Marriage and Migraine: Striving to Make It Work

After two decades of marriage, and most of it with migraine playing a role, my husband and I continue to strive to find new ways to navigate the condition together and separately. It’s an ongoing journey and a challenge to ensure that the disease doesn’t become a centerpiece of our lives. Or worse, a weed in our symbolic garden that threatens our future.

Finding time together

Finding ways to connect and spend time together can be an enormous challenge when one partner has chronic migraine. Migraineurs often need to be in quiet, darkened rooms, with little stimulation, while we maneuver through the intense pain of an attack. It is very difficult to interact with others when managing severe pain and related symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

My husband never sits still. He is constantly on the go, juggling multiple tasks and capable of doing whatever he puts his mind to. He is a marathoner who has renovated our house, built decks, done landscaping, and on and on.

Leading separate lives

For us, our starkly different realities began to lead to the completely logical, but unhealthy dynamic of spending very little time together. I wanted (and encouraged) him to pursue healthy experiences. I didn’t want him to be holed up with me in a dark room while I muscled through attack after attack. At every turn, I pushed him to get out of the house, pursue his passions, and spend time with friends. Meanwhile, he lovingly came through for our kids– taking them to sporting events and family gatherings, transporting them all over town, whenever I was unable to take the lead of come along. He has always been attentive and wanting to know how I am faring from day to day, but when the answer is the same, day after day, that can get old.

We started realizing that our time together had dwindled to barely anything. But how do we address that when I am incapable of participating in so much of a normal life?

Seeking common interests

Because my husband loves being outside, and because we recently got a new dog, I took to joining him in doing some light landscaping and clearing trails outside. Even though it involves pushing myself slightly from time to time, doing so provides a way for us to spend time together doing something we both love. It gives us time to talk and laugh and just be. And in so doing, we remember how much we enjoy each other’s company.

I tend to spend more time inside, watching TV, cooking, playing with our pets, and doing crafts and house projects. To meet me halfway in my more quiet existence, my husband joins me every Sunday afternoon for a couple of hours. No matter how I’m doing, we carve out that time together.  Hopefully, I’m in good enough shape to join him out and about, but if not, and even if I’m very ill, he’ll sit with me in a dark room and read a book, or we’ll cook a meal or watch a quiet movie at home together. This helps us stay in touch and connected.

Setting new goals

Our ongoing goal is to have a healthy connection and positive daily interactions despite the fact that one of us is battling a fairly constant health challenge. One thing is for certain, the target is always moving, and the goal is never met. Marriage is not easy and migraine adds many layers of complication. Just like in any marriage, it’s an ongoing journey to keep our union as the centerpiece of our lives, to prioritize one another, to remain connected and to continue communicating. Marriage doesn’t just happen. It has to be tended to, like a garden, and it takes focus and care in order to stay alive and well.

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