I always find it difficult to explain to people just how much endometriosis can affect me, and how it makes me feel. It’s a very unique pain that can be hard to understand if you have never experienced. This puts our partners in a very difficult position, because it can’t be easy to support someone going through something that you don’t fully understand.
If your partner is male, they have absolutely no personal experience with period pain to draw from, trying to explain period pain and how it feels can at times be like talking to a brick wall. If your partner is female then they have a better starting position, because they have likely experienced periods and understand basic period pain.
The methods I use to help my partner understand are:
Keep it simple – especially when you’re initially trying to explain endo, try not to over complicate things. I explain that it is linked to periods, and tissue similar to the lining of my uterus is found in areas it shouldn’t be. Explain that you don’t just get pain during your period, but at other times of the month too.
Don’t get frustrated if they ask a lot of questions – it is a very complicated thing to understand, and if they are asking questions and wanting to know more give them all the information you can. I always say that I would much prefer people to ask me questions than make assumptions, and I open this up to absolutely everyone who wants to ask. This can be a very personal thing to talk about, so you don’t have to be this open with everyone, but the more you let your partner in the more they will be able to help and understand.
Look from their point of view – it’s very easy to become very focused on your position in this, and forget that your partner is also affected. Yes they don’t have the pain or the symptoms, but they have to watch someone they care about suffer so much without being able to do anything about it. The majority of people with endo talk about it having an affect on their sex lives and this definitely affects your partner. Your partner will likely have to pick up the slack when you are struggling all whilst doing their usual day-to-day tasks. Finally, your potential struggles with fertility will affect them also. As with any condition, there is so much attention and focus on the person diagnosed with it, that the partner can find themselves struggling to deal with it by themselves.
Describe and update – I let my partner know every time I’m around him and in pain, the type of pain, severity and location. I do this with all of my other symptoms as well. I find that it’s easier to describe the pain more accurately whilst I am experiencing it. This also lets him see how frequently I am experiencing it, and to spot any potential triggers or patterns that I may have missed.
Ultimately, every relationship is different, and people will understand in different ways. What might help one person to understand may not help another. The one piece of advice that would apply to everyone, would be to keep communicating. You can’t help your partner to understand what you’re going through if you don’t explain it to them.