Fostering Empathy in a Migraine-Filled Relationship

Written by Ben Ruditsky | April 26, 2024

How Can We Foster Empathy in a Migraine-Filled Relationship?

Do either you or your partner suffer from migraine attacks, or perhaps even both of you? It’s not uncommon, given that over 42 million live with migraine in the US alone. Like any physical or mental disability, migraine can bring a new layer to your relationship. Sometimes one of empathy. Sometimes one of frustration. Migraine is notorious for getting in the way of life and its plans, and your relationship is likely to be no exception. While it can be tough, there are methods to help manage migraine in your relationship, while keeping both you and your partner happy.

Taking Care of a Partner With Migraine

Like all things in a relationship, patience and understanding are key to maintaining good, healthy balance. If your partner is the one who struggles with migraine, seeking to understand their needs will become a very important daily task for you. They may need you to take care of them in ways you wouldn’t normally have to in other relationships. The challenging reality is that migraine attacks can be so debilitating that basic functions become difficult, if not impossible. 

Plans may often fall through at the last minute due to their migraine. This can easily lead to frustration or complications if those plans involve more prior commitment. While this can be difficult, take stock of each situation before reacting. Understanding that your partner is not in control of their migraine attacks, and isn’t exaggerating the severity of the attack, is the first step you should take. Plans can almost always be rescheduled, and an event or nice dinner wouldn’t be enjoyable anyway if they’re suffering throughout it. If your partner feels up to it, suggest a lighter and easier-to-manage activity! If even that is too much, simply taking care of them or supporting them in a way where they can take care of themselves is also a good way to be patient and empathetic.

Communicating Your Needs as Someone With Migraine

If you suffer from migraine in your relationship, and your partner doesn’t, communication is key. Letting them know what you need, and when, will be incredibly helpful for both of you. Migraine will be much easier to navigate if your partner understands what your needs are. Make sure to stay open in your communication with them when you first feel any attack symptoms. Then make sure you inform them what will help you the most and how they can help you handle it. Expect there to be confusion, or even occasional frustration at first.

People without migraine likely aren’t used to having plans changed or canceled over something like “a headache”. They may not even realize how serious migraine is. So do your best to empathize with their frustration, but be clear that migraine is not something you have power over. It’s important for them to know that you’ll need care and good habits to keep the attacks at bay, and that this is a complex neurological disease. Over time, hopefully their understanding and ability to address your needs will grow alongside your relationship.

What if We Both Have Migraine?

A relationship where both people involved have migraine can be even more difficult despite the shared understanding of what it is like. Migraine attacks can reduce our ability to empathize or be patient, since the pain can cloud our better judgment at times. Having systems in place to be prepared for overlapping migraine attacks is a valuable tool for when both of you are struggling at the same time. Having other resources, or even people to help take care of you who aren’t your partner, can be helpful. This preparedness could take some of the weight off your partner, who may also be fighting off a migraine attack.

Most importantly, be empathetic! You know how horrible migraine can be, even if you have different triggers. One of the only benefits of a relationship where both participants have migraine is the ability to understand what the other person is going through in a very personal way. The habits that will keep things healthy and strong are communication, empathy, and lots of patience!

Let Us Know!

Do you or your partner struggle with migraine? Do you have any habits or tricks you utilize with your partner to help get one or both of you through a migraine attack? 

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