How to Maintain Relationships With Fibromyalgia

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Maintaining relationships when you live with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia is difficult on a good day. On the bad days when chronic fatigue and pain flare up, you may be left without the energy to consider anyone but yourself. This can create tension and anxiety that will test even the tightest bonds. Maintaining relationships when you have fibromyalgia is often challenging, but it isn’t impossible.

Focus on The Most Important Relationships

Because your energy is limited, don’t waste it worrying about every possible relationship. You will lose friends, or more accurately, you will learn who your real friends are.

Before fibromyalgia you may have been the type to surround yourself with many friends. Now that fibromyalgia is taking so much of your energy, it is important to be thoughtful about how you spend your time and with whom. Think about who in your life is most important, and who makes you feel good. When you have energy to spend with others, spend it with them.

If you find that certain relationships always seem to make you feel worse, it’s probably a good idea to spend less time with those people or remove them from your life entirely.

Unfortunately, sometimes the people closest to you are the worst at draining your energy, and it may not be possible to remove them from your life. If you can’t remove someone from your life, you can still set strong boundaries and limit the time you spend together, controlling the where and when as much as possible.

Communicate with Those Who Love You

It’s often easy to think your partner just knows you and understands what you need. However, expecting your partner to read your mind is a recipe for disaster. No one can read your mind, no matter how well they know you.

It’s important to be open and direct with your loved ones. Discuss your symptoms in an open and honest manner, while trying to remain positive. You can’t always be positive, but don’t allow yourself to lose focus of what’s important in your life beyond your illness.

Those who love you want to know what you are going through; however, they also remember that you are more than just your illness. Even as you may lose sight of your identity, your loved ones will try to help remind you of the good things in your life, and that your symptoms do not define you. They are not doing this to discount your illness, or to ignore how bad you feel, but rather to remind you that you are more than fibromyalgia.

Make sure your family and friends are aware of the efforts you are making to feel better. When they know that you are trying, they are less likely to lose hope or to become frustrated and inaccurately blame you for your illness.

Set Boundaries for Yourself and Others

If you aren’t taking care of yourself first, you can’t expect others to take care of you. This begins with pacing and setting appropriate boundaries for yourself. Make it a point to do things that help you, whether it’s just sitting outside in the fresh air, eating a healthful diet, or making a point to spend time alone to rest and recuperate.

Going beyond your boundaries and pushing yourself to do more than you comfortably can will leave you feeling worse. When your family and friends see you pushing yourself, they act on that example and are more likely to ask you to do more.

Speak up when you need to stop for a break or limit your activity. When they know you are making these choices to feel better, they are more likely to support you in doing so instead of pushing you to do more.
 

Maintaining relationships when you live with fibromyalgia can often require energy you don’t have. It’s important to make thoughtful choices about with whom you spend time and how you spend that time. Focus your energy on only the most important people in your life, doing activities that bring you joy, while pacing yourself and setting an example by treating yourself the way you want to be treated.

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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.
  1. Armentor JL; Living with a contested, stigmatized illness:
    experiences of managing relationships among women with fibromyalgia.
    Qualitative health research. 2017;27(4):462-473. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26667880
  2. Wolfe F, Clauw DJ, Fitzcharles MA, et al; The American
    College of Rheumatology preliminary diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia and
    measurement of symptom severity. Arthritis care & research. 2010;62(5):600-610. 













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