What if my partner’s bleeding episode is his fault?

It's crucial to extend compassion, not blame, when hemophilia bleeding occurs

Alliah Czarielle avatar

by Alliah Czarielle |

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When a spouse or partner has a bleeding disorder like hemophilia, occasionally there may be situations that make us wonder if they are at fault for an injury they’re battling.

Perhaps they went beyond their maximum physical capacity in sports or at work. Maybe they got caught up in a game with friends and became overly competitive. Or perhaps they haven’t been following their medication schedule as strictly as we’d like them to. (Note my use of the word “we” here!)

In the logical part of our brains, we may think we know exactly what caused the injury. We may then feel perplexed as to why our partners don’t seem to realize it. As such, we may feel a strong urge to scold them about what they did (or didn’t) do — something that may come across as the all-too-familiar partner nagging.

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The origin of this feeling

It’s natural for us to want the best for the people we love. That said, it can be disappointing to see a loved one in pain — especially when we feel like we can’t do anything about it.

The human brain thrives when it feels in control of what it’s experiencing. Having a healthy sense of control encourages one to feel safe and protected. On the other hand, the feeling of losing control can lead to anxiety and depression.

Likewise, we’re also wired to seek closure. Because our brains often focus on unfinished tasks, or “open loops,” we tend to obsess over seeking satisfactory answers to open questions. This phenomenon is known as the Zeigarnik effect.

Finding something to blame (or casting it on someone else) may seem like a convenient way to resolve the inconvenient mysteries that endlessly play in our heads. But there is a dark side to it.

When we blame others — especially our partners — we drive a wedge between us and them. The human brain interprets blame the same way it interprets a physical attack. When we’re blamed, our brains direct all our energy to defending ourselves. The person being blamed may then opt to distance themselves, which is the complete opposite of what we intended.

Why there’s no point in pointing fingers

When your partner has an injury — whatever the reason — remember: They didn’t do it on purpose. Take it from my husband: Bleeds are extremely painful and debilitating. He’d do everything in his power to prevent one from happening.

Your partner is an adult capable of making their own choices. By now, they must also be quite knowledgeable about any consequences that may follow. Remember that they’ve lived in their body for many years. They know which activities are likely to trigger bleeds based on years of experience.

It’s only human to make mistakes sometimes. More likely than not, your partner has already realized their mistake by the time the consequences roll around.

My husband reminds me that the pain he feels during a bleeding episode is a sufficient reminder that he may need to do something differently next time. Occasionally, however, he’ll have unprovoked (spontaneous) bleeding episodes that have no identifiable cause. In such cases, we just need to ride it out and let it pass.

There’s really no point in pointing fingers!

Responding with compassion

Whenever my husband has a bleed, regardless of its cause, I try to remember that he’s already going through a hard time. Connection and compassion matter more than ever.

The damage is done, and what he needs now is someone who can support him through recovery. Instead of obsessing over what happened in the past, we should do our best to move forward.

Once the whole struggle is over, we might have a constructive conversation about how he can be more careful next time. Sometimes reminders are necessary, in which case, a gentle one delivered out of care will suffice.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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