Ask the authors: Nicole and Sal

"I have concerns with my and my husband's relationship," says Nicole, who has been married to Sal for eight years and was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2004. "I am very accepting of my disease. My husband wants to

think he is, but inside he's not," she shares. "I can't go through life without someone to support me the way that I need to be supported."  

 

"The situation really sucks. When I said, ‘In sickness and health,' I never imagined this," Sal laments. Choked up, he continues, "I didn't sign up for it. I married a woman nine years younger than I. I didn't expect her to be the one who had physical deterioration. I wanted her to be the one to take care of me when I got old."

 

Nicole's illness puts pressure on their marriage. "My husband and I argue about my disease. There may be something he wants to do, and I don't feel good. He just doesn't understand," she says. "I could use a lot of help with everyday things. I have a hard time walking. I have 13 stairs to go up and down with each basket of laundry. Sometimes, I'm so exhausted I need to go to bed before my kids do. I'll ask him to put the kids to bed. He'll think that I just want to not deal with it."


Sal admits his emotions get the best of him. "When we're arguing, there are things that I say that I regret " 'Get over it. Toughen up. Give me a friggin' break,'" he says. "It's hard. Sometimes, I'll do whatever it takes, and it won't bother me at all, and other days, I can't deal with it."

 

Sal is also having a difficult time accepting how the disease has changed Nicole. "My wife was a lot different when I married her. She was a very vivacious, bubbly, energetic woman, and she's not anymore," he says, tears welling up in his eyes. "Intimacy is a big problem. She's tired all the time."

 

Nicole wants a change in their relationship. "If we don't get this taken care of now, I can see our marriage being in jeopardy," she worries.

"Are you angry about this?" Dr. Phil asks Sal. 

"Certainly, it's not fair. It's not fair at all," he says.

 

"Do you guys talk about this openly?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I don't think we talk about how it's put a damper on our relationship," Nicole says.

"What do you argue about?" Dr. Phil asks.

"A lot of times, she's just too physically tired to participate in things that I want to do or the family wants to do, and it causes friction," Sal explains.

 

"Do you get that that's an involuntary thing, or do you think that she uses it manipulatively?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"Sometimes, I think that if it's something that she wants to do, that she could get her way through it," Sal says.

Dr. Phil explains that Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune-based neurological disease that causes damage to the central nervous system. Some of the many problems and symptoms include: fatigue, pain and numbness. "Do you use this manipulatively?" he asks Nicole.


"No," she says.

Referring to Sal's comment that he wants his wife to, ‘Just get over it,' Dr. Phil asks, "How unreasonable is that?"

"When you put it in that context, Doctor, yes, it does seem extremely unreasonable," he says.

"You say, 'Toughen up. Give me a friggin' break here.' That doesn't seem like the kind of, ''Til death do us part. In sickness and in health,' kind of attitude," Dr. Phil says.

 

"I do whatever I have to do, and I accept the situations that the disease brings forward, but it builds up," Sal says. He says things get worse when he has a stressful day at work. "That might trigger a response that isn't deserved."

"You haven't written her off because of this disorder?" Dr. Phil asks.

"No, not all," Sal says.

"I know he'll be there for the long haul," Nicole adds. "We need a way to cope with it. We don't know anybody else in this situation. He has nobody else to speak to."