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Relationships with Asthma

Asthma can be a sensitive topic in the relationships we form with others. Friends making a joke, perhaps going too far. Telling a new significant other you have asthma; discussing your asthmatic needs with that significant other. Working out guidelines with new roommates or consulting coworkers. Asthma can be a reoccurring variable in our relationships with others. Here’s what I think about how asthma should play a role in the connections you make.

Asthma and relationships

To understand why asthma plays such a major role in the relationships we build, it’s important to first look at our own relationships with our asthma. If asthma were a person in our lives, rather than a part of us, it wouldn’t be hyperbolic call it an authoritarian or even totalitarian. In so many ways it tells us how to live and will sometimes subdue you if you get out of line.

My asthma has told me how to live most of my life: What friend’s house I can’t go to. What weather I can’t play sports in. What animals I can’t pet. What seasons I can breathe in and be outside during. What foods I can eat. No matter the topic, it has had an opinion to voice and has been the most constant influence. To think a relationship this intimate wouldn’t influence the relationships you form with others is a logical catastrophe.

Relationships with others

Asthma isn’t our only relationship though, we form new relationships all the time. As a new relationship blossoms, we sometimes try and hide our asthma, however that connection is stronger than this new found one. I know that I have been scared to reveal my asthma to a new significant other, out of irrational fears but fears none the less. I have had relationships that have been difficult on my asthma and relationships that have helped me understand and control my asthma better than ever before. Here are some examples of the positive and negative influences on my asthma.

Positive relationship influence:

  • My current partner reminds me to bring my inhaler wherever we or I go.
  • She buys unscented soaps and detergents.
  • She is conscious of factors that exacerbates my asthma and does her best to accommodate or keep triggers away.
  • She does not wear scents and is mindful about her impact on my asthma.

Negative relationship influences:

  • A past roommate would burn incense in the apartment.
  • The same roommate would also smoke on the balcony, bringing the smell and trigger infrequently.
  • A past girlfriend would spray perfumes and body sprays in my car and room.
  • A past coworker would wear extremely strong and heavy body sprays.

Assessing our relationships

Something to note: my current partner is still in my life and spoken about in the present tense. This is because she is an incredible support for me and my asthma. Sometimes it’s necessary to look at our relationships and critically asses how they support us and our asthma. Dynamics with others can change, for the better with proper and constructive communication, however, it is much more difficult to change our relationship with asthma. Our asthma has been with many of us for a long time and our health should always be a priority.

It wasn’t until I had better support from friends and a significant other that I realized how my past relationships were triggering to my asthma. I propose it could benefit all sides of a relationship: us, another person and our asthma, to communicate our needs and how to support one another.

Find a community that supports you and your asthma

Having support from other people is a variable when managing a chronic illness but it can be difficult to find a community of support with a chronic illness. Our illnesses can be alienating. One incredible outcome of this community we have on, in my opinion, is that we build relationships based on our common strife with asthma. This community allows me and so many others to connect with people primarily because of something that can alienate us. That is a first for me and if it is for you too, you might also feel how special that truly is.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • robbym
    2 months ago

    Asthma can be socially and professionally destructive, quite isolating and filled with too many losses and grief. Too often doctors and medical professionals overlook the psychosocial aspects of Asthma leaving the asthmatic to fend for themselves alone. For the really unlucky ones the losses, isolation and powerlessness can lead to traumatic stress disorders, anxiety disorders or depression. I am thankful for this site and the support it offers.

  • SamuelTaylor moderator author
    2 months ago

    Hi robbym,

    Thank you for the input. I’m glad that you resonated with the article. It’s true, that asthma can alienate us. That’s why I feel like a community like this one is so special; connecting us through the thing that usually alienates us. I hope to hear more from you in the future.

    -Samuel, community moderator

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    2 months ago

    Hi again, robbym, and thanks for joining in this conversation related to the article by our own Samuel Taylor. I hadn’t seen you post in a while – glad that you’ve chimed in. When you have an opportunity, please look over Sumra’s reply – do you have any thoughts? Leon (site moderator)

  • Sumra Alvi moderator
    2 months ago

    I’m so happy to have you part of the community robbym! You’re making a good point about the isolating aspect of asthma, I think a lot of members in the community have expressed similar feelings. Do you have any tips for those who are feeling isolated and lonely? Would love to hear more from you. Warmly, Sumra ( Team)

  • robbym
    2 months ago

    Unfortunately as we progress into an increasingly everyone for themselves world, I do not have useful quick tips. I have been mostly housebound since 2014 and have temporarily given up on having a social life or a meaningful career. Social attitudes can be pretty harsh and without public health advocacy I don’t see them improving anytime soon. Where I live in Ontario, Canada, ableism is a serious problem for anyone living with a functionally limiting medical condition. Schools, Courts, and other public institutions fuel ableism by failing to address negative attitudes and by dealing with accommodation and rights violations poorly. I wish I could have something positive to say, but the current model of warehousing people in their homes on poverty level disability payments is cheaper and more convenient than addressing ableism and making the world more accessible.

    As for me, I didn’t just give up, I fought for decades as my world slowly crumbled around me one loss after another. I lost several good careers for the need of accommodations, each career that followed carried fewer responsibilities and a smaller paycheck until eventually I was forced onto a disability pension. I lost friends for my social limitations and occasional moves. I lost homes to cohabitants bringing home pets, when things got dire I lost my family because my wife had enough and recently I lost my children.

    I’m preparing the next wave in my fight by going back to school and starting a business of my own. There are no good asthma support groups in my area so I am planning to start one, I advocate for public health and law reform to address ableism, and I advocate for medical reform to address asthma as a physical and psychosocial disease. I firmly believe that so much suffering could be reduced or eliminated if Asthma doctors (respirologists) treated the whole disease instead of just the physical aspects. If symptoms must be clustered in a manner that required separate specialists for respiratory and psychological symptoms these two specialities need to work together. My asthma isn’t treatment resistant my doctor is just failing to understand and treat the whole disease.

    My hope and vision for the future is that we can have a world where people with severe Asthma and other disabilities are able to receive the medical treatment they need and contribute to society again.

  • Sumra Alvi moderator
    2 months ago

    Hey robbym, I’m happy to hear back from you thanks for sharing so much with me and really answering my questions! You’ve been through a lot and I admire how you are using your experiences to fuel a new goal. This idea to go back to school and also fight the lack of equity in healthcare is great and your vision for the future is powerful! You’re right, ableism is a huge problem and can’t be fixed if we aren’t looking at psychosocial factors. I’m really interested to learn more about your vision for the future, and it’s good to hear you’re going to start some asthma support groups in your area. How do you think you’ll structure the groups? And how do you think you can use technology to bring people together? Looking forward to hearing more from you, so great hearing such thoughtful answers from you. Warmly, Sumra ( Team)

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