6 Ways to Communicate Your Fibromyalgia Needs to Your Partner

  • Middle aged woman painting art and smiling with husband
    Help Others Help You
    When you live with fibromyalgia, you need more support from your partner and loved ones than you might if you were healthy. But asking for help can be difficult. It can create insecurities for you and leave you feeling like you aren’t pulling your own weight. However, asking for help can strengthen your relationship by building trust. It can also provide you with confidence that your partner will be there during fibromyalgia flares and other tough times. Conversely, communicating your needs builds your partner’s trust that you will openly seek his or her help, and empowers the people who love you to play an active role in your health.

  • Caucasian couple cooking together and laughing
    1. Make your requests direct and specific.
    You might believe your partner knows you so well they should be able to read your mind and anticipate your needs, but no matter how long you’ve been together, he or she probably hasn’t fully developed that superpower. The best way to get what you need is to ask for it directly. Be specific with your requests. Just telling your partner you are having a fibromyalgia flare isn’t enough. You need to express exactly what kind of help you need.

  • Young Caucasian couple drinking coffee and talking on couch
    2. Plan regular discussions to catch up on life.
    Living with fibromyalgia, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the pain and fatigue and lose the intimate connections to those you love. Make it part of your daily routine to sit down together and talk about your day. In addition to sharing how your day went, how you feel, and what you need, make sure you make the effort to listen to your partner and hear about their day, how they feel, and what they need. There will be days when you just aren’t up to having a conversation, but if you schedule these discussions daily, a day missed won’t hurt.

  • Array of colored plastic spoons
    3. Use the spoon theory to explain your fatigue levels.
    If you have a difficult time directly expressing how you feel, you might want to use an analogy. The spoon theory equates energy to spoons, where those without chronic illness have unlimited spoons, but those with fibromyalgia have a minimal number of spoons that disappear at varying rates with different activities. Choose a set number of spoons to represent how much energy you have on a typical day. Instead of asking how you feel, your partner can ask you how many spoons you started with that day and how many spoons you have remaining.

  • Woman holding mobile phone with low battery
    4. Use the battery analogy to describe your current energy level.
    The battery analogy is like the spoon theory, except that you equate your energy to the bars on a cell phone battery. On nights when you don’t sleep well, it’s akin to forgetting to plug in your phone, so you start with fewer bars than you would after a good night’s sleep. Throughout the day your battery gets drained as you complete tasks, with some tasks using more battery than others. Expressing that your battery is low or fully charged will help your partner know whether you need to rest or if you can keep going.

  • Young African American couple smiling and drinking coffee in park
    5. Be clear with the meanings of the words you choose to describe how fibromyalgia is affecting you.
    Make sure your partner understands what you mean when you say “I’m tired” or “I’m done.” Those are two different phrases that may or may not mean different things for you. While “I’m tired” may mean you’re tired but not ready to quit the activity, “I’m done” should mean you are in fact done and need to stop. Your partner needs to understand what you mean when you describe how fibromyalgia makes you feel at any given moment and, if needed, be ready to shift gears to accommodate your needs.

  • Blond Caucasian woman smiling and writing on a white board
    6. Use visual aids to help you communicate how you feel.
    If you often struggle to have the energy to communicate, you might find it helpful to create a whiteboard chart of your fibromyalgia symptoms and various needs. All you must do is circle your symptoms and needs for that day, along with what items you need help with, and your partner can check it when he or she comes home. This can be particularly helpful on days when you don’t even feel like talking. Your partner can see exactly what you need without having to interrupt your rest and ask.

6 Ways to Communicate Your Fibromyalgia Needs to Your Partner
  1. DePaulo BM, Fisher JD; The costs of asking for help. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 1980;1(1): 23-35. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/s15324834basp0101_3
  2. Luchies LB, Wieselquist J, Rusbult CE, et al; Trust and biased memory of transgressions in romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2013;104(4): 673. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23397968
  3. The Spoon Theory. But You Don’t Look Sick. https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory
  4. A Wife or a Patient: Fibromyalgia Patients’ Communication Behaviors Regarding Social Support and Coping. George Mason University. http://mars.gmu.edu/handle/1920/9909

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2018 Aug 28
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.