Living with Chronic Pain

Caregiving for a Partner With Chronic Pain


When one partner in a relationship or marriage has chronic pain, their partner or spouse may have to assume a caregiving role. They may need to accept more household responsibilities or help their significant other with personal tasks, such as bathing or dressing. In some cases, they may even need to take a leave of absence from work or quit their job, further solidifying their role as a caregiver.

Becoming a caregiver for a significant other can have a negative impact on both individuals and the relationship as a whole. The individual with chronic pain may struggle with feelings of helplessness and low self-esteem. Their significant other may become resentful, frustrated or depressed. These feelings can take a toll on a relationship. Unfortunately, many marriages in which one partner has a chronic condition end in divorce.

However, a couple can take steps to help prevent caregiving from negatively affecting their relationship.

Caregiving tips

  • Keep love alive. Love is the foundation of any marriage or intimate relationship, and chronic pain should not change that. Both partners can find ways to keep love alive, such as writing love notes, giving thoughtful gifts, or cuddling together on the couch. Feelings of love may even help reduce pain levels.
  • Do not let pain become the focus of the relationship. Constantly ruminating on pain can actually worsen pain levels. Conversations should not always revolve around chronic pain. While clear communication about pain and its impacts is important, the topic should not dominate all conversations.
  • Think about being a “care partner” rather than a “caregiver.” The term “caregiver” suggests that one person gives care and the other receives it. However, to keep an intimate relationship intact, partners should work together to provide care for themselves and one another. Although the needs of one partner may differ from the other, working as a team can help strengthen the relationship.
  • Find and attend a support group. Support groups for partners/spouses of individuals with chronic conditions offer a safe environment to share common experiences, frustrations, fears and triumphs with others in similar situations. Attending a support group also provides a break for caregivers.
  • Stay optimistic. Focusing on blessings and triumphs — no matter how insignificant they may seem — can improve and strengthen any relationship.
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