Empathy and patience might be common characteristics for many partnerships, but they become essential when one or both people are living with a chronic condition.
For my husband and me, it’s both of us.
I was diagnosed with psoriasis when I was a teen. He’s been living with neck arthritis that causes chronic migraines for the past 15 years.
We agree that empathy and patience are critical to overcoming the challenges and setbacks that can be associated with our conditions. We also have two toddlers in the house, so teamwork is especially important as flares can be debilitating to either of us.
When I experience a psoriasis flare-up or my husband has a migraine, we can recognize each other’s limits and step in to ensure that our kids get what they need.
Of course, our relationship isn’t just reliant on being each other’s caretakers. There’s more focus and need for a true partner and support system to make sure that there’s never any pent-up anger or resentment.
I wouldn’t say it’s lucky that we both understand firsthand how challenging a chronic condition can be, but it does help because we both get it.
We both understand the frustration when our conditions force us to cancel plans or we don’t have the energy to get it all done.
We spoke openly about these challenges early on in our relationship because we started out as friends and were comfortable sharing our experiences.
There’s no right or wrong time to tell someone about your condition, and you get to decide when you’re ready to share.
However, it did take some time for us to figure out how we can best support each other. Now that we’ve been at it a while, we’ve figured out what works for us.
If you’re living with a chronic disease, try these three ways to encourage guidance, communication, and support with your partner.
Help your partner understand the physical and emotional impact of your disease by teaching them what’s happening in your body and what all the symptoms or side effects can be.
Fatigue is a lesser known symptom of psoriasis, so telling my husband about it and sharing articles helped him understand why there were flare-up days when I couldn’t seem to stay awake to get things done.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what kind of support someone needs. Do they want to be left alone or do they just need someone to curl up on the couch and watch movies with them?
Tell your partner what you need and how they can support you, so they know what they can do to help.
There are some days when my husband’s migraines are so terrible that he can’t move, so the best way I can support him is by removing our lively toddlers to give him silence.
3. Get Them Involved
I advocate for the psoriasis community and often bring my family along to events. They get to meet others living with the disease and understand how it impacts their lives—and it’s also an incredible way to support me.
It’s a community that’s really important to me, and I love that I get to share my experience with my husband and kids.
Whether it’s a live event or virtual support group, there are lots of ways to get your partner involved. You could also ask them to attend a doctor’s appointment with you, so they can understand your treatment or ask their own questions.
It may not always be the same, but communicating honestly and keeping the discussion alive will benefit your relationship and ensure that your chronic condition doesn’t come between you and your partner.
Joni Kazantzis is the creator and blogger behind Just a Girl with Spots, an award-winning psoriasis blog dedicated to creating awareness, and sharing personal stories from her 19+ year journey with psoriasis. This article was originally published on Healthline.com