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Reader Newly in Love With Someone With Chronic Daily Headache Seeks Advice

A woman who has fallen in love with a man who has chronic daily headache has posted a comment asking for input on whether it is wise to stay in the relationship. Although I indulge in Dear Prudence during migraine attacks, I’m not an advice columnist myself. I’ll share my thoughts and would love for you to weigh, as I think anyone whose had a relationship and a headache disorder could provide a valuable perspective.

She wrote:

“I am divorced. I have met a wonderful man whom I love. However, he has had a headache non stop for 25 years. He has maintained a successful career and still works but has debilitating headache periods. I only know he feels bad when he tells me. But I’m starting to realize he feels bad all the time. I don’t understand how he’s not crazy. In other words it does not impaire [sic] dating. He says he feels better when relaxed. Tense work makes headaches worse. He’s been to the best headache clinics. We’ve been dating 5 months and got serious about a month ago. But I stress enormously about whether I have just fallen in love with someone that is disabled or will be. He’s just ideal for me except for the headache. I cannot imagine stopping dating when we are having such a good time. But I feel like I am taking on a disability that could leave me in a bad marriage and I want a good marriage.”

My immediate thought is that part of what she loves about this man is probably a direct result of who he has become because of his headache disorder. After all, we’re known for being brave and tenacious. Maybe his his chronic headache is as much an asset as a liability.

Just because one person has a physical disability doesn’t mean a marriage will be bad. It is undeniably something to deal with, but every person and every relationship has difficulties. It is fortunate that this one is known ahead of time.

This man appears to function quite well with his headaches and there’s no indication his condition is worsening. There’s also no guarantee they won’t worsen, nor is there a guarantee that the woman asking for advice won’t be diagnosed with a debilitating disease or disabled in a car accident.

Life is uncertain and you can only know so many variables going into a major decision. You can decide what you want out of a relationship and weigh all the factors you know and still be surprised, pleasantly or otherwise.

I write all this knowing that I was married before my migraine attacks became severely debilitating. It has caused an enormous strain on my relationship. My husband and I love each other very much and are committed to being together, but there’s no denying I’m not the energetic woman he married, nor am I the equal partner we both expected. Still, he tells me that he’d rather be with me sick than not be with me at all.

That may be the real question this advice seeker should ask herself: Would she rather be with this man even though he is sick than not with him at all?

Readers, you have loads of experience with this issue. What’s your advice?

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Self-Disclosure and a Pleasant Surprise

Chronic illness complicates a person’s social life, particularly when meeting new people. You’ve got to decide who, how much and when to tell others about your illness. Secrecy isn’t always the best option, but neither is laying it all out.

Impulsively shrugging off her lifelong silence about her illness, writer Laurie Edwards got an unexpected response. Instead of walking away, the cute and friendly guy she was talking to asked for her phone number.

“As a new couple, we survived our first dinner with my parents, our first real fight, and our first “I love you.” But soon into it, we also experienced our first surgery together, our first emergency room crisis, and a slew of messy infections.”

“I waited for the reality of it all to overwhelm him, for my illness to crowd him right out of our relationship. I told myself I would understand if it did.”

“‘None of this is ever going away, John. Wouldn’t you rather be with someone healthy?’ I asked one cold winter day. I spoke with the halting confidence of someone who knew the answer but needed to hear it anyway.”

“‘No, because then it wouldn’t be you,’ he said without hesitation.”

[via ChronicBabe]