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If your spouse has migraine

Top Ten Things You Should Know if Your Spouse Has Chronic Migraine

#1) Migraine is much more than a headache. In fact, for many of us, it is migraine’s other symptoms (the dizziness, blurred vision, trouble talking, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and noise and light sensitivity) that are the most disabling.

#2) We’re tired, so, so tired. The kind of tired that only other chronically ill people and/or parents of newborns can fully understand. The kind of tired where, on our hardest days, getting out of bed and taking a shower takes almost all the energy we have.  (To really understand what we’re experiencing, read up on the four phases of a migraine and the migraine hangover.)

#3) It isn’t as simple as taking a pill. Sometimes, medications work. Sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes they work for a while, and then stop working. Almost always, they have significant side effects that may or may not keep us from taking them. Finding a treatment plan that works and keeps working can be a time consuming, arduous process, and it’s nearly impossible to find one that works all the time.

#4) Our pet peeves include the questions “How are you feeling?” and “Do you have a migraine?” The truth is, for us chronic migraineurs, the answers to both are almost always “horrible” and “of course.” We hate being reminded of this, especially when we are sick more days than not. Instead, considering asking, “What can I do to help?” or “Is there anything you need right now?” You and your spouse might also try to work out a system for some kind of signal. My hands always get very cold when I’m having a migraine, so I wear a particular pair of fingerless gloves around the house when I’m in the midst of an attack. This helps my husband and kids know/remember that I may need some extra help, and keeps me from having to answer those two dreaded questions.

#5) That grimace isn’t about you. Promise. Are we glaring at you or in your direction? We might be. Do we look miserable or like we’re just not having any fun? Well, we aren’t. But, it isn’t about you. We’re just plain miserable. Try keeping a smile on your face while an invisible forces drives an ice pick into your temple repeatedly, the world spins, and you feel as nauseated as a cancer patient. Can’t do it? Well, your spouse can’t either. But, it isn’t about you. Please, please try not to take it personally (and take special note of #10 below).

#6) We miss our old lives. There are a lot of changes that chronic migraine forces upon us. Some are good. Others are not. Many, like giving up a favorite outdoor activity or food because it is now a trigger, can leave us grieving for the person we used to be, the life we used to lead. This is normal and it often fades in time, but it isn’t easy.

#7) We feel guilty. Terribly, terribly guilty. For canceling plans. For needing time to recover. For telling you “no” (to dates, sex, vacations, etc.). And, of course, for being sick. Those of us with chronic migraine know this is pointless. We know we cannot change the fact that we are sick, but it doesn’t matter. We still, all of us, fall – at least occasionally – into the guilt pit. And, this is a terrible, terrible place to be. It makes us feel weak, scared, and like we’re not good enough.

#8) We worry. We worry about money (especially if we’ve had to reduce our income due to disability), about the impact our illness has on our families, about increased stroke risks, and side effects. Add to that the fact that migraine is often comorbid with anxiety and depression, and we probably worry more than is healthy.

#9) You cannot fix #7 or #8. You can, however, make it better (or, at least, commit to not making it worse). When we have to prioritize our health needs over everything else, please say: “I love you.” “I’m here for you.” “I understand.” Bonus points if you can honestly thank us for taking care of ourselves.

#10) We still love you. Really. Truly. No matter how long it has been since we’ve been able to stay up all night talking or making love. No matter if we can’t eat an entire meal without lapsing into pained silence. We still love you. And, if you’ve managed to live side by side with us through our worst attacks without making us feel guilty for the million ways in which you’re being neglected (of which, I promise, we are well aware, see #7 above), you’re probably loved even more than you were before the attacks began. Even if it doesn’t always seem like it. Even if it doesn’t always feel like it. You are loved. I promise.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • STYLZg
    4 months ago

    Just wanted to really thank you for this article, it has shed alot of light on my marriage. Me and my wife have been married for 13 years, and we are currently in a disagreement due to her chronic migraines and headaches, and like your article stated, I guess I do feel a little neglected from time to time, but reading your words really gave me a whole new motivation for my wife. So thank you for this, I really appreciate it.

  • bluebird
    2 years ago

    Thank you for the putting this together. I would like to offer a change to#5:
    Sometimes what is disabling is not “ice pick pain” but the loss of the ability to think and to speak, or the onset of clumsiness that makes functioning safely impossible. Phases of irritability and word finding difficulties can make communication impossible with the grace and mindful speech available on a good day. And then there is the need to shut down. These kinds of challenges to relationships are painful too.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    2 years ago

    Absolutely! I too have a hard time communicating when I’m in the midst of a severe attack. Thank you for your addition, as we all experience our symptoms differently.

  • Candy
    2 years ago

    This is perfect. Sometimes it’s so hard to articulate what’s going on in the midst of it, and when you feel okay (which is rare) the LAST thing you want to talk about is your illness. This is great, and I’ll definitely be sending it along to my family. My husband has been amazingly supportive, but I know it’s hard.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    2 years ago

    A supportive spouse is such a blessing! I’m glad you have one, Candy! And yes, I always feel it helps when someone else can express what I’m feeling. I’m glad you found the article helpful, and I hope your family does as well. Thanks for reading!

