Women who live with endometriosis (sometimes called “endo”) often struggle to manage ever-changing symptoms and their resulting lifestyle changes. Friends, family and sexual partners may have trouble understanding the full extent of this reproductive condition and the havoc it wreaks.
If you are planning to discuss your diagnosis with a loved one, keep a few tips in mind.
Prepare a short list of information
You’ve mustered the courage to have this talk, but you don’t know what to say. A good way to start is to explain endometriosis as a condition that causes scar tissue to form inside and outside the abdominal and pelvic areas. You can further explain that the tissue can cause organs to stick together and lead to intense pain, bloating, constipation, difficulty urinating and more, depending on where the inflammation is located.
You will also want to indicate that your symptoms can vary greatly over time. Give details and examples of how you experience symptoms in your everyday life. Providing this information should help your loved one understand specific problems they’ve seen. For example, you might be energized and ready for a walk in the morning but doubled over in pain by afternoon.
If there are still some parts of your condition that are unclear, ask your doctor for advice on how you should go about having this conversation.
Be completely honest
While it is common for women to wait a few dates before mentioning their endometriosis to a new partner, honesty is still the best policy. Shielding others from the details of endometriosis is never a good strategy.
The areas of life impacted most by endometriosis are marital and sexual relationships, according to one study from 2014. Women should be sure to tell their partners about other concerns related to endo, such as pain with sex, poor body image, low sex drive and infertility, as these factors can directly affect a romantic relationship.
Many people have found that this personal disclosure has brought them closer to their significant other, who in turn offered support and comfort. This is, of course, the ideal response, but if you receive an unfavorable response from a loved one, perhaps that, too, can help you decide what you really want and need from a healthy relationship.
Learn how they (and you) are feeling
Your loved one may need some time to process what all this information means. In the moment, you can make it easier by giving them some time to think. Afterward, it may help to check in again and see if any other emotions are bubbling to the surface.
If your loved one is having a lot of trouble expressing their thoughts to you, consider consulting a therapist or a couples counselor. Mental health professionals of any kind can encourage constructive dialogue about sensitive issues. Similarly, couples counselors can help partners work through intimacy issues, body image concerns and family planning.
It is just as crucial to discuss your own feelings and acceptance of this condition. Counselors can assist women with endometriosis on an individual basis to manage depression and anxiety that may result from hormonal changes and living with a chronic condition.
Talking to your loved one about endometriosis is undoubtedly a difficult process. However, it can open many doors for you in the form of support, encouragement and comfort. Remember that it can take time for a loved one to understand endometriosis and realize its present and future impact on your relationship.
Women living with endometriosis should be kind to themselves during this process and seek support if they need help approaching such conversations.