Healthy Living

In Sickness and In Health: Fibromyalgia and Marriage

Fibromyalgia can easily disrupt a patient's daily routine, but it can also disrupt a patient's marriage.

In Sickness and In Health: Fibromyalgia and Marriage

Navigating the ups and downs of a chronic illness is difficult. Patients can experience roadblocks and dead ends that can disrupt their daily lives. Disorders, like fibromyalgia, are very difficult to manage, especially when getting a diagnosis can take months, or sometimes years.  Thankfully, patients can look for resources and support to help them fight their battle with fibromyalgia. But the same can't be said for their marriage.

More often than not, the spouses of patients with fibromyalgia are left to figure things out on their own, which is not an easy thing to do. With chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, there is a higher risk of a marriage falling apart. Even the strongest of relationships might not survive when one partner has fibromyalgia and is suffering from its symptoms.

Fibromyalgia is known for its wide-ranging symptoms that cause severe pain, extreme fatigue, cognitive issues (referred to as the fibro fog), sleep problems and mood disorders. The disease tends to develop once the patient suffers from a traumatic experience or a period of stress. Fibromyalgia can take months, even years, to diagnose. Once the patient finally gets a positive diagnosis, they have to find the right course of treatment. Because there is no cure for fibromyalgia, patients  are left to figure out the best way to treat their symptoms.

While those who are in a relationship have the benefit of ‘fighting’ their disease with a partner, it can still put a strain on their relationship, and sometimes, break it. However, there are several ways to prevent the unnecessary strain and keep the relationship alive.

Keep the lines of communication open

Regardless of whether a couple has been together 6 months, 6 years or 60 years, communication is vital for a healthy marriage. Be open about your battle with fibro. Remember that it’s impossible for one person to know what another is going through. You have to help them learn to understand it.

 Fibromyalgia patients need to be open about what's going on with the disorder. Clearly explain why the couch is winning over a night out, or why intimacy suddenly has taken a back seat to painkillers and Epsom salts baths.

On the other side of the coin, a partner needs to be able to express their frustration or their lack of being able to do anything to help (which can really make them feel helpless). Open communication about any kind of issue will lead to a dialogue, ideas, and solutions on how to make things a little better. If nothing else, being able to talk about what’s happening provides both the patient and their partner a little comfort.  That comfort goes a long way.

Don’t be petty

Marriage and relationships are a partnership, which typically means that things are split down the middle. When one partner is dealing with fibromyalgia, they will have to rely on the other to take-up the bulk of the work. When new responsibilities fall on one person, it can lead to feelings of resentment. Instead of being petty about things like household, think about how doing these things are actually helping your partner in the long run.

It’s not easy for anyone to depend on others, especially if they have fibromyalgia. When your independence is snatched away by a chronic illness, it can take a toll on your emotions. Try to remember that your partner is not doing this on purpose.

Find like-minded people

There are tons of support groups out there for people who have fibro or other chronic illnesses. As a couple, it’s important to tap into those groups who cater to patients and their partners.  Support can be found in a number of places, from online forums to social media groups to face-to-face sessions. Being a part of these groups makes you feel that you are not alone. Others are also facing what you are facing every day.

If support groups aren't for you, maybe try finding a therapist. Couples therapy is not only for those who are trying to repair broken marriages. It can be used to keep a marriage or relationship healthy, providing guidance on how to communicate openly with one another and finding the right tools to keep the spark alive.. 

Don’t let fibro get in the way of the good times

Date nights are so important when maintaining a healthy relationship. When fighting fibro and dealing with chronic pain, it's very easy to say "not tonight." Over time, those two words can really put a damper on your relationship When it comes to date night, try to plan ahead. Planning ahead allows fibro patients to get as much rest as possible before going out. It also lets them avoid triggers and plan enough recovery time. 

For those who face even more pain, especially when it comes to physical intimacy, there are still ways to keep your marriage alive. It’s a matter of figuring out what works and what doesn’t.  So, it might take some experimentation, and it’s not always going to end well, but you have to keep trying. Don’t let that spark fade away.  Keep those date nights.  Figure out how to keep intimacy in the marriage and learn how to trust each other.

Don’t forget about yourself

As a healthy partner in a relationship, it’s inevitable that you might become a caregiver. Being a caregiver can be a full-time job, especially when dealing with a fibro flare-up. Caregivers can easily forget about taking care of themselves. It’s important for both partners to take some ‘me’ time once in a while. Self-care is critical to maintaining both physical and mental health. 

Be there for one another - even during the bad times

It’s not always going to be easy. There will definitely be some bumpy roads, but it is still very important for you two to be there for one another. Be the shoulder to cry on and the listening ear. It’s not always about trying to fix things. Sometimes it’s about accepting each other's limitations and supporting each other, through the good times and the bad.