Tips for navigating migraine with your partner
Some of the most common symptoms of migraine attacks, like crippling head pain, dizziness, nausea and sensitivity to light and sound, can make interacting with other people seem like an insurmountable challenge. For people with migraine who are navigating their disease alongside a spouse or a partner, their migraine is a shared experience. Support networks are an essential piece of the migraine treatment puzzle, but this chronic disease can put a strain on relationships, especially with those closest to us. Members of our Move Against Migraine support group shared advice from their experiences navigating migraine with their partners.
Talk Openly About Your Migraine
Open communication is key to helping your partner understand how migraine affects your daily life, and preparing them to respond appropriately when an attack hits. Move Against Migraine member Brooke said that she and her husband vowed to be honest with each other about her migraine, which helped him understand her diagnosis and helped her understand his concerns. Your partner might want to help, but may not know where to start. Having an ongoing, open dialogue about your migraine triggers and treatment regimen can better equip your partner to be an active part of your migraine support team. Learn how to talk about your migraine with loved ones here.
Understand That Migraine is No One’s “Fault”
Another Move Against Migraine group member, Rita, shared that her husband lives with migraine, and while she reduces his triggers by keeping the house quiet and dark, cooking migraine-friendly foods and driving him to the ER when he needs urgent treatment, she said she never feels like she’s doing enough. “I can’t fix it, but it isn’t for lack of wanting to or for trying,” she said. Migraine is a disease that affects both the sufferer and his supporters, but no one is at fault for having them or for being unable to fix them. Whether it’s you or your partner who lives with migraine, be sure to communicate that this chronic disease is a challenge you are facing together.
Appreciate the Little Things
In the midst of a raging migraine attack it can be hard to think of anything but the pain. Still, take note of your partner’s efforts, and once your symptoms fade, thank them for those small acts of kindness. Mary said her husband gives her everything she needs when she has a migraine, and goes out of his way to finish both of their chores so she can focus on feeling better. While his version of “cleaning the kitchen” may be a little different than hers, she knows he’s trying, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
Attack Your Migraine as a Team
While your partner isn’t experiencing the same physically draining symptoms of your migraine, it’s demoralizing for them to see the person they love in constant pain. Approach your migraine management as a team and go into battle together. Whether that means researching new treatments together or teaming up for a run to fund migraine research, uniting against a common enemy will strengthen your relationship and remind you that you’re not alone. Move Against Migraine members Robin and Ashley said their partners empathize with their migraine attacks because they also have migraine. “We take care [of each other] and look after each other,” Ashley said. “I honestly say I can’t see myself with anyone else.”
Stay Positive Through the Good and Bad
Migraine steals away days, weeks, even months of people’s lives, so try to make the best of your pain-free days with your partner and other loved ones. Dr. Dawn Buse, director of behavioral medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center, encourages patients to avoid isolation by making plans, even if you can’t always keep them. “You may have to cancel some of the time, you may have to leave early or you may need to go and excuse yourself and go in a dark, quiet room: but don’t stop making plans,” she said. Quality time doesn’t have to mean elaborate outings. Learn a migraine-friendly recipe together, or schedule nightly walks to maximize quality time.
When you’re lying in a dark room with throbbing head pain, it’s easy to feel like you’re facing your migraine alone. But remember your partner who loves you may be outside your door feeling powerless and looking for ways to help. Life with migraine is challenging, but it’s a challenge that couples should work to overcome together. Facing migraine together with your significant other can help ease the pain and make your relationship stronger. Download our guide to “What to do After the Diagnosis,” and share it with your partner to ensure you both have the tools you need to face your migraine together.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.