Where Logic Meets Love

Why Don't YOU Try Living with Mono?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

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Why Don't YOU Try Living with Mono? | Faith Permeating Life
In our household, the phrase "Why don't you..." is banned.

I'll admit that I can be overly sensitive sometimes about the way things are worded. Mike has accepted this and says he doesn't mind saying something differently if it's going to make the difference of whether I get upset or not. In this case, though, I think that this change has actually had a profound impact on the tone of our conversations about sensitive topics.

The problem, simply, is that "Why don't you..." is generally used to introduce a suggestion, whereas I hear it, literally, as a question. My brain apparently has trouble bringing in a "Why" question and producing anything other than a "Because" answer.

Meaning that if you'd asked me two weeks ago, "Why don't you go back to the doctor?" giving that I'm going into my sixth month of chronic fatigue, I would have answered, "Because mono is viral, so I don't feel like paying $15 to have my doctor tell me to continue to rest and drink fluids and let time heal my body."

On the other hand, if you'd substituted Mike's magical phrase and asked me, "Have you considered going back to the doctor?" you would have gotten a much different response. Yes, I've considered it. I consider it every morning when I wake up and don't think I can get myself out of bed, every time I come home from work and collapse on the couch, every time I fall asleep at 7 o'clock at night. Every time someone tells me a horror story of being misdiagnosed with mono and I remember that I was only diagnosed on my symptoms. I wonder if maybe there's something more I could be doing, or at least some new information I can tell all the people who keep asking, "When will you get better?"

As it were, I did go to the doctor a week ago and got the blood test that proves that I have mono and have had it for some time. My doctor added vitamin B and a probiotic to the collection of pills I'm already taking every morning, and he told me about a roommate of his in college who had mono for three years. And somehow I feel better being able to say that YES, I have mono, and NO, I don't know when I'll be better and neither does my doctor.

In any case, I think how a suggestion is put forward can make a huge difference in the conversation. "Why don't you..." makes assumptions. I assume you haven't done this. I assume that the cause of your problem stems from your not having done this. I assume that this is a good option for you because I assume that I know best.

"Have you considered..." is an invitation into the conversation. Have you done this already? Have you thought about it? What are your thoughts on it? Do you think this would be a good option for you?

In a marriage, especially, where (I believe) decisions should be made jointly and power shared equally, it makes a big difference when you don't try to imply that you know best.

Or maybe I'm just weird. :)


  1. Jessica, I got mono when I was 19 and literally did not get completely over it for almost 2 yrs. My kidneys even shut down. It was the 1st time I had ever been bored enough to do a 1000 piece puzzle. I read and read and slept and slept and peed. That was it. So if I hear that someone has mono I always say, well, don't expect them to be able to do more than sit up and whimper for the next yr.


  2. @Anonymous
    Jennifer, thanks for sharing your experience, and yikes, it sounds like you had it much worse than I did. I'm so thankful to finally have my strength back and I think it made me more appreciative of things like being able to walk up two flights of stairs without collapsing. It's always nice to hear from someone who understands just how terrible mono is because I felt like some people I knew were pretty unsympathetic. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! :)

  3. I completely agree with you, and I think it's brilliant. Sometimes I feel defensive and a little guilty when I bristle at something someone says, because usually it's a phrase that plays into some kind of anti-feminist stereotype, or just something that alienates people, and it immediately puts me on my guard. If I feel that I must say something about how what they said upset me, then I try to do in the most diplomatic way possible--but not everyone is willing to say, "Oh, yeah, maybe that came out wrong"--usually it's, "Oh, lighten up, I was only joking, etc" which is total gas-lighting. If what you say upsets someone, even if you didn't mean to upset them, you are still responsible for what you said and the fact it upset them. My boyfriend has been very gracious and has agreed to change the way he says things because of this, and for that I love him all the more, because he doesn't make me feel like some deranged loony-bin-escapee waving my feminist flag from atop a soapbox.

  4. @Charcoal Renderings
    That's great that your boyfriend is willing to change his language, like Mike has. It's a kind and respectful thing to do, even if you don't completely understand the other person's reaction. I agree with what you said, that "If what you say upsets someone, even if you didn't mean to upset them, you are still responsible for what you said and the fact it upset them." This is exactly what I talked about in my post on healthy arguments, that your goal in resolving an argument should never be to prove that the other person's feelings are irrational and wrong!

    I do have some sympathy for people who say, "I was only joking" because it's a mechanism for saving face when you're embarrassed that you've said something to upset someone. It doesn't necessarily mean you think the other person is overemotional/crazy, although it can sound that way. But it's definitely not the best reaction, and I wish more people (myself included) were comfortable admitting fault and apologizing.

    Thanks so much for your comment!


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