  • John1381
    3 years ago

    Thank you so much for helping me articulate how I feel. I am in tears writing this. I am a 48 year old man luckily with the kindest warmest wife anyone can wish for but I still feel desperate. Chronic migraine,I hate it. So sorry for all who are suffering.


  • Sarah Hackley author
    2 years ago

    John, I’m glad to hear my words helped you. I love knowing we’re not alone, and this community is a such a blessing in this regard. It’s wonderful to hear you have a warm spouse who understands. Stay strong together – you are much more than your illness – and I know your wife knows that too. Thank you for reading!

  • Steve Lloyd
    5 years ago

    From the male point of view, this almost fits my experiences also. When our boys were growing up, my wife was the one that took them to Disneyland & Knotts as I couldn’t face the unknown of when a migraine episode would appear. She was also the one that several times a month ended up in the ER with me for a shot of Toradol when the Imitrex injections didn’t phase my migraine ( usually at 2am ). Thankfully, the real bad ones have subsided and we are ready to celebrate 40 years together. Faith, family & understanding are a big part of that.

  • Abby
    5 years ago

    Sarah, thank you SO much for writing this. I’ve been hoping and praying for something like this. There are many great articles on this site, and many like this — but geared more towards friends or general public awareness. Having the list geared towards our spouses is EXACTLY what I needed. Their experience with us is different than everyone else; more intimate, more wrapped up in our own existence. The guilt we feel with them is SO much more intense than with others, especially if they’ve stuck with us for many years and often times not “having signed up for it” at the beginning of the relationship. I cried reading this because it’s exactly how I feel. I cried because I wish others didn’t feel this way, and that this article relates to too many of us. The tears in my eyes couldn’t stop after #7 and #10 as they perfectly encapsulated me. Thank you so much for this. Thank you.

  • Beth
    5 years ago

    Thank you so much!! The other day I tried to explain to hubby what was going on and I couldn’t. I had a stress test and because I can’t run, they gave me a shot. Instant migraine!! Thankfully, he was driving…but I tried to tell him and couldn’t do anything other than cry. I don’t think he understands at all!! And he works in a local hospital in the ER!! He says that I should just keep going thru it. I’m going to have him read this, maybe he’ll understand??

  • Rhonda
    5 years ago

    This is sooooo true. I just read it to my husband and I read the last one and I say aahhhh and cried. It was a happy cry because someone else felt and was able to articulate all I feel.

    – Rhonda

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago


    Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad I was able to write something that resonated so strongly with others. It helps us all feel like we aren’t alone.

    Warm regards,


  • Crystalrz4
    5 years ago

    Thank you! I can’t stop crying. You have said so eloquently all the things I wish I could have, but I become so fuddle-brained I can’t always find ways to express this to those around me.

    I have had four small-ish strokes due to my migraines and many other problems as I’m sure we all have.

    I’ve been Chronic Daily since 1989. I’ve been married to my husband since 1985 and he’s still with me.

    Thank you for all of this. I’ll be sending it to my friends and family.


  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago


    Thank you for your kind words. That is exactly why I wrote it. I too find it difficult to speak about these things, especially to those I love and especially in the midst of a migraine attack. Hopefully, by sharing our stories with each other and our loved ones, we can make life a little easier for us all. I hope you find relief soon. Warm regards, Sarah

  • ocprgmr
    5 years ago

    Thank you for writing this!

    I think anyone spending a significant time around someone with a chronic illness should read this.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    Thank you for reading. Warm regards, Sarah

  • sarals
    5 years ago

    I wish my ex would have considered even a FEW of these when we were married. He claimed to get migraines himself. He just became very angry and bitter if I had one and would yell at me to go to bed. He ended up leaving me partially due to my migraines. I took care of him for 6 months recovering from back surgery and raised his 3 kids for 5 years, but no sympathy or caring when I was ill. Funny when the shoe is on the other foot sometimes.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    I’m so sorry you faced such adversity and lack of understanding in your life with your ex. I hope you find happiness and health in your new life. Wishing you all the best, Sarah.

  • maxgordon
    5 years ago

    My partner understands these things. My son, however, has more trouble with it. While he understands cognitively that all these things are true, he is at the age (15) where he is a pushme-pullyu, and needs to feel that he is loved and valued…but on his own terms and timeline. So when something beyond his (and my) control affects this, he sometimes feels abandoned, let down, or ignored. When he was very small, I stayed awake (one eye open) through everything I could, which meant I was “there,” but perhaps only half-engaged (even playing Legos was hard work); now the headaches are worse and more frequent, and I sometimes have to be away from everything and everyone, and I know it is hard for him. I try to make up for it when I don’t have a headache, but that is so rare…

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    Getting our children to understand is difficult, I know. I have an 11-year-old daughter and a 19-month-old son, and each age has its difficulties and demands. My daughter isn’t quite a teenager yet, but she also feels let down and ignored by my illness at times, especially considering how much of my limited energy I have to spend on her brother. Just do what you can and know that your son will understand eventually. 15 is a very, very hard age. Thankfully, you have a partner who understands. That is worth so very much. Here’s hoping you find relief soon. Warm regards, Sarah

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