Meanings of CFS/ME in the lives of couples
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Meanings develop within relationships, and this chapter is based on a qualitative study involving seven adults diagnosed with CFS/ME along with a 'significant other'. The first section concerns the couples' narratives of illness, the accounts of CFS/ME as an all-encompassing, unpredictable illness; as a reverser of roles within the home; as a closed world that separated couples from others; and as something that the couple needed to manage together. The second section, on interpretations, concerns the meanings couples established between themselves and also those they negotiated in relation to the outside world prior to, during and following diagnosis. The third section covers questions of personal and relational change. The chapter aims to stay as close as possible to the words and experiences of our participating couples rather than to impose a scheme of interpretation based on either the research literature or our own clinical perspectives.