Coping with Fibromyalgia is very challenging because of the “invisibility” of the illness, the ambiguity of the illness, as well as the lack of knowledge on the subject. As a result, supporting a person with fibromyalgia can be challenging in itself. In this blog we will explore how you can support your partner, based on a study about what persons with chronic pain found supportive from their partners and friends (Jaworski, 2017).
Don’t assume, ask
Seeing your partner in pain can be very distressing for any loving partner. It can cause pressure to do something, anything, to ease their suffering. The challenge is to be able to offer the support that is needed, rather than what we may think they need. In order to do so, clear communication is key. Avoid asking open-ended questions such as “Is there anything I can do to help you?” and instead try asking more specific questions like “Would you like me to join you to your doctor’s appointment?” or “Would you like me to make dinner today?” Similarly, don’t assume that your partner is not able to do certain activities or attend events because of their condition. Instead, invite them to participate and do not take it personally if they are unable to go through with plans.
Celebrate the good moments
It’s important to highlight and bring awareness to the moments that are positive, no matter how small. Finding these pockets when you are able to have fun, laugh and enjoy heart-warming moments with family and friends allows for you both to experience being in the presence of each other in moments when pain management is not your primary focus.
Work through the arguments
Arguments can feel much more tense and stressful when pain is put into the mix. In order to make sure to limit miscommunications and bickering, clear communication is clear. When there are disagreements, take the time to acknowledge what is happening in a calm manner and explore together what would support you both in order to reduce the possibility of similar disagreements in the future. Then apologise to each other, and move on.
Take care of yourself
As counterintuitive as it may seem, making sure that you yourself are feeling well-supported and in good health can be helpful for both yourself and your partner. It’s ok to seek help if it is too difficult for you to manage your partner’s needs (be they physical or emotional). In order to support your partner to the best of your abilities, you need to make sure that you are in the best position to do so and avoid burnout. This means that sometimes, you also need to be able to say “no” if they are asking for something beyond what you can offer.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.
Jaworski, M. (2017). 6 Ways to be a friend to a friend living with chronic pain. Practical Pain Management. https://www.practicalpainmanagement.com/patient/treatments/mental-and-emotional-therapy/6-ways-be-friend-friend-living-chronic-pain