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.