Letting Your Partner Know about Your Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is an illness that afflicts countless women in this country. If you are one of the afflicted ones, then you probably already know that it can be a trying condition.
In addition to being painful and frustrating, it is somewhat of a phantom illness. What this means is that the symptoms of fibromyalgia are more generalized and not apparent to an observer.
The question becomes for you: How should I explain this phantom illness to my loved ones?
I need them to be understanding of my condition, but the condition is somewhat intangible. It’s not like I can show them my problem, like with a broken arm.
What Exactly Is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is an illness that afflicts about 10 million Americans. The vast majority of people with the illness are women.
There are no lab tests that can be used to diagnose the condition. It is diagnosed solely based on the report of symptoms by the patient.
The relevant symptoms are fatigue, tenderness, problems in functionality, and a lack of overall well-being.
Additional symptoms include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Cognitive issues
- Pelvic pain
- Bladder issues
According to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, there is no cure for the illness.
Since there is no cure for the illness, you will need to have a lengthy discussion with your loved ones about your condition. This is not something that is just going to go away.
Do You Have an Understanding Partner?
The first thing that is important with regard to talking about your FM with your partner is that they be understanding.
If you have a spouse or boyfriend who is not understanding, then no “little talk” with them is going to help.
Unfortunately, this is something that is a little beyond your control. However, there are things that you can do to help your partner become a little more understanding.
One strategy is the following: All of us have little handicaps in life that we are sensitive about.
Let us say that your boyfriend is a very shy person; They are so shy that it gets in the way of their everyday functioning.
The idea is not that you want to throw their handicap in their face and hurt them thereby.
What you want to do is to merely show them that they have issues that get in the way of their functioning in the same way that you do. This will make them a little more understanding of your plight.
You Need to Educate Your Partner
The assumption here is that you are not a medical expert. The most that you can do is tell your partner what your symptoms are.
However, it would be much better if you educate your partner on FM. The objective knowledge will convince him that FM is not just a psychosomatic illness that you dreamed up.
A helpful website with respect to educating your partner is In the Shadows of Fibromyalgia. This website contains an article that lays out what the illness is and how it affects those afflicted with it.
The idea is that, as a part of your “little talk,” you can have your partner read up on this website about your condition.
The fact that it is written by an authority in the area will convince him that you have a bona fide illness.
Take Your Partner with You to Your Doctor
Another way of reinforcing the idea that you suffer from a real illness is to take your partner along with you to the doctor for a consultation.
If you are particular about your confidentiality, then this will not be an option for you.
However, you should really consider if it is worth it to sacrifice some of your confidentiality for this purpose.
The truth is that you can tell both your doctor and your partner beforehand that you want to have control over what is discussed in your session. This way, anything that is truly private can still be kept confidential.
Not only can you consult with your doctor with your partner present, but also you can bring your partner to see your therapist.
The advantage of doing this is that your therapist can deal with any emotional issues that exist between the two of you.
Set Up Your Boundaries
Part of your “little talk” that you will have with your partner should be focused not only on their understanding of your condition.
You need to also set up exactly what kind of support you will need from him. This comes in two forms: There is emotional support and practical support.
With respect to emotional support, you need to let your partner know that you may be emotionally compromised sometimes by your condition.
What this means is that your partner will need to step in to soothe you and make you feel better.
You should not make the assumption that he will automatically know what to do in the event that you are really suffering.
He needs to know how to tell that you are having an issue and exactly how to step into the situation.
This can be a challenge for many women. They want their partner to be able to pick up on the signs that come along with suffering from the condition.
However, many men need a little help in recognizing exactly when you are having your problem.
You need to let him know when you are suffering and when you need that emotional support.
With respect to the practical side of things, you need to have an arrangement with your partner that they will relieve you of some of your responsibilities when you are unable to discharge them due to FM.
This can mean taking care of more household chores or picking up the slack with respect to childcare.
Since you may not even be thinking very well when you are suffering from FM, you need to have your arrangement in place before you actually have a problem.
This way, there will be a smooth transition into how you deal with things when you are ill.
Your partner needs to understand that FM is a chronic illness. This means, of course, that you can do things to make your situation better, but it could be an issue for the rest of your life.
It is important to emphasize that you may not be in a functional condition mentally during the time that you are afflicted with FM.
Therefore, your partner has to be aware that they may need to make decisions for you in your absence, so to speak.
The best way to handle this is to make sure that you plan ahead. You need to think through all of the possible scenarios of things that could happen.
This way, your partner knows how to implement your decisions when you are not able to make them.
Tell Your Partner to Build His Own Support System
According to Everyday Health, it is really important for your partner to develop his own support system to help him deal with his own issues.
Your partner is going to need a sounding board to help him relate to what he is going through.
Many men like to go it alone. However, you need to gently inform him that he needs to develop his own support system.
You do not know how difficult your illness will be in the future, and you need to let him know that.
FM can be debilitating, and he might be left with a lot of responsibilities that he must carry out himself.
Also, you may not be in a condition to support him emotionally in the way that he needs to be.
Chronic illnesses have a way of sucking the energy out of a person. You may just not be in the condition to fully function in your relationship.
FM and the Sex Drive
Another important issue that you need to discuss with your partner has to do with your sex life.
You might develop an aversion to being touched and a low sex drive as a result of your FM. You need to discuss with your partner a way that you can signal to him that you are not feeling well.
You also need to let him know what kinds of touch or intimacy would be welcome during a time that you are suffering from symptoms.
Fibromyalgia Resources.com also gives the following advice to women who suffer from FM.
It is important to encourage your partner to develop his own independent life from you.
There are going to be many times when you will not feel up to sharing time with your partner, and he needs to be aware of this.
Fibromyalgia is a difficult thing to live with. However, the problem can be multiplied if you don’t know how to communicate about the issue with your partner.
This article has reviewed all of the issues involved in the conversation that you need to have with your partner.
There is a helpful YouTube video that also goes into how you can tell your loved ones about your condition.