How Endometriosis Affected Our Relationship
The most devastating effects of endometriosis happen to the person suffering from the disease – excruciating pain and fatigue can make it impossible to have an active social life (and threaten your work life as well), and questions of fertility and increased cancer risks can raise serious questions about the future. And in case that isn’t enough for the endo patient to deal with, there comes the complex secondary effects the disease has on the people around them. Family and friends, especially those who are close to the endo patient such as partners, are also affected by the diagnosis of endometriosis and the symptoms it brings.
Adjusting to my partner's endo diagnosis
My partner's diagnosis of endometriosis was the first time I’d heard of the condition, and as such I had no knowledge about it or its related symptoms. Like the majority of people, I was ignorant about the condition and that made the effects difficult to deal with. When my partner started showing signs of depression, I thought that I was to blame. I started trying to change how I was behaving in the relationship, trying to over-compensate for what I saw as my own shortcomings. This wasn’t helpful and just lead to my partner having to reassure me on top of everything she was dealing with, rather than focusing on getting better.
Fatigue took it's toll
Similarly, when my partners fatigue was at a peak, I would get frustrated by it – as if she was intentionally distant and lethargic. Again, I tried to over-compensate – make time spent with me more exciting or my conversation more engaging – and again, this was not what the problem was. The fatigue persisted, as did the depression and pain and feelings of isolation. I was not causing these problems like I supposed, but I was contributing to them by not listening to my partner.
Instead of these reactionary responses to what I saw as signs that our relationship wasn’t working, I should have asked her what was wrong. Not in a cursory way, but by having deep and reflective conversations about how she was feeling and what I could do to make things easier. There were absolutely things I needed to change to make our relationship easier when endo entered the scene, but they were not the same changes I was making when I thought I was to blame for my partner’s symptoms. Changes that we made together, changes to our shared lifestyle were what really made the difference. I could not help by changing myself in isolation because I really had no idea what was going on.
My advice for others
Endometriosis will also affect the people around the sufferer, but as those other people we have a choice to be part of the problem or help with the solution. Be mindful of how your behavior and attitude affects your loved one, but remember that you’re not causing the condition. Nobody will understand how your loved one is feeling better than themselves, so be sure to listen to them, and have an open and meaningful dialogue about the condition. Because of and in spite of all the pain and fatigue, the anxiety and isolation, this is when your relationship needs to be at its strongest, and you at your most understanding.
How often do you find it difficult to care for your pet(s) due to the pain of endo?
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