Every relationship can be hard work sometimes. But being in a relationship when you live with fibromyalgia can be even harder work.
Some relationships end because of it. Others are constantly being tried.
From my own experience and that of others, here are some of the key relationship problems experienced by people living with fms:
● Your partner does not believe you are really suffering and in pain. This is largely in part due to living with an invisible illness. The invisible f I call it. It would be so much easier if fibromyalgia gave us a physical scar. Sometimes not even crutches are enough to convince some partners. They think you’re wanting attention, it’s all in your head or you’re a hypochondriac.
● You have selective memory?! – Cognitive impairments are common symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. But some partners might accuse us of having selective memory or conveniently forgetting things or misplacing things. One guy I’d been dating told me he had to think for me.
● Partners might generally not be supportive. They might see it as too much work or not the thing they signed up for if when they met you, you didn’t have fms.
● A lack of understanding – when our partners don’t understand they can sometimes become accusing. Laziness is a common accusation. I hear of some partners complaining to family members and in-laws that their suffering spouse is lazy, sleeps too much, stays in bed too much or doesn’t like to go out.
● Accusations of being anti-social – Some partners might accuse us of being anti-social. Not wanting to attend their family gatherings on purpose for instance. This might seem like an obvious thing but no one feels like going out or being a social butterfly when they’re very ill or exhausted. We must endeavour to try hard and make an effort (for ourselves and our families) but our partners need understanding too.
How to deal with it
I feel very very happy for anyone living with fibromyalgia who has found a supportive, caring partner. I still hope he is out there for me (and for you).
● Get information – A lack of understanding from some partners might be from a lack of information. If your doctor is supportive, the next time you see your GP or rheumatologist, or go to a support group meeting, ask your partner to go with you. You don’t have to tell them you think they need more information, for some partners it will work better if you say you would like some company or just need THEIR support.
● Communicate – lots of relationships go downhill because of a lack of communication. Explain how you feel everyday. If on a particular occasion you can’t perform a task or attend an event you committed to, then explain to your partner what’s going on in your body. Don’t just say you feel sick. Read my Ten Must-Have FM Talks with Your Partner.
● Counselling – it was only at counselling for a past relationship that I learnt that my then partner had felt frustrated by exhaustion levels and how they affected our social life. He said sometimes we went out and he’d look at me and see that I appeared knackered like I’d just done a marathon. Counselling doesn’t work for everyone but it might help.
● Find someone else! – Ok this is harsh and not the obvious answer for everyone. Sometimes we have to admit we’re in relationships with douche bags. Sometimes we are in relationships with good people who simply cannot cope with fibromyalgia smack in the middle of a relationship. Not everyone can deal with this kinda stuff. I mean we’re struggling to live with ourselves. I think it is important to find someone who can support us, will believe us, stand by us and love us for who we are. We are not fibromyalgia and sometimes only the right person will see past that.
Gentle hugs 🙂