Living in the shadow of fibromyalgic pain: the meaning of female partners' experiences

J Clin Nurs. 2003 Mar;12(2):235-43. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2702.2003.00733.x.


The aim of this study was to elucidate the meaning of being a female partner living with a man with fibromyalgic pain. Fourteen partners were interviewed about the meaning of their experiences, using a narrative approach. A phenomenological hermeneutic method, inspired by the French philosopher Ricoeur, was used to interpret the interview text. The structural analysis is presented in three major themes: struggling to give support and comfort, struggling to keep going on, and experiencing lack of understanding and support. The findings elucidate that the meaning of living with a man with fibromyalgic pain meant living a life strongly influenced by the man's illness and in the shadow of the man's pain. Taking daily life for granted was interrupted and restricted family and social life. Prominent in this study was the frustration partners felt as a result of men's reluctance to communicate. This led to feelings of being excluded from men's emotions. The responsibility day in and day out meant that women's own caring and tenderness were replaced, which brought about an almost constant sense of fatigue. Women became drained by the long duration of men's illness. This gave them a feeling of being alone, although they were a couple. Gaining comfort outside the family helped partners to reach a new insight and appreciation for life, which was viewed from a renewed perspective. This involved feelings of both togetherness and separateness in the relationship. The findings also consider the lack of support from the health care system for female partners living with men with fibromyalgic pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Chronic Disease / psychology
  • Female
  • Fibromyalgia / complications*
  • Fibromyalgia / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Pain / complications*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Social Support
  • Spouses / psychology
  • Sweden
  • Women / psychology*