By the time April Christina met her now-husband Greg, she had already been diagnosed with endometriosis and was dealing with regular and frequent pain. As their relationship progressed, so did Greg’s approach to supporting April as she managed her chronic illness.
For April, the symptoms were nothing new. Like many women with endometriosis, April suffered from endo symptoms for nearly a decade before getting an accurate diagnosis. After initially struggling to accept the news and deal with the condition, she decided to embrace her illness. Today, she’s an endometriosis advocate and blogger who lives her life with optimism and purpose.
However, it took time for April and Greg to “find their groove” for dealing with the illness as a couple. While every partner wants to see their loved one happy and healthy, a chronic illness comes with limitations. “You feel powerless,” says Greg. “There’s nothing you can actually do to take away their pain immediately in that moment.”
Greg wasn’t the only one who had to learn: April admits she was used to doing things for herself and being independent. Having endometriosis only made her more determined to be resilient and independent.
“It felt like she was pushing me away in order to deal with it, and it was difficult on our relationship,” says Greg. “She would be very adamant that she can do everything on her own.”
What Works, and What Doesn’t
Ultimately, Greg had to learn when April did—and didn’t—need help. Similarly, April had to learn when and how to ask for and accept support from Greg.
“I can still feel powerful and not feel powerless by having someone like Greg help me,” says April.
One way that Greg has learned to support April through her endometriosis is by looking at her eyes. He can see in her eyes when she’s having a particularly bad flare, and when he might need to step in and help. Otherwise, he steps back and respects her independence.
It’s true that nothing can completely “take the pain away” during an endometriosis flare, but April and Greg have learned ways to provide comfort during a flare. “There’s a blanket that my grandmother made for me. Being wrapped in that blanket gives me a sense of home,” says April.
In general, many women with endometriosis find some comfort or relief from things like rest, meditation, or heat therapy (e.g., taking warm baths or applying a heating pad or hot water bottle), according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. However, each person is unique and may find relief from different things.
For example, April enjoys drinking herbal teas or ginger ale during her flares. “[Greg] already subconsciously knows which one I need within that moment. [That’s] something else that I love that he picks up on,” says April.
“My advice to other partners who are with someone with endometriosis is you need to have patience, you need to understand that it’s now a part of your life, and you need to understand that it’s not going to limit your life,” says Greg.