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7 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Relationship When Living With Chronic Illness


Let’s be honest, you and I both know that living with a chronic illness while trying to maintain healthy relationships is a challenge. Sometimes super challenging. You may feel misunderstood, you may not feel worthy enough to be loved, you may think he/she deserves better, that this isn’t fair on them… I honestly get it. I have been there and got the t-shirt.

But take it from me, a person who struggled for five years with chronic migraines, while battling a long-distance relationship, often spending months apart, with debilitating chronic daily migraines. It can be done. 

So today I wanted to share with you my top seven tips for maintaining a healthy relationship while living with a chronic illness.

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is everything in a relationship in normal circumstances, let alone when you are battling a chronic illness when it becomes even more essential. Sometimes when you’re struggling, you overthink situations, predict what your partner may be thinking and hold in how you are feeling. If you really want to maintain a healthy relationship it is so important to talk. Put down your phones and talk, eat your dinner at the table rather than watching TV and talk, and climb into bed and take some time just to check in and talk. I cannot stress how important it is to keep regular, open and honest conversation with your loved one.

2. Focus on Team Work

When struggling with an illness it is common to have good days and bad days. This is totally normal, but it’s what you choose to do on those good days that makes all the difference. Remember, you are a team and when you are low, your partner can support you and when your partner is having a bad day, you can support them. Maybe you could do the laundry, make lunch or pop to the grocery store when you feel this is possible, and then on the bad days, you can allow your partner to take the load and return the favor. Just remember you are a team, so work together as one.  

3. Learn Your Partner’s Love Language

We all communicate, appreciate and show love in different ways so understanding your partner’s love language allows you to connect to your partner on a much deeper level. Gary Chapman, the author of “The Five Love Languages,” best describes this process of learning how your partner wishes to experience and express love. This tool really was a game-changer for my husband and me. Go to www.5lovelanguages.com to learn your and your partner’s love language.

4. View the Problem Through Your Partner’s Lens

When struggling with the overwhelm of a chronic illness it is so easy to get consumed with your own thoughts. Hands up, I literally do it all the time. However, it’s good to check in with yourself now and again and ask yourself, “what does this situation/problem look like through my partner’s lens?” What has my partner got on their plate right now? Maybe because things are busy at work that’s why he/she has had less time to talk and to support me? Using a fresh pair of eyes helps you gain perspective on problems or issues you may be facing.

5. Become the Instigator

OK, we all know the line “Not tonight, I have a headache.” No genuinely, that’s no lie! When you are in pain that’s the last thing you feel like doing, so when you aren’t in pain you have to make the most of the opportunity that you have. As a result, I suggest that even if you may want your partner to instigate your intimate time together, I recommend you take the lead. I’m sure your partner will appreciate it.

6. Up Your Small Gestures

We always think love has to be shown by grand gestures but that’s not always the case. The small gestures you can do for your partner even when you may be feeling unwell can mean so much more. Examples of this include writing them a note to tell them how much you love and appreciate them and slip it in their briefcase for them to find at work or noting all the things you love about them and sharing it with them. A little gesture can go a long way. 

7. Find Gratitude for Your Relationship

I used to think I am so lucky that I have this amazing relationship but it sucks that I am not able to enjoy it because I am unwell. I have such love around me but none of that matters because I am sick. My god, I was so wrong. Even if things aren’t the way you want them to be or hoped they would be, you can still find joy and gratitude in your relationship amidst the pain. Just imagine how hard this struggle could be without your partner’s support. Take some time out to be grateful for your partner, your relationship and find joy in the little things you can do together, even if that just means snuggling up and watching a movie together. There is always something to be grateful for.

Image Credits: Kristie Hindley