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Navigating Migraines with Your Partner

Finding and maintaining balance in any relationship can be challenging, but when chronic migraine is at play, both partners must work harder to achieve a healthy outcome. Regardless of our desire for chronic migraine to have little impact on our primary relationship, its ramifications can be far-reaching. It becomes key to educate our partners about what we’re up against so they’re better equipped to support us; and likewise for us to seek ways to support them as the condition can inadvertently have a negative impact on their lives.

No doubt, it’s tough stuff. To watch a loved one in pain every day and be powerless to stop it; to see them struggle with nausea and vomiting; to take in their sensitivity to lights, sounds, smells; to have to cancel plans at the last second because they are suddenly ill; not to be able to make plans; not to be able to live in a whimsical way; to have travel be a challenge; and on and on. Chronic migraines can impact our loved ones in countless ways. Perhaps they are put in a position of having to fill in frequently on tasks that aren’t their normal responsibilities (driving kids, making dinner, yard work, etc.). Migraines ask our partners to be patient, supportive, flexible, and kind-hearted.

Many people with migraines struggle with the difficult reality of an unsupportive spouse or partner who doesn’t understand or believe in the serious nature of the condition. This situation may cause spouses and partners to act out in anger out of sheer ignorance and frustration about how much the condition asks of them.  To have the person closest to you question your experience and not provide the support you need is difficult, especially when you are already battling frequent and severe pain.

If this is your experience, do your best to get support elsewhere first- be it from friends or other family members. It’s key to have a support system to help you navigate life with migraine. Think about ways you can help your partner understand. Use migraine.com for online support and to educate yourself and your partner about migraine. It’s an effective way to show others that you are not alone. Find articles that resonate with your experience and forward them to your circle to help educate your loved one about what you’re going through. Finding a headache specialist is another great step. If you can find a doctor in your area who can diagnose and provide you with the care you need, you will be on good footing from a treatment standpoint and you also might be able to have your partner join you for an appointment or two to get some help in educating him/her about the condition.

If you are lucky enough to have a partner who comprehends what migraines are and does his/her best to support you, you may be feeling your own sense of guilt about how the condition is negatively impacting his/her quality of life. This has been my journey and I’ve learned a lot over the course of nearly 20 years of marriage about how to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship.

Just as with any relationship, communication is key. Keeping your loved one abreast of evolving challenges and progress on a daily basis and asking him/her to do the same will keep you current as to how you can best provide each other with the support you need.

When your migraines prevent you from taking part in social situations such as dinner parties with friends, sporting events or music concerts, it removes one of the primary ways that many partners connect and nourish their relationships. This can be a real downer. In my experience, it helps neither of us if I ask him to miss out on the fun just because I have to. The last thing I want to feel is that I am hampering the freedom and fun of my husband.

To this end, my husband and I focus on our family and putting love first, but also encourage each other to pursue our passions. I want him to pursue social activities regardless of my ability to come along. I also fully support his pursuit of other hobbies outside the home (he’s a marathoner). It’s not lost on me that living with and around a loved one in chronic pain can be a hard reality and so it’s of utmost importance that he has some healthy outlets in his life.  It’s not a perfect solution as he misses having my companionship when he heads out to a dinner with our friends or to attend an event, and I definitely hate missing the chance to go with him. We both miss the days that we could host dinner parties and be more social together but we’ve come to accept our reality rather than to constantly feel upset about it. He sends me pictures or texts from the event so I can feel like I’m there with him. And when he comes home from any outing he always tells me all about where he’s been, what happened, and who he saw.

In turn, he encourages me to find ways to be fulfilled socially, even if in nontraditional ways. I try to plan weekly time with friends or family, one-on-one, in a quiet restaurant or at my house. I go for walks when I can, which my husband wholeheartedly supports. We enjoy family dinners most evenings which give us a chance to connect and catch up on the day.

The truth is that when you put the fulfillment and happiness of your partner in the forefront of your mind, it can end up benefiting you. A happy person is someone much more likely to generously offer love and support, after all.

