It’s awesome and exciting to fall in love when you’re dating. But what if you find that your amazing new love has a chronic illness for which there is no cure? Your mind can imagine all sorts of scenarios. Do you have the patience and fortitude to be there for them? How will their condition affect your relationship, sex life, and well-being?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that causes pain and tenderness all over the body. Dating can be a challenge, but not impossible. You can support your loved one by
- Educate yourself on the disease.
- Communicating openly about it.
- Allowing them to express their pain without feeling judged.
- Acknowledging that their pain is real.
- Letting them know you are there for them emotionally.
- Offering to assist them with anything that might ease their discomfort.
- Take care of your own mental well-being.
Educate Yourself On The Subject
Fibromyalgia affects roughly 2% of the US adult population, which is around 4 million people. It can affect persons of all ages, including children. But, most typically, it will affect females diagnosed in their middle-age years.
One of the most important things to know about fibromyalgia is that it is a genuine illness. Historically, doctors believed that it was psychosomatic and didn’t exist except in the minds of their mostly female patients.
The testimony of doctors attached a stigma to the disease that made many family members dismiss the complaints of those who suffered from it.
Understandably, some patients even today are reluctant to admit they have it or feel the need to be ready to defend themselves if they do.
There are no visible outward signs that show what is causing the pain, so some friends and family members don’t truly understand how severe the pain can be.
If you are dating someone who has the disease fibromyalgia, you must let them know that you can be trusted and will take their pain seriously.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia?
Researchers believe that fibromyalgia affects the way the brain and spinal cord process pain signals. People who suffer from fibromyalgia are hypersensitive to pain.
The cause of fibromyalgia is not known. There are treatment options that include medication and behavioral changes. The symptoms are broad in range. The most common are
- Widespread muscle and joint pain throughout the body
- Stiffness in muscles and joints
- Extreme fatigue
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Difficulty sleeping
- Gastrointestinal issues such as constipation or irritable bowel syndrome
- Anxiety and depression
How Can This Disease Affect My Relationship?
If your partner has fibromyalgia, you should know that there will be good days and bad days. Flair-ups can be unpredictable, so being aware of this in advance can help you mentally prepare for it.
The onset of pain may be sudden, and your loved one may need to cancel activities that you’ve planned in advance.
They may need to withdraw and isolate themselves. It could be a genuine inconvenience, but understanding that this is always a possibility will make the situation easier to tolerate.
You may also find days that they will forget things easily and appear to have “brain fog.” They may lose their train of thought, forgetting what they were going to say. They can even forget common words and struggle to find them.
You might get aggravated and short-tempered at this unless you are made aware that this symptom is very common. Also, forgetfulness can be embarrassing for them, and arguments can start if they feel ridiculed.
Sensitivity To Touch
During a flair-up, your loved one’s skin can become so hypersensitive that even the slightest touch can cause pain. You may give them an affectionate caress that will cause them to move away involuntarily.
It is important to remember that if they cannot tolerate touch, it is not intentional, nor does it reflect their feelings towards you.
Fibromyalgia can cause challenges in your sexual relationship. Your partner may experience a temporary loss of libido or have deep muscle pain that keeps him or her from enjoying sex the way they would normally. They may be too tired and be aching all over.
It can be very frustrating and disheartening for them as well. They need to know you understand and are not angry with them. For this reason, open communication is vital. Both of you must be on the same page to avoid blaming each other.
It’s not unusual for people with any chronic illness to report having challenges with their sex life. But a healthy sex life is important for many reasons. It strengthens an intimate relationship and also boosts natural endorphins, which have an analgesic effect.
What Can I Do To Help My Loved One?
First of all, if your partner is not seeing a doctor, encourage them to seek treatment by a medical professional who can recommend the appropriate therapies for their condition.
A doctor who specializes in fibromyalgia can prescribe medication or suggest over-the-counter pain relievers.
Stay positive for them on the days that they are feeling down.
Acknowledge their pain and don’t judge them if they need to isolate for a period of time. Let them know you support them in whatever actions they need to do to get through the pain.
During the good days, take your partner out for walks and other activities you can enjoy together.
Encourage them to stay active since exercise is one of the self-management therapies commonly recommended. Exercise increases muscle strength and reduces stress.
Stress is one of the potential triggers for fibromyalgia, so stress management is also essential. Relaxation therapies such as massage, deep abdominal breathing, and meditation help manage stress.
Be patient when it comes to intimacy. Gently and openly communicate with your partner about what is going on. Work together to find out if there are ways to touch that do not cause pain or positions that are comfortable during sexual intercourse.
Offer to prepare a warm bath beforehand. Moist heat may help provide temporary relief for muscle pain and decrease inflammation.
Soaking in a warm tub for 15 minutes can help ease fibromyalgia pain. The warmth increases blood flow to muscles and decreases stiffness.
Encourage each other to eat nutritious meals. You can even learn to prepare healthy meals together. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help maintain good energy levels and impart a sense of well-being.
Don’t Forget To Take Care Of Yourself
To be the best help possible, you need to take care of yourself. Be sure to have your own interests outside of your partner’s.
Don’t abandon the activities you love, the ones that shaped you into the person that attracted your partner to you in the first place.
Neglecting your own self-care will leave you frustrated, impatient, and mentally drained, even in the most perfect of relationships. When your loved one is having a bad day and needs space, it’s ok to give it to them and do something to make yourself feel better.
Also, being honest with each other includes both of you acknowledging the pain you experience when your loved one is hurting. It’s painful to watch and know there is nothing you can do but offer emotional support.
Will you face some challenges entering into a relationship with someone suffering from fibromyalgia? Yes. But even “perfectly” healthy people have challenges in their relationships.
If you feel love for someone, this is worth working through as long as you are both open, honest, and selfless with each other.