The Mighty Logo

5 Ways You Can Support Your Partner Living With Chronic Illness

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I have been living with chronic illnesses since the age of 5. It has always been something I’ve had to deal with, and I am lucky that I have such a supportive family to help me out. Living with a chronic illness or pain can be very lonely and scary, especially if the illness or pain is not well-managed.

Here’s how my partner can best support me:

1. Have patience.

When you’re in a relationship with someone that struggles with these condition, the most important thing you can do is to be patient.

Patience because there will be times when your partner will have what you might consider “normal” days in a row, but you must remember that these days of normalcy are not “normal.” They are gifts, so use them to your advantage, but don’t pressure your partner to overextend themselves.

2. Make life comfortable.

Do you best to make life as comfortable as possible. Sit down with your partner and figure out what they can and feel comfortable being responsible for. If you have kids, help with scheduling of doctor appointments and chores. If your children are older, have them help with the housework. I have six children and they do the majority of housework and cooking. This arrangement not only teaches your children responsibilities, but it also gives your partner extra time to relax which translates into better days!

If you don’t have kids, then use that list to come up with a plan of action and a backup plan just in case your partner has an “off” day. Simple ideas like preparing meals, setting out clothes the night before, running a bath, or even hiring someone to come in weekly to help with household chores can really take the burden off your partner from having to worry about it.

But remember, don’t ever assume that your partner doesn’t want to pitch in or is incapable of helping. They will do as much as they can and usually without complaint if they know you’re always there for them. So, be sure to ask how they want to split the responsibilities and have a plan “B” for when they don’t feel well.

3. Be understanding.

Know that when they complain, it’s not because they’re whining, it’s because they’re pain level is probably through the roof. Most people (myself included) won’t complain about how tired we are or how much pain we’re in until it’s more than what our threshold is. We generally suck up the minor to moderate pain for your sake, so you’re not always hearing us complain. So, when your partner finally starts to complain, pay attention and understand that they’re not saying that they’re in pain just because, they’re saying it as a cry for help.

It’s important to set up a system of wellness and self-care for your partner. For me, this means I have the flexibility to nap on days I’m not feeling myself. This might be different for your partner. Ideas might include light exercises like tai chi or yoga. Better eating habits and being consistent. I know many times when I skipped a meal and all it did was make me feel worse. Encourage your partner to create a meal plan to follow.

4. Keep lines of communication open.

There is nothing worse than feeling misunderstood, especially while living with a chronic illness. It doesn’t take much effort to have conversations, plan upcoming events, plan for alternative arrangements if the first set of plans don’t work out. And don’t take the good days for granted. Be grateful for those days and encourage your partner to reach out for emotional support.

5. Have a plan of action for emotional support.

I run a Facebook group for people with common variable immune deficiency and it has over 3,500 members. It is a place for people like me to let our guards down a little. It’s a great way to cope with my condition and know that I’m not alone. Sometimes, I need to talk to someone that has been there, done that. Having additional supportive friends (even if online) can lift some of that emotional burden off your shoulders. There can be a lot of pressure to be all for someone living with a chronic illness. Other ways you can encourage your partner is to seek local support groups or reach out to friends on a weekly basis just to catch up.

Getty Image by Halfpoint

This story originally appeared on Rosemary E. King.

Originally published: July 20, 2018
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