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Marriage Counseling Tips for People Living with Migraine

Written and verified by Holly Hazen

Migraine attacks destroying your relationships? Here are my top 5 super helpful marriage counseling tips to help you learn new ways to respond and deal with conflict. This new skill can also help reduce any tension or anxiety that might lead to yet another attack.

Here are 5 TOP marriage counseling tips for you.Relationship Advice for Migraine Sufferers – Tip#1 - There really is such a thing as healthy fighting and you can learn how @migrainesavvy

We know from experience that the circular dance of fighting in couples often leads to heartbreak and resolves very little. And getting unbearable, uncontrollable, unpredictable migraine attacks just adds fuel to the fire.

It's hard not to get angry sometimes with yet another migraine approaching and when others just don't understand.

And repeatedly don't understand.

According to Steve and Shaaron Biddulph, authors of The Making of Love conflict is essential for intimacy.

They explain that healthy fighting, not name calling, threatening, hitting or hurting, but healthy fighting looks like "the rapid, often noisy, expulsion of feelings and information about a difference of opinion. It is the opposite of calm."

Tip #1 - Fighting is found in most marriages. 90% in fact! And there is such a thing as healthy fighting.

And I'm sorry to tell you that most fights get repeated over and over again.

Fighting "is an essential step in rebuilding closeness that has been drowned by apathy."

[ap-uh-thee] is the absence, restraint, repression or suppression of passion, emotion, or excitement; the lack of interest in or concern for things that others find moving or exciting; coolness, indifference, ardor, fervor, unfeeling.

Marriage Counseling Tip #1: There are fair rules to fight by, so create some.

Marriage Counseling Tip #2 - Angry patterns are inherited from your parents and grandparents.

How do couples get stuck in their angry patterns? Yes, your parents and grandparents are actually responsible for some of this “emotionality” as Murray Bowen calls it, or patterns of dealing with issues.

According to Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D. in her book The Dance of Anger, “the inability to express anger is not always at the heart of the problem."

Instead the problems arise from reacting the same way to the same emotional response and making the problem worse.

You can learn to change how you respond to the same old stimuli.

When you both disagree on something it causes a disconnect. It's common to see the problem as the person, and not as a separate problem. So you blame  your spouse for spending too much money impulsively, or being over emotional, or not seeing what is happening to your child or children.

Anger often deflects you away from the actual problem. Many couples seek professional marriage counseling tips when it's already too late and too much damage has been done. BUT... if you want to stay together... that's half the battle.

More ways I can help right now...

Marriage Counseling Tip #3 - Men and women really do think, act and react differently.

Tell me if this sounds familiar...

Your partner sees you as exaggerating or worrying excessively, while you see your partner as trying to silence you or ignore you. So you shout a little louder, and follow him as he retreats. He doesn't talk to you for days and you build up resentment. 

Now this is generalizing, but men can typically appear to deny, ignore, and minimize female problems. They shut down, or choose silence, which presses us females to prove our point even further, resulting in a cycle of anger and possibly abuse.

The same fights get repeated over and over again!

The same fights get repeated over and over again, especially when children are involved and you both have different views of parenting and of the whole causal situation. “It was clear enough that what each of us was doing only provoked a more vehement stance in the other. Yet somehow, neither Steve nor I was able to do something different ourselves."

Just so you know – this is a common pattern in couples. Statistics show that almost all of us have repetitive fights over the length of a marriage – it's how you deal with them that counts. You can choose to do things differently – and it can take some time to reprogram yourself.

Tip #4 - Pause – Breathe – Retreat – Validate

When my angry feelings start to niggle I pause and breathe. I physically take a step back and use my breath to tune into myself, and then validate that I have heard my husband. “I am sorry you think that”, “I hear you have forgotten that”, “I see you are angry” something like that, and I retreat to “speak to” my own anger. You might like to print out my anger management meditation for a lovely way to tune in.

Now let's be clear, this is all a work in process. It takes a lot to change a life long pattern, so when I slip I just gently try to stop and remind myself to choose a different way to respond.

