Your Migraine Marriage Counselor: How To Work Out Problems With Your Partner

If you feel like migraine causes major friction in your relationship, you’re not alone.

A large Internet survey (the CaMEO Study) of people with episodic and chronic migraine and their partners sought to quantify how migraine affected their relationships. The study found that more than half of the 4,000+ couples surveyed reported certain problems:

  • 51.4% of people with migraine and 53.6% of partners said migraine disrupted one-on-one time with their spouse.
  • 57.4% of people with migraine and 51.1% of partners said their enjoyment of time spent with their spouse was significantly reduced.
  • 50.8% of people with migraine and 50.4% of partners said the spouse had to take over the migraineur’s share of housework.

Communication and trust are big issues, too! Almost 30% of people with migraine said their spouse didn’t really believe them about their headaches. 14% of migraineurs said their spouse got angry or upset at them for having headaches (and this number goes up to 27.5% for people with chronic migraine).

Taken together, all these numbers suggest that many migraineurs — and their partners — are seriously stressed out in their marriages. Here are a few ideas for how to change things.

If Your Spouse or Partner Lives With Migraine…

Believe them. Migraine is real. It’s an invisible, debilitating condition that affects an estimated 1 billion people worldwide. Questioning your partner’s symptoms, or telling them “it can’t possibly be that bad,” is harmful and destroys trust.

Learn about migraine. Although migraine is incredibly common, its causes and mechanisms are complex and not fully understood. Invest a few hours in researching migraine, so you can better understand how it works and how it’s treated.

Accept that you can’t fix their condition. It’s hard to see someone you love suffering. You can support them, and encourage them to talk to their healthcare provider about migraine relief, but there’s nothing you or your partner can do to make migraine just go away.

Respect their migraine triggers. Most people with migraine find that certain triggers can cause a migraine attack. Triggers are diverse and highly individual. Examples include stress, alcohol, caffeine, strong smells, specific foods (there’s a long list), changes in weather, physical activity, lack of sleep, flickering lights… Ask your loved one what their triggers are, so you can avoid them. (For one thing, it’s probably best not to bust out the cologne and rose-scented candles next time you want to get frisky.)

Find concrete things you can do to help. Ask your partner what you should do to ease their migraine symptoms. They may ask you to dim the lights, take the kids outside, or bring them their CEFALY device so they can use the ACUTE program for migraine pain relief.

Don’t get mad, or guilt them. It’s OK to feel frustrated when your partner cancels date night or postpones the housework. It’s not OK to take that frustration out on your partner. They didn’t choose to have migraine, and it’s really hard for them to live with the pain and other symptoms. Don’t take it personally when they say, “Not today.”

Practice self-care. You may be a perfectly supportive partner: taking them to the doctor, dealing with the kids and household duties, patiently nursing them through migraine attacks. But who’s supporting you? Burnout and silent resentment will kill your relationship, so find ways to take care of yourself. These can include connecting with friends, planning solo getaways, exercising — anything that replenishes you.

If You’re the Spouse or Partner With Migraine…

Be real with your partner. Many of us have learned to conceal how bad we’re feeling by putting on a brave face and soldiering through the day. But honesty is essential for intimacy. Tell your partner how you feel and how a migraine attack affects you.

Discuss ways to make your shared life more equitable. The CaMEO study revealed that many partners feel stress related to financial security and resentment about having to do more than their fair share around the house. But money and housework don’t have to be fight-starters! Talk to your partner (when you’re not having a migraine) about ways to ease the burden on them, whether that’s cutting expenses or hiring help.

Take control of your migraine treatment plan. Many people feel defeated by migraine. Nothing seems to help. Medication has too many side effects. Migraine attacks keep ruining your life.

Don’t give up! You owe it to your loved one — and more importantly, to yourself — to seek solutions to your migraine pain. The first step is consulting a neurologist or headache specialist, if you haven’t done that. Every year, new migraine medications and treatments hit the market, and one of these could be a good fit for you. If you really want to minimize your use of migraine drugs, research alternative and integrative treatments for migraine.

And if you’re not sure what triggers your migraine attacks, start tracking them with the free CeCe app. You can see migraine patterns and trends over time, which helps you understand what’s causing them — and what helps.

Be candid with your partner about what you need from them. Whether your spouse vanishes at the first sign of a migraine attack or hovers over you while you’re vomiting in the bathroom, their approach might not be exactly right. It’s OK to ask for what you need, whether that’s more care or more distance.

Build your own support network. Your partner might mean everything to you, but they can’t be your sole source of support. Do you have friends and family members who can serve as a sounding board?

Remember to thank your partner for what they do. Gratitude is far from mind when you’re having a migraine attack. But once you’re feeling better, tell your partner how much you appreciate the ways they support you.

Try to be fully present on your good days. Living with migraine is so, so hard. But it bestows an important bit of wisdom: Good days are precious. When you wake up and you’re migraine-free, make that a day to show your partner some love and just enjoy being together.

CEFALY makes it possible to have more migraine-free days! Try it risk-free for 90 days to begin seeing the benefits of this innovative, drug-free, clinically proven migraine treatment.

Try CEFALY risk-free for 90 days

Dawn C. Buse, Ann I. Scher, David W. Dodick, Michael L. Reed, Kristina M. Fanning, Aubrey Manack Adams, Richard B. Lipton, Impact of Migraine on the Family: Perspectives of People With Migraine and Their Spouse/Domestic Partner in the CaMEO Study, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 91, Issue 5, 2016, Pages 596-611,

ISSN 0025-6196,

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