Finding Love with a Chronic Illness

Eleanor Bird avatar

by Eleanor Bird |

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I’ve written in previous columns about the difficulties I’ve experienced while navigating romantic relationships with a chronic illness. This week, I wanted to write positively about finding love with pulmonary hypertension (PH), and some of the little things I’ve found helpful in maintaining a healthy dynamic in a relationship.

In the past, I experienced heartbreak when my partner decided they couldn’t handle my health difficulties. At the time, I thought that maybe PH and romantic relationships just weren’t compatible. I wondered if my disease would always pose too big a challenge for someone looking at a future with me. 

I have since realized that finding love with PH is possible, it just takes a special kind of person. You can see countless examples of this in the chronic illness community — amazing wives, husbands, boyfriends, and girlfriends who stick by their partner’s side through some of the biggest health challenges imaginable, such as transplant. So what do these inspiring people have in common?

I think the most important thing is finding someone who is able to take each day as it comes. After I was diagnosed with PH, I learned pretty quickly to adopt this mindset. It’s emotionally exhausting to constantly worry about the future, so I need someone who is able to go with the flow.

I know that I also need someone with a heavy appreciation for the here and now. PH has altered how I think about things such as money and career, and I want someone who will prioritize having adventures with me and spending quality time with family and friends.

I wrote last week about the importance of having a balance between positivity and realism, which also is important to me in a partner. I need someone who understands the severity of my illness and that there is no cure, and who is keen to remain hopeful and positive despite all that.

I am happy to say that I have been lucky to find someone like that, but I know from my past mistakes that I need to be cautious and make an effort to ensure the dynamic stays healthy. One thing that’s been important is making sure I have a broad support system. When you have a serious illness, your partner can’t be your only support system because it’s too much pressure for anyone, and it can become highly toxic. 

I make sure to have friends and family members I feel comfortable confiding in. Additionally, I make sure to switch up who accompanies me during hospital visits. That way, my partner doesn’t get overwhelmed, and others remain actively engaged in my health journey.

That said, I do think it’s important to involve your partner in the everyday, mundane aspects of your illness. I make sure my partner is familiar with my medication, the side effects, and the symptoms I experience. Not only does this equip them to be a better support to me, but it also normalizes my illness, helping them to slowly understand its severity. This is preferable to not being open about it and a partner having to deal with it all at once following a sudden health scare or hospitalization. 

There is no rule book about this, and figuring it out inevitably will involve an element of trial and error. But I know the main thing is that I am with someone who loves me enough to want to figure it out with me. 


Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Debra Cox avatar

Debra Cox

I have 0 support.. not whining but 1 brother in Germany and 1in Texas and 92 yr old mom that I am caretaker for..but I will figure it out

Jen Cueva avatar

Jen Cueva

Impressive column, Ellie! I am so happy that you found a partner who is willing to learn about your PH and the trials and errors that it takes. I am fortunate to have an amazing hubby.

I am sharing this in the PH forums to offer a positive outlook on relationships. Thank you for sharing- wishing you all the best.


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