“Later, we were able to recognize the unconscious benefits we got by maintain these fights. Fighting with each other helped both of us to worry a little less about our son, and deflected our attention from other concerns we had about becoming new parents. But what was most impressive at the time was how irrevocably stuck we were. We both behaved as if there was only one ‘right’ way to respond to a stressful situation in the family, and we engaged in a dance in which we were trying to get the other person to change steps while we would not change our own. The outcome was that nothing changed at all” (p43).

So when you become too emotionally charged you lose your ability to observe your own part in the interaction let alone remember your marriage counseling tips. Couples often see the problems in their marriage quite differently, and using these marriage counseling tips can help change things.

Tip #5 - It is a common pattern for the man to shut down and not respond and for the woman to be overly emotional.

Get to know yourself around your attacks. Learn what upsets you and how your brain fog affects your behavior. By pausing and breathing you will get to know what your own patterns are.

A silhouette of two people fighting.

How does this relate to migraine exactly? The spurt of adrenaline before a migraine can feel like additional energy, tension or anger. Let me use myself as an example. I used to get so angry before a migraine and I just thought that was me. A short fuse kind of personality. 

Until one day my boyfriend, now husband, told me that I seem to get more angry and over emotional than usual before a migraine. Like a few hours ahead of time. I did start to see the pattern after he pointed it out. Luckily I married a man strong enough to deal with this horrific part of my life.

All couples fight, but it can all feel and become worse when chronic migraines are thrown into the mix, and they are beyond your coping capabilities. 

Anyway, it was then I decided, that if I was going to make this relationship work, I would need to learn some new skills to deal with my own anger and not inflict it on him. However, many years later I've discovered that taking my pain abortives, at the right time, help eliminate the anger symptoms before a migraine now. Lucky me... or lucky hubby!

Click here to read about the Taboo Symptoms of Migraine: Anger

Venting is a common pattern. Don't just vent at your partner... family and friends can help bear the burden, but I suggest finding a professional therapist you can work with on learning new coping skills. 

There are a few more strategies you can use to sharpen your skills in four areas. Click here for Part 2 of this article.

There Are Good Books and There Are Great Books

There are some really great books with excellent marriage counseling tips, but I like this model so much, I use it with my couples ... it's by Harville Hendrix Ph.D. and Helen Hunt, M.A. his wife. Read more about this in Part 2.

Getting the Love You Want and The Couples Companion: Meditation and Exercises for Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix Ph.D. and Helen Hunt’s, M.A.

They have written a number of books, but 2 of my fav's are: 

The exercise book has 365 days for forming an ongoing practise with your spouse. We would all like a quick fix, but the truth is that a good relationship takes time.

Fighting For What You Love

I have a Master's Degree in Counseling and Psychotherapy (MCAP) and I could do a whole website on the marriage counseling tips I'd like to share with you. But for now this is probably enough to get you started. I've had great success with my clients using these marriage counseling tips and Imago therapy. 

This post talks about my 2 favorite therapies Migraines and emotions.

It's important to remember that you are fighting your way to closeness as the Biddulph's say. Fighting the right way will lead to greater clarity, a free flow of your communication, and an openness to new possibilities and opportunities to move and grow within the relationship.

If you or your partner has chronic migraines, learning these marriage counseling tips might be beneficial just to balance things out before they get out of hand. Learn some strategies while you are still in love and wanting to grow together.

These books are full of excellent marriage counseling tips:

My Final Marriage Counseling Tips for You

Marriage Counseling Tips for Migraineurs

Be proactive and plan ahead to take new steps together and towards each other.

Since fighting is inevitable, learn how to fight productively. And be aware of how your migraines change your mood and behaviors.

Avoid important conversations around attack time, and don't fight during an attack. Make time for important conversations at a later date when you are not experiencing brain fog and can communicate clearly.

Solving problems brings you closer together.

And always try to remember why you love him or her in the first place, and why you married them.

Until next time, be well and be pain free,


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How to be more migraine savvy right now...

Marriage Counseling Tips References:
1. Biddulph, S. and S. (1999) The Making of Love. Doubleday Publishing: Sydney, Australia.
2. Goldhor-Lerner, H., Ph.D. (1985) The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships Harper & Row Publishers, Inc: NY.
3. Hendrix, H Ph.D. and Hunt, H M.A. (1994) The Couples Companion: Meditation and Exercises for Getting the Love You Want. Simon & Schuster Inc.: NY.