Tuesday, June 13, 2023

When Your Partner has a Chronic Condition — The Connected Relationship

Because we want to help you and your partner improve your communication, especially around the hard things that are even harder to talk about, we thought we’d share our experience with you…

The diagnosis might be medical/physical, or a mental/emotional condition. Oftentimes, chronic health conditions are “invisible” — from the outside, everything looks “fine”.   You or your partner might live with anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, lupus, or a myriad of other conditions.

For some relationships, the diagnosis is at play from day one.  For others, it comes well into the relationship.

For us, we had been together for a “healthy” 8 years before Yolanda was diagnosed with her first (of several) autoimmune condition.   But, if you’ve managed to reach the point of an official diagnosis, you know that symptoms and questions have been a play for a long, long time.

This period of time can be incredibly hard for both of you.  Living in uncertainty while waiting for answers doesn’t lend itself to be able to show up in our relationship as the best version of ourselves.  A chronic condition diagnosis can raise even more fear and uncertainty about what the future holds.  One or both of you will likely make your way through the stages of grief as you realize that you’re leaving behind parts of your “healthy” self.  The partner without the diagnosis is trying to wrap their head around a condition that’s not visible and the fact that their partner “doesn’t look sick”.

There’s a major adjustment to the diagnosis, as well as an adjustment to day to day life of the result of the diagnosis.  You have likely already adjusted in several ways, since you’ve both been living with symptoms for a period of time, but an official diagnosis gives you more information about what, exactly, you’re dealing with and, hopefully, more information on medications and lifestyle adjustments that can help, as well.  

So sit down and talk through a tentative “game plan”.  Then plan to sit down a couple of weeks later to see how the game plan is working.  Part of the “game plan” should include how to communicate with one another when the partner with the chronic condition is having a harder day, since intensity of symptoms can ebb and flow.  Talk through an easy way that you can check in with one another about whether it’s a “bad day” or a “good day” without having to go into too much detail.

It’s understandable that the relationship’s “universe” might gravitate toward the partner with the chronic condition, but be mindful to keep tabs on this.  It doesn’t do either one of you, or your relationship, any good to hyperfocus on the condition.  Your relationship, and each of you as individuals, is more than a diagnosis.  

Given that, also make it a routine to check in with the non-diagnosed partner to see the impact that the chronic condition is having on them.  They might be feeling the burden of added responsibility or carrying fear about the future that they find difficult to share for fear of making things “worse”.  

As you can see, a chronic health condition can add another layer of communication challenges.  If you and your partner could use some support for finding helpful ways to discuss your unique challenge from a couple who understands the complexities, set up a free consultation so that we can share with you how we can help with couples coaching.

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