The Mighty Logo

What to Expect When Your Partner Has a Chronic Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Being in a relationship is a fantastic thing. You have a number one person to go to with problems, you have a best friend, a confidant, someone who loves you and someone you can count on. A relationship is a beautiful, wonderful thing and when you’re in one you get to learn everything there is to know about your partner! You learn about their childhood, their family, what schools they went to, their favorite foods, favorite animals and sometimes you learn your partner has a chronic illness.

With the development of trust and understanding in a relationship, your roles in your partnership can become clearer; for example, you might be the one who’s good with money and your partner isn’t, or your partner is the one who can cook really well and you’re the one who has cereal for every meal.


When your partner has a chronic illness you eventually take on a new role, you may become your partner’s caregiver and supporter. As your partner lets you further into their life and their struggle with their illness, you’ll see new sides of them: you’ll see them at their most frustrated, most bitter, most helpless, most in pain and their saddest.

As someone who has a chronic illness who is in a relationship with someone who does not, I ask you to take experiencing these new sides with a grain of salt; our frustration is not with you but with ourselves. Our bodies do not work like yours do. We deal with swelling, nerve pain, joint pain, muscle tightness, we may use a mobility device or have IV lines and tubes in us. Many of us cannot go for long runs or go out all night to party like others can. Instead we stay inside, we rest, we recover, we spend some days organizing our medicines for the week or scheduling doctor appointments.

On days we can’t go out, come visit us. Come watch movies or make dinner or play board games with us. Even if we can’t go out, we still want to spend time with you. On our bad days, when the pain is unbearable or the exhaustion makes us feel helpless, we will be at our most frustrated and our most vulnerable and we will need you then the most.

We may say mean things or shout or refuse to speak to you even; this is not because we are mad at you. We are mad at our bodies and we are mad that the illness never ends. We will still need and want you. We will not ask because we have been told for so long that we can’t; instead, we may need you to offer and help us anyway.

On the days we cannot move and are in pain, draw us a hot bath, help us walk to the bathroom, provide us with soft pillows and blankets, bring us easy to eat foods and most importantly be there for us. Hold us, tell us it’s going to be OK, encourage us to take our medicine and tell us you love us no matter what. We have not changed; we are still the same person you love and are in a relationship with.

Your support means the world to us and we in turn will love and support you just as much as you do. Never give up on us. We appreciate every single thing you do for us more than we can ever say.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Creative-Family.

Originally published: October 3, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home