How To Tell if You're With a Supportive Partner, Part 2
Last updated: March 2023
A lupus diagnosis can feel like being suddenly abandoned in a foreign land. You thought you understood how your body interacted with the world around you, only for all the rules to change overnight – having a supportive and empathetic partner to navigate tricky terrain can make all the difference in learning to thrive, not just survive, in the world of chronic illness. Below are some signs that your partner is supportive of your chronic illness.
Empathy for invisible illness
Your partner has empathy for your pain and can tell when you’re not feeling well.
When the person you love most in the world is in pain, you feel that pain in your own heart. A truly supportive partner can tell from looking at you when you're exhausted or suffering from chronic pain. This intuitive understanding doesn't happen overnight. It requires clear and consistent communication. Especially during the beginning stages of a relationship, you will need to be open to talking about your disease. You will need to tell your partner if you're too sick to participate in an activity rather than tough it out.
Hiding your pain or fatigue, even if you’re uncomfortable or embarrassed by it, won’t help your partner learn to see it. Keep in mind that your partner might have to climb a learning curve before they're able to recognize when you're feeling sick. Lupus is an invisible illness; even people who know lupus patients well can't always tell from looking whether we are sick or not.
Emotional support for lupus pain
Your partner is emotionally supportive when you're hurting.
Lupus pain can, unfortunately, take many forms. Lupus pain is often physical; our disease often announces its presence through aching joints, overwhelming fatigue, and headaches. However, with a chronic illness comes emotional pain. You might feel lonely because you've lost friends due to your disease. You might feel deep grief at the lifestyle and abilities you have lost since becoming sick. You might feel resentment or jealousy when seeing social media posts of friends traveling, starting families, and advancing in their careers: life events and milestones that your disease can push just out of reach.
A supportive, loving partner sees your pain. They have the emotional maturity to listen to you and comfort you when you're feeling your worst. A supportive partner might curl up with you on the couch when you're too tired to go out. They might make you coffee in the morning or bring you a heating pad when your joints ache. Most importantly, they will remind you that you are loved and that you are enough.
Your partner is adaptable
When diagnosed with lupus, you have to adapt to a new reality. Life with lupus is full of surprises and often not the good kind. You might unexpectedly have to cancel plans because you feel sick. You might have to break work or social commitments to rest. The right partner for you understands that plans might need to be changed and is ok with it.
Your partner never makes you feel guilty for being sick
A supportive partner understands that you aren't staying in bed or turning down fun activities because you want to – you're doing it because you don't have a choice. They might be disappointed about canceled plans, but they would never accuse you of faking your illness or blame you for their disappointment. Blaming you for your illness or making you feel guilty isn’t just mean; it’s emotional abuse.
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?