Migraine affects all the members of a family, not just the person suffering the pain although they, of course, bear the brunt. Marriages are weakened if not lost, children can become resentful and confused (even believing they’re to blame for the illness), and friendships can crack under the disappointment of broken promises and missed social events.
And beneath it all, is pain. More pain than most people can imagine. When the emotional toll is added to the physical burden, the weight of suffering can become unbearable.
Finding ways to communicate with partners or spouses is vital since understanding how the other feels, and what they need, helps prevent second-guessing and misunderstandings.
Be Aware of Mood Swings
One of the reasons why communication is so important is that migraineurs often experience mood swings during attacks, and this is confusing for partners. You may feel short tempered and snippy because you’re in pain, but your partner can’t see pain and may interpret your temper as directed at them. This leads to frustration and returned snippiness, which the migraineur sees as impatience directed at them for being sick yet again. You can see the vicious cycle this creates, and all because neither partner really understood what the other was thinking or feeling.
Try to talk about how migraine can affect your temper when you’re feeling well, rather than when you’re in the grip of pain. If your partner can appreciate from the start that your short temper is caused by trying to cope with pain, they can respond in a more sympathetic way and give the help you need to recover faster.
Recognize the Effect Your Migraine Has on a Partner
Even though the pain belongs to the migraineur, the partner also has a heavier weight to carry. This could come from extra childcare duty, taking over cleaning or cooking and shopping tasks, suffering broken social engagements, or anything else that causes additional work or disappointment.
When your partner feels appreciated for the care they give, you’re more likely to receive more of the same. While you don’t have to overcompensate for the times you’re forced to withdraw from family life, finding ways between you to minimize the impact on the other person can help everyone cope better. This could include such things as having a babysitter on call, preparing meals to freeze that can be easily heated when no one is able or has time to cook, or getting help with yard work or house work.
Try to Let Go of Guilt
It’s important that migraine sufferers come to terms with the guilt they may feel, and learn to separate their behavior with migraine from their behavior when they’re feeling well. After all, the migraine disrupts normal daily activities, not laziness or a wish to dodge responsibility. Letting go of guilt is hard, but blaming yourself isn’t healthy. It’s not your fault you get migraine. While it’s important to discuss how it affects partners, it’s equally important to include how it makes you feel.
Seek Outside Support
When you’re in the midst of a challenging situation, especially one that’s ongoing like living with migraine, it’s easy to lose perspective. Outside support gives you someone away from the family to vent to, and could include online support forums, a friend who’s willing to listen without judging, or even a professional therapist. All these options can help not only give you a safety valve so you can let off steam when the pressure gets too much, they can also help you find coping strategies or suggest ways to open up difficult topics you want to talk over with your partner.
Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and your partner is no different. Letting them know how much their help and support means to you goes a long way towards making them feel valued rather than taken for granted. However, there’s no need to overcompensate to the extent that you lose sight of yourself and your own needs when you’re well. This works both ways, neither the migraine sufferer nor the carer should give up so much that they both end up feeling dissatisfied and frustrated.
Having conversations such as these are difficult and not everyone can manage them on their own without misunderstandings creeping in. Some find it hard to discuss deeper feelings, and may not even understand exactly what they are feeling or what the real cause is. Often we mistake the symptoms for the cause, but treating only the symptoms won’t prevent them coming back.
If your marriage is suffering under the strain of living with migraine, a couples' counselor could be instrumental in helping you find ways to deal with your condition and still live together harmoniously.