Understanding migraines: a guide for your significant other

Navigating life with migraines can be extremely challenging for those who experience them but also for their significant others. Understanding the disorder and learning how to support your partner can make a tremendous difference for your relationship.

The impact of migraines

Migraines can have a profound impact on a person’s life and subsequently on their partner’s life, especially if children are involved. A severe migraine attack can incapacitate a person, making even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming. This can shift responsibilities onto the partner, leading to unexpected adjustments in the family dynamic.

Understanding migraines

Migraines are not just severe headaches. They are a neurological condition characterized by intense, throbbing pain, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Following an episode, many people experience a ‘migraine hangover’ or postdrome phase, characterized by exhaustion, body aches and brain fog. Understanding these aspects can help you empathize with your partner’s experiences.

Supporting a partner with migraines

Here’s how you can support a partner who experiences migraines:

Acceptance of the condition: Understanding and accepting that migraines are a real and often unpredictable condition is the first step. This acceptance can help remove any feelings of blame or guilt associated with the illness.

Respect for migraine triggers: Migraines can be triggered by various factors such as certain foods, stress, or changes in weather. It can be difficult trying to figure out what triggers a migraine. You can help your partner identify these triggers by reminding them to use a migraine calendar. By keeping track of what your partner did or ate leading up to the migraine, you can help identify potential triggers. Recognizing and respecting these triggers can help prevent migraine future attacks.

Provide practical help: Finding concrete ways to help can be beneficial, e.g. what is the plan B in case of a migraine attack? This could involve taking over household tasks or taking on childcare duties. If you need help explaining migraine to children, I have written a parent’s guide right here.

Another way to provide practical help is knowing what your partner needs during a migraine. Personally, my husband knows that I need coffee, electrolytes and an ice mask. Ask your partner what he/she needs during an attack as they often struggle to get out of bed for food and drink.

Avoid negative reactions: It’s crucial not to get angry or guilt a partner suffering a migraine. This only adds to their stress and could potentially worsen their symptoms. Being a partner to a migraine sufferer can be frustrating but keep in mind that your partner is as much frustrated about the migraine as you are.

The importance of self-care: Finally, remember to take care of yourself as well. Supporting a partner with migraines can be emotionally and physically draining. Ensure you’re taking time for rest and relaxation to maintain your own well-being. If you’re struggling with how the disorder affects your life, talk to a friend, family member or even a therapist.

Communication is key

Migraines are not just severe headaches but a neurological condition with various symptoms. Partners can support by accepting the condition, respecting triggers, providing practical help, and avoiding negative reactions. Additionally, great communication is key. To fully understand your partner’s migraine and all it entails, it’s crucial to engage in active listening and open communication.

By maintaining open and honest communication about the disorder, you can develop a strong game plan for what to do when a migraine attack occurs.