Relationship Advice

Happy Couple Fighting with Pillows on Coach

Negotiating the Nest

All couples have to compromise and negotiate, but the challenges of building a nest with two chemically injured Canaries gives a whole new meaning to the process. Everything from what foods can be cooked in the house down to what kind of toothpaste and body soap you use must be agreed upon.

One thinks that finding a partner who shares their health condition would make nesting an easier process than being with someone who doesn’t have a chemical injury, and on some levels this is true. They speak the same language as you do, understand your reactions, have sympathy and support for your challenges, share a restricted life and don’t think you’re from another planet.

However, on the other hand, some aspects of negotiation and compromise can actually be more difficult when both partners are Canaries. Some examples might include:

  • One Canary has a more restricted lifestyle than the other
  • Partner number one can only use type A soap, while partner number two can only use type B soap
  • Canary number one thrives in the desert, while Canary number two needs the ocean
  • Onions and garlic may be forbidden in the household for one, yet the favorite spice for another
  • Mary Canary likes to have the windows open as often as possible, while Larry Canary needs them closed at all times

The chemically injured can find themselves with relationship issues that seem insurmountable. The first and most important step in nest building is to be aware going in that there will be challenges to overcome and be prepared to face them. Don’t wear rose colored glasses that set you up for unrealistic expectations.

Know what your personal ground rules are beforehand and share them up-front. Don’t hold things back until later; because it is better that you find out early in the relationship before feelings become too deep if your needs are incompatible and there is no way to negotiate.

Compare your ground rules and see how many of them must be negotiated. Weigh things out; how important are the differences, are there any that you can bend or let go of? What can you live with or without? Be sure, to be honest with yourself. Good communication and honesty are of the utmost importance. Don’t just jump in and hope for the best.

Don’t minimize or ridicule the needs of your potential partner if their reactions or restrictions seem unbelievable to you. Unfortunately, it is common practice in the MCS population to turn on one another when someone’s reactions seem too extreme and deny their experience. Just because you can’t smell the wood smoke or laundry soap from a mile away doesn’t mean that their more sensitive nose doesn’t.

It is easy to hop on the judgment bandwagon but resist the urge to do so. We get this from the outside world, we don’t need it from one another. It only isolates and disconnects us even more. If needs are not negotiable, then walk away with kindness, understanding, and compassion. There are more canaries in the sky that may be a better fit.

However, when things seem like they will never work out it may simply be a matter of finding some very creative and non-traditional ways to compromise and negotiate. Read My Nest or Yours for a more in-depth discussion on this topic.


  • madisongurl

    Excellent points! We’re so fed up with being ridiculed that we think mating with someone like us will get it and it will be the end of our problems but 2 canaries have a whole new set of issues because sensitivities vary so much. So glad to see some articles about this topic!!!!

  • bakerygirl

    I agree madisongurl. This article brought up some very good points for all of us to think about. Relationships can be hard enough, so you really want to be open and honest about what you can/cannot tolerate when it comes to mcs.