune/antibody response to the flu vaccine is higher, and that men take twice as long to recover from flu (3 days vs. 1.5 days). While we don’t know all the reasons, it does seem that men experience the flu differently, just like they have different responses from women to coronary artery disease, lupus, osteoporosis, and depression. Estrogen also seems to positively affect recovery from the flu.
Still, logic doesn’t necessarily do much to quell the frustration you may feel when hubby is in bed, dysfunctional and moaning, when you have the same flu and are still functioning at full capacity.
Proper communication principles are important, even when hubby has a man cold. Showing compassion and understanding when a spouse is ill can not only influence a happier recovery, but can have long-term positive effects on the marriage. It can be hard to exhibit total empathy toward a sick husband, especially when you’re sick, too, and have to fully function, but try to keep these ideas in mind:
There seems to be biological proof that women have stronger immune responses than men.
If G-d forbid, we were bedridden and felt very sick, we would want to be cared for with love and compassion.
Don’t be caustic or rejecting; you don’t want your hub to emerge out of his fog to a cold war of disconnection and resentments. If compassion feels impossible, aim — at least — for neutral.
Take care of yourself! Certainly if you’re sick, but even if you aren’t. When one spouse is under the weather, some priorities will need to shift. Housekeeping may take a hit and Shabbos may have to be super simple, because keeping sane and healthy needs to take precedence.
We can also be grateful that Hashem in His infinite wisdom created women to generally have a great immune response (hello, estrogen), incredible pain tolerance (hello, childbirth), and an extra dose of binah to intuit when and how to nurture. Can someone please pass the Kleenex?
Abby Delouya, RMFT-CCC, CPTT is a licensed marriage and individual therapist with a specialty in trauma and addiction.
“Remember that when you take your first step into the life of your dreams, the first thing to meet you there will be fear. Nod. Keep walking.”
There is so much wisdom in this small excerpt — three brilliant thoughts.
First, know that fear is inevitable. Any time we embark on anything worthwhile there will be a certain amount of fear. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth being scared about. Every major decision, by definition, will contain elements of risk and will come along with a healthy dose of fear. We can erroneously think that if this were the right decision, we wouldn’t be afraid. But that’s not necessarily true. Even the most correct decision can be hard, and the fear is a measure of the weight of the decision, not of its legitimacy.
Second, nod. Acknowledge the fear. Thank it for making you think about how important this is and for helping you turn over the pros and the cons. Thank it for helping you make wise decisions. Acknowledge that healthy fear is indicative of a thinking mind and be grateful to Hashem for the powers of discernment.
And, finally, keep walking. Don’t let the fear paralyze you. Recognize that there is important work to be done and decisions to be made, in your life and in the world at large. Know that debilitating fear can be the work of the yetzer hara, who doesn’t want to see us reach our full beauty and potential. Walk toward your dream knowing that obstacles may come up, and that they are just that — obstacles. They’re not an indication that you’re on the wrong path.
Embrace the fear as a glorious shard in the kaleidoscope of human emotions and move past it to leave your unique mark in This World.
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed therapist, Directed Dating coach and certified Core Mentor.
Stop and Smell the Perfume
The beginning stage of a decision-making process is hard because there’s tension between the two sides. The tension is necessary because it causes us to grow. But in the end it often pays off. Chazal tell us in Maseches Yoma that we are zocheh to siyata d’Shamya in the later stages of decision making.
Chazal compare a person who wants to make a bad decision to someone who comes to a store for kerosene and the owner says, “Sure, but it’s self-service.” Then a person goes to buy perfume and the owner says, “Wait for me to measure out the perfume for you, so we can both enjoy the wonderful smell together.”
When we put effort into a good decision, we are zocheh to siyata d’Shmaya, because Hashem wants to help us and kiveyachol share in the pleasure of our good decision.
Dina Schoonmaker has been teaching in Michlalah Jerusalem College for over 30 years. She gives women’s vaadim and lectures internationally on topics of personal development.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 828)
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