Every marriage and partnership is different. What works for us might not work for others, but in our case, ensuring we both feel supported and encouraged to pursue our own dreams and healthy outlets has enabled us to keep one another as our primary focus. Adherence to this belief system releases my sense of guilt and fear that migraine has ruined our lives or taken it over as a draining centerpiece. Instead, at the core of our marriage is positivity, love, support and encouragement.

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

Comments

  • cknowles72
    2 years ago

    Hi! I am dating and found trouble with letting someone know about my migraines I chronicle my struggles in my blog : mymigraine.blog/2017/11/17/dating-in-distress/

    Your post was encouraging!

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi cknowles72- i’m so glad this article resonated with you though I think your article is getting at something different in speaking to the struggle related to dating with migraine. I wonder if you’d seen this article on our site: https://migraine.com/blog/five-tips-dating-chronic-migraine/

    Clearly it’s a topic that could use more attention! Thanks for your comment and glad you’re a part of our community! Warmly, Holly B. (migraine.com team).

  • migrainestl
    3 years ago

    What a great article! I went chronic just 3mo after marrying my husband 5yrs ago. We have a great relationship, but communication is the key as well as making each other a priority.

    We also encourage each other’s hobbies (his working out & doing Brazilian jiu jitsu….mine vary depending on my illness). He has his friends & I mine & we try to give each other time/space to do what we enjoy. We also date still….instead of concerts & bar hopping it’s quiet meals during the day or maybe a movie.

    At our worst point after having our first child my husband told me he doesn’t know how sick I am because I hide it. That was eye opening & for the next months I would regularly give him an update throughout theday of my pain levels on a scale of 1-10. That was probably the best thing we did for our relationship in regards to my health. Now 3yrs later he is so much more in tune w/ how I’m feeling just by looking at me or observing my actions. But I still choose to communicate clearly how I feel when I need his help.

  • DonnaFA moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Migrainetl, Communication, active engagement, flexibility and lots and lots of work are vital to any relationship, and even more so when there are extra challenges.thanks for being here and for sharing these wonderful tips. – Warmly, Donna (Migraine.com team)

  • chaselife
    3 years ago

    Great article, I shall pass onward to my partner. He never reads them, but…
    I have a question, it reasonates with this conversation. I become excitable, dreaming, wild, day before a very bad migraine that may last 1-3 days, then there is the depression that follows from the fighting because I become unrelenting, angry. Just this second he tells me oh going to get hair cut I will bring carpet samples back. Well I get up to ready the house, the dog to go for walk so we can spend the aft together. He says oh I forgot even though it was planned everyday for several days now. Yelling after I asked to be taking to hospital yesterday migraine was in bearable meds non working. How do we go on like this. I am dependent on him for everything on disability but the fighting the non caring about my illness makes my dislike everything.

  • Holly Baddour moderator author
    3 years ago

    Shade- thank you so much for sharing your experience. What you describe is so very normal! The prodrome and postdrome effects of migraine can sometimes be just as significant as the migraines themselves (mood swings, exhaustion, irritability). Just as you outline above, migraines can really cause stress on relationships above and beyond the normal everyday challenges that everyone faces. How to navigate those difficulties when you are dealing with a serious neurological condition is tough and one that has to be sorted through with your particular partner as every relationship is so different. Sending him the article is a great step. If he doesn’t tend to read them, perhaps you could print it out and discuss it in person?

    Have you ever considered seeing a couples counselor? Sometimes these issues are just too complex to try to sort out alone and a third party can help loosen up the areas that are stuck between you.

    Another option is to invite him to attend an upcoming appointment with your migraine specialist (if you have one – and if you don’t, consider getting one, as a specialist is the best equipped doctor to assist you with this condition).

    Here are some articles that might be helpful for you to check out:
    https://migraine.com/blog/what-is-a-migraine-prodrome/
    https://migraine.com/blog/wading-postdrome/
    https://migraine.com/blog/looking-for-a-migraine-specialist/

    Thinking of you- holly baddour (moderator/patient advocate- migraine.com)

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