If you're going to be close with someone -- especially if you're going to live with them -- I think it's a good idea to know how you each handle crisis. Do you want to talk it out, cry it out, hug it out, in some other way deal with another person about it? Is primate grooming of fleas the order of the day when the other orders of the day have all been sucky? Or are you going off to your cave by yourself to either lick your wounds or just not think about it? I think we're socially encouraged to think of these things as female and male, in that order, and they aren't. I think we're also supposed to think of the "female" version as the caring version, the considerate version, the emotionally attuned version.*
But forcing someone else to deal with their crisis points in your way is pretty damned insensitive, if you ask me. And sure, a certain amount of communication is necessary for some problems -- "arm crushed by mastodon; fling me red meat in passing for blood replacement" -- but for some people in most situations and most people in some situations, going over and over the problem is not going to help anything.
Not very subtly, I'm talking about timprov here. Those of you who have friended him may notice that you don't get posts about how crappy he feels or how frustrating health stuff has been. This is because he is a cave huddler, not a flea picker. Neither is better or worse. It just means that sometimes we have to remind ourselves to behave in ways that help the other person when it's their bad day. Bringing in a bottle of water, speaking in a calm, matter-of-fact voice and/or making a few light jokes when he can't get out of bed, and then leaving him be makes me feel like a callous heel. Sitting in the same room while we both poke our computers and he whimpers in pain makes me feel like a big jerk. But these things are more considerate of what actually makes him feel better or at least not worse than if I was running around fluffing pillows and moaning about where does it hurt this minute, how 'bout now, how 'bout now. (markgritter is also largely a cave huddler. Happily on the markgritter front, this has been substantially less of an issue, as he has no major muscle groups spasming on a regular basis.)
Very few people are cave huddlers or flea pickers all the time. Some pickers will want to just read for awhile, and some huddlers will want someone to pet their hair and sing them songs from time to time. It's okay to switch over from time to time. What's not okay is trying to insist that the other person has to do it your way. "Be comforted! Be comforted in the way I want to comfort you!" No. Not acceptable.
Anyone who has tips for not feeling like a jerk when ignoring large-scale muscle spasms in a loved one should feel free to share them, though.
*I think the "male" version is supposed to be the "functional" version, the version that "gets stuff done." This is also nonsense.