Marriage and Migraine - The Spouse Perspective
We don't often discuss how migraine impacts marriage. Both people in the relationship are affected by the toll it takes on the person living with migraine. Migraine has a way of wearing a person down. There is a lot of time invested in the management of migraine and in the learning of effective coping mechanisms. As someone who has lived with migraine my entire life, I have had to figure out how to maneuver through life despite being limited by debilitating migraine attacks. I am also a married woman. My disease and how I manage it affects not just me, but my husband and marriage as well.
He has to bear witness to my pain while not being able to stop it from happening in the first place. That is a very powerless position to be in. I know how much he cares for and loves me despite my illness, but have I really taken the time to see how it all affects him? I feel guilty for being the sick wife, although he doesn't give me any reason to. I wanted to get his perspective on how migraine has impacted him and our almost twenty years of marriage.
Shining a spotlight on the caregiver
It isn't very often that the caregivers, spouses, and significant others of people living with migraine are given a spotlight. It was important for me to showcase my husband's voice and experiences in this journey that we are both on. He plays the supportive role which often times keeps him in the background, where I am sure he is quite comfortable. I wanted to honor his commitment and dedication to my well-being, so I sat him down and asked him a few questions that were important to me.
It is my goal to help other spouses feel represented, heard, and supported. Hopefully, by reading my husband's perspective about migraine and marriage it will empower others to stay positive and hopeful.
As a significant other to someone living with migraine disease, how has it impacted you positively and/or negatively? Positively, it has made me sympathetic to people who suffer from chronic and stigmatized illnesses. Negatively, I, along with everyone else that she cares about, have to watch my wife suffer on a regular basis.
What does migraine mean to you? Migraine is a type of medical disorder that causes intense and unbearable pain that debilitates the individual who suffers from it. It’s more than a bad headache.
Does having a chronically ill wife create obstacles in your marriage that you feel wouldn’t be there if I were healthy? Of course.
How do you cope with those obstacles? I feel bad that you have to go through such debilitating pain. That outweighs the fact that I have to cope with you having migraines and that it affects our relationship and lives.
Do you feel like you are supported as a caregiver and spouse? If so, how and if not, how would you want to be supported? At this point, yes. My family and friends support me and my job now supports me with giving me paid family medical leave when I need to take it in order to care for you.
Migraine has been a part of our marriage for twenty years. Over the years it has become like the third person in the relationship. Do you feel as if it has strengthened or weakened our marriage? It’s strengthened our marriage. The things we have gone through lets you know how much I care about you and how much I love you. Just seeing you fight these battles and carrying on being a wife and mother makes me more appreciative of you.
What have you learned about yourself through this journey? That I can endure a lot. I can handle a lot when it comes to your surgeries, ER visits, and hospital stays. I can push through a lot of things.
Are there any coping mechanisms or tips that help you get through the severe and frequent migraine attacks that I experience? I just kind of look at myself as a caregiver during those times. It would be like someone taking care of a child with a disability or illness. It’s the hand I’ve been dealt so I just see it as me taking care of my wife.
Has migraine changed me? If so, how? I wouldn’t know because you have had them since I met you. So, it would be hard to tell since you’ve always had them.
Has migraine changed you and if so, how? Migraine has made me more compassionate to people with chronic illnesses.
What advice or suggestions would you give to other spouses who are in the same role as you? Learn about the disease, it’s that simple.
What improvements would you like to see in the treatment of migraine? I’d like to see a universal acceptance of protocol from the specialists who deal with this illness on a daily basis, so that there’s some type of fast track to treatment when you have these attacks. Some sort of standard of care should be adopted to treat migraine across the board.
Do you feel as though I am getting the treatments I need to help manage my disease? I don’t know. I don’t know what we haven’t tapped into. We have different facilities and specialists across the country who have different ways of doing things, so I wouldn’t know if you were getting the best treatment. So, I can’t be sure.
If there was one misperception about migraine you could change, what would it be? That it’s a bad headache.
What tips do you have to keep a happy, healthy, and successful marriage despite chronic illness? Learn about the illness and just try to focus on who your spouse is when they are not going through a migraine attack. That way you are not looking at your spouse as a person with migraine but rather looking at your spouse as who he or she as a person. Treat an attack like an injury or some type of trauma, like falling off a ladder or getting into a car accident. Look at it that way because in those instances you do not fault the person for being ill. Apply that same frame of thought to being a caregiver to your spouse living with migraine.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?