How To Open Up To Your Partner About Your Chronic Health Conditions

Our bodies help us live our best lives, but sometimes chronic health conditions cause obstacles and hiccups, even serious barriers at times, to our happiness and fulfillment. There is still a lot of stigma around chronic health diagnoses and pressure to keep medical information private, even when you feel that you should advocate for yourself. When you begin dating someone new, it might feel embarrassing or even shameful to confide in your new partner that you're living with a chronic health condition.


Whether it's a chronic pain, an invisible illness, a behavioral or mental health condition, or any other chronic health diagnosis, the most important thing to remind yourself of is that there is nothing to be ashamed about. Every single person's body is different, and many people live with chronic conditions. Here's how you can open up to your partner, reveal your chronic health condition on your terms and in a way that makes you feel comfortable, and establish a mutually supportive relationship. 

Know why it's important to share information

The reality of living with medical conditions is that many symptoms can exacerbate if they aren't addressed correctly. So, if you're trying to hide a chronic health condition from a partner or refrain from revealing your needs, you could risk your health. A 2023 survey conducted by Amgen discovered that over half of the people with asthma did not disclose their diagnoses to people in their lives. Moreover, nearly half of the survey respondents worried about their condition interfering with their romantic partnerships. In the case of ailments like asthma or allergies, your partner not being aware of your diagnosis could place you in a severely dangerous situation if you have an asthmatic attack or an allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. In these circumstances, your partner is left in the dark while you need emergency aid. 


Since your health is literally at play in this context, it's crucial to understand why your partner should be privy to your diagnosis. The absolute worst time for your partner to discover your condition is when you're in a health crisis, so letting them know in advance is a respectful move for both your better half and your relationship. Being open, honest, and transparent may feel challenging, but it will prevent critical or dangerous situations from arising in the future. Plus, your partner can become informed about what to do should a dire health situation arise. 

Be honest about your needs

When you imagine telling a new partner about a chronic health condition, your mind might jump to how they will react. However, opening up about your diagnosis will help you discern if your partner is right for you because you don't want to be with someone who shies away from medical conditions you can't control. Creaky Joints, an organization that advocates for the education of arthritis and chronic conditions, recommends multiple questions to consider when you open up to a new partner about your diagnosis. 


As you open up to your new partner, pay attention to how actively and genuinely they listen to you, how concerned and empathetic they are as you open up to them, and if they ask questions about how they can help you. Of course, everyone reacts differently, and you shouldn't judge your partner's initial response based on minute details but pay attention to their attitude and vibe toward your words. 

This is good advice for any difficult topic partners will navigate in a relationship, especially when your health is at the center of the conversation. Let your partner know your needs, what you need from them to help you thrive when symptoms of your chronic health impede daily life, and what kind of emotional support you may require concerning your health. If your partner is receptive to your needs, you'll know they're a keeper!


Let your partner know how they can support you

Revealing your chronic health condition to your partner is the first step. If your partner is receptive and supportive of the information you've shared, then you're on your way to building healthy communication. After opening up about your diagnosis, the next step is to express your needs to your partner. To make it easier to share your needs, try writing them out before you speak with your partner so that you can let them know how you need to be supported articulately and succinctly. You may even want to try practicing what you'll say or rehearsing in front of a mirror to feel more confident in expressing your needs, per CNN. Don't neglect to rely on your existing support system, either. Rehearse with a friend or family member for extra encouragement. 


Opening up about something as vulnerable as your health can be a very sensitive experience, so be compassionate with yourself and take the time you need to process how you feel about revealing your chronic health condition to your partner. It's okay if you don't identify all of your needs during the initial conversation. There doesn't have to be just one conversation about your needs when it comes to your health, accommodations, or modifications. You might discover that your needs change down the road, so having an ongoing dialogue is the best way to approach any relationship situation. 

Provide support to your partner, too

It might seem counterintuitive to hear that you should offer support to your partner when you're the one with a chronic health condition. Still, just like in any successful relationship, there must be reciprocity. It's important to be understanding of your partner as they are understanding of you and your needs. Maintaining a two-way open dialogue about both of your needs, including your individual essentials regarding either person's health conditions, is the best way to establish a foundation built on effective communication. Remember that caretaker fatigue is possible, so if you notice that your partner is placing too much pressure on themselves to care for you or they're becoming emotionally drained, remind them to prioritize their well-being and take care of their own mental and physical wellness. 


A relationship is a partnership comprised of two people who form a team, and teammates look out for one another. Let your partner know that it's okay for them to express a need to prioritize their well-being because they may feel guilty putting themselves first if they don't have a chronic health condition. Again, no two people are the same, and no two relationships are the same, so your chronic health condition and relationship with your partner will be as unique as you are. Check in with one another regularly to see how you're both doing individually and regarding your relationship.