You’ve heard of love languages, right? This is the concept that each of us has a preferred way to show love and to receive love.

Maybe you love getting compliments. Maybe you show affection by buying presents. The point is that in any relationship, you have to understand your own love language and honor your partner’s preferences too.

If you or your partner live with migraine, you often have to adapt the ways you show love. Let’s say your partner’s number-one favorite thing is snuggling… but when you’re in the throes of a migraine attack, physical touch makes you feel sick. Talk about how you feel. Reassure them that you’re not rejecting them. Reconnect once you’re recovering.

What’s your migraine love language?

Migraine Love Language #1: Words of affirmation

“Words of affirmation” means written or spoken praise and compliments.

If words of affirmation are your migraine love language… you need encouragement when you’re feeling your worst. You want reassurance that you are seen, you are understood, and you are appreciated. However, those affirming words have to be sincere! Your B.S. detector is finely tuned. So if your partner says “You look amazing today” when a migraine attack kept you up all night, it’s just going to annoy you.

If words of affirmation are your partner’s migraine love language… think of creative ways to express your feelings. Text them or send memes to make them laugh throughout the day. Surprise them by tucking love notes into their bag. When your partner is struggling through a migraine attack, acknowledge how they feel and praise their strength and courage. And when your partner is feeling good, tell them they look cute.

Migraine Love Language #2: Quality time

Quality time means giving your partner focused attention and planning activities together that you both enjoy.

If quality time is your migraine love language… you need your partner to be there for you even when you’re feeling your worst. During an attack, you appreciate your partner checking on you and simply being patient and present. You also need your partner to make the most of your good days by planning migraine-friendly activities you both enjoy. Just make sure you’re not claiming all of your partner’s time: They need space and solitude too.

If quality time is your partner’s migraine love language… don’t run away when they’re feeling bad. Strive to be there when you’re needed most and provide the support they need. It’s OK to set boundaries: If you can’t stand the sight or smell of vomit, you’re not obligated to stay by your loved one’s side when they’re throwing up from migraine.

The worst thing you can do is offer your loved one distracted attention. If you’re looking at your phone, or playing a video game, that doesn’t count as quality time. Make eye contact, practice active listening, and truly be present.

Migraine Love Language #3: Physical touch

The “physical touch” love language is all about closeness and acts of physical affection: holding hands, snuggling on the couch, kissing and more.

If physical touch is your migraine love language… communication is key. In the various stages of a migraine attack, do you want your partner to lie next to you, rub your back, or leave you the heck alone?  Don’t make them guess. Say, “When I’m feeling ______, I really love it when you ______.”

With this love language, it’s essential to honor your partner’s needs and preferences as well as your own.  Some people just don’t like to snuggle. Some really hate public displays of affection. Talk about the physical expressions of love that matter most to you, so you can be aligned.  

If physical touch is your partner’s migraine love language… ask them how migraine affects their desire to be touched. Up to 70% of people with migraine experience allodynia during an attack: a condition in which the nerves become so sensitive that even the slightest touch feels painful. A gentle caress or even a change in temperature can be agonizing. Don’t take it personally if your partner rejects your touch during an attack. When they’re feeling better, you can reconnect. Also, keep in mind that physical touch is not always about sex. If you always try to turn cuddling or massage into something more, you risk losing your partner’s trust.

Migraine Love Language #4: Acts of service

An act of service is any thoughtful, practical action that makes your life better.

If acts of service are your migraine love language… you really appreciate your partner stepping in to get things done when migraine stops you from living life. It can be small tasks, like taking out the trash, or big ones, like getting your car fixed. Make sure you tell them how grateful you are! Too often, people who perform acts of service feel overlooked or underappreciated, because the things they do aren’t considered romantic.

If acts of service are your partner’s migraine love language… you have to learn what’s most important to them when they’re experiencing a migraine attack. Meaningful acts of service may be:

  • Bringing them things they need from their migraine toolkit
  • Adjusting the temperature or light levels to make them more comfortable
  • Taking care of the kids or pets
  • Running defense on friends and family, to make sure they’re not disturbed

Migraine Love Language #5: Receiving gifts

For these people, a gift is never just a physical object. It has deep significance as a symbol of affection. Exchanging gifts seems like the simplest love language, but sometimes it’s really hard to get it right.

If receiving gifts is your migraine love language… be sure to express appreciation any time your partner gives you something, whether it’s a grocery-store bouquet or a hand-knitted scarf. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

What if your partner’s not very good at gift-giving? It’s easy to become resentful when they forget an anniversary, or buy you a car emergency kit instead of the necklace you wanted. Instead of setting yourself up for disappointment, make it easy for them. Remind them of upcoming occasions and talk openly about what you’d love to receive. You may even want to set up some online wish lists.

If receiving gifts is your partner’s migraine love language… the most important thing is not spending a ton of money; it’s understanding what brings your partner joy and what’s important to them. This can be really hard if you’re not an intuitive gift-giver! A few ideas:

  • Set up phone reminders a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, their birthday, and other occasions.
  • Buy them fun subscriptions, so the gifts keep coming month after month.
  • Personalized gifts are gold. Look on Etsy or similar sites for things like engraved photo frames, custom pet portraits, a journal printed with their name, etc.
  • Any time your partner says, “Ooh, I wish I had X,” write X down so you won’t forget.
  • Ask their family and friends for help with gift ideas.
  • Make sure your gifts are migraine-friendly. Chocolate, red wine and perfume all can be triggers.

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