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Self-Help & Coping

Reducing Feelings of Resentment

Having fibromyalgia in a partnership or marriage can dramatically change the relationship. Simple tasks that you both took for granted—mobility, housework, finances, social activities, and even making plans for the future—may be sidetracked.

As household duties back up and the partner with fibromyalgia tries to take care of themself, the other person in the relationship often feels overwhelmed trying to manage a larger chunk of daily responsibilities. Both parties tend to hide their emotions. The partner who is taking on more duties can begin to feel frustrated, disappointed, sad, or lonely. These feelings can lead to anger or resentment.

As the person with fibromyalgia, you may feel guilty and unsure about how to initiate a conversation about the obvious changes in our relationship. Yet silence may make you and your partner feel even more awkward. Here are some strategies to improve communications and handle feelings of resentment with your partner:

Initiate Friendly Discussion

If the partner who is ill makes a loving effort to initiate discussion that will bring up the spouse’s feelings, the relationship can take a more constructive and supportive course, says Thomas Fuller, Ph.D., a psychologist in Grand Rapids, MI.

“This isn’t an easy topic with a simple fix,” Fuller says. “I think the real key is for couples to talk about issues openly and without penalty so things don’t get all bottled up.” Also, you must consider that while you are dealing with pain, your spouse’s life has changed, too.

“Don’t be defensive about your illness or the situation, and accept that your spouse’s efforts, feelings, and struggles are normal. Validate their experience. Verbally appreciate what your spouse is doing to accommodate the situation.” Let them know you recognize the greater effort they are putting forth.

Here is what you might say to initiate a friendly discussion:

“I know that you are disappointed right now. I know that you love me and are trying not to blame me for being ill. I am so lucky to have a spouse who takes care of things like you do. I am so lucky to have you.”

Only You Know How it Feels

“Open and honest communication is the best protection against the inevitable hurt and anger that can damage a relationship,” says Connie O’Reilly, Ph.D., a psychologist in Beaverton, OR. “Only you know what it feels like to be in your body, yet it is important that you make a good faith effort to contribute to the household chores, even in small ways. And at the end of a day when your spouse walks in the door and you both realize

you’ve not been able to do all each of you had hoped, remember that you are not responsible for anyone’s feelings but your own. Acknowledge the situation, accept that it’s okay, and remain optimistic.”

For example:
“I realize I did not accomplish many of the tasks I had hoped to do today. I can understand that you may be disappointed and frustrated. So am I. I plan to go to bed early tonight and try again tomorrow.”

Suggest trading some duties and consider all options. While you both struggle to manage the house, parenting and finances, keep in mind the social aspects of a relationship can also suffer. This can be equally hard on both of you, so see our article on Create a Social Life.