All relationships are complicated. Whether it is making the effort to spend quality time together, dealing with family issues, or communication problems, no relationship is always easy, all of the time.
And this can be especially true when it comes to relationships with epilepsy. If one partner (or indeed both) has epilepsy, it can affect the relationship in certain ways.
Research shows that people with epilepsy worry about how the condition might affect their ability to have romantic relationships. Nonetheless, it is perfectly possible to have a relationship with epilepsy.
Starting a relationship when you have epilepsy – or being in a relationship with someone who has the condition - is just as unique an experience as every other relationship on earth. But there are a number of things to think about when one of you has epilepsy.
Learn more: Dating and epilepsy
4 considerations for relationships with epilepsy
The following tips could help you navigate a relationship with epilepsy.
1. A neurological condition shouldn't define the relationship
Even though one person in the relationship has epilepsy, this should not define the relationship. Just as having epilepsy does not define the individual, avoid thinking about epilepsy as the main feature of your relationship.
While seizures will happen, remember that the relationship is just as much about your shared hobbies and interests, dreams and aspirations, and the things you admire about one another. Take the time to do the things you both love – be that working out, playing video games or watching your favorite series.
2. Be realistic and pragmatic
Try and take a realistic attitude towards relationships, acknowledging that no relationship will always be like the fairytale depicted in movies.
Yes, sometimes it might be challenging if one of you is having a lot of seizures and you can't do all the things you necessarily want to do. But remember this is true for every relationship - there are always going to be some challenges.
3. Communication is crucial
Everyone knows that good communication is at the heart of successful relationships. But what does that mean in relationships with epilepsy? This of course depends on the individuals involved, but it often involves talking openly and being non-judgmental about things like:
- Your needs: If you have epilepsy, you might sometimes need your partner to drive you places, remind you about your medication, or support you with visits to the doctor.
- Set expectations: It’s a good idea to talk about what you both want from the relationship - from big topics like whether you hope to have children, to smaller things like where you’d like to vacation.
What kind of support do you need from one another? Are there any boundaries you have about the kind of behavior you find acceptable? Are there certain things you can and can’t do because of your seizures (such as going to events with flashing lights if you have photosensitive epilepsy), and how will you deal with this?
- Your concerns: Do you have any fears about having a relationship with epilepsy? If so, speak to your partner about them. If you don’t have epilepsy but your partner does, talk to them about what to do if they have a seizure and how you can care for them safely.
Epilepsy can sometimes affect people’s sex lives, so it's important to understand the ways that seizures and anti-seizure medication could affect the intimate side of relationships.
- There is no evidence that having sex causes seizures
- Be aware of issues around pregnancy and your medication
- Understand how seizures and certain anti-epilepsy drugs can affect men's and women’s sex lives
If you are having any long-lasting problems around intimacy in your relationship, it might be worth speaking to a sex therapist either as an individual or as a couple.
Rich and rewarding relationships with epilepsy
People with epilepsy can have relationships that are just as rewarding, life-enhancing and enjoyable as anyone else. By being aware of the potential issues that can arise with epilepsy in relationships, communicating about them clearly and treating each other with kindness and respect, there is no reason you can't have long and happy intimate partnerships.