Living with Chronic Pain
Creating a Healthy Marriage with Chronic Pain
All relationships inevitably have stress. This is especially true if either partner has a chronic pain condition. The challenges of living with chronic pain can strain personal relationships. It can negatively affect various aspects of life, including marital or romantic relationships.
How chronic pain impacts relationships
Oftentimes, chronic pain results in isolation. The healthier partner becomes heavily relied upon, both emotionally and physically. They may miss the relationship they once knew and become resentful. Other ways that chronic pain can affect a relationship include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The caregiver becomes tired and overwhelmed.
- The person with chronic pain feels as if they cannot pull their weight in the relationship.
- Individuals with chronic pain are more likely to have mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.
- The loved one has increased responsibilities.
- Financial burdens often occur due to chronic pain.
- The healthy partner begins to feel neglected.
- The person with chronic pain deals with physical limitations, which causes them to feel detached.
Creating a healthy relationship despite chronic pain
Educating the significant other about the pain condition is important. Individuals must keep in mind that the pain is real, life lasting, involuntary, sudden and difficult; however, there will be good times too. Suggestions to create a healthy relationship while dealing with chronic pain include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Acknowledge chronic pain. Accept the diagnosis and search for the best treatment options together. Realizing that life is different is difficult, but search for the treatment option that works for both partners. Researching this together is a combined effort that strengthens a partnership.
- Honestly is the best policy. Be completely open and honest about pain levels and feelings. Trying to hide how bad the pain is only leaves the partner feeling hopeless and unsure of how to help. By letting them know exactly what is needed when pain levels are high, they feel more helpful and confident in their role as caregiver.
- Be understanding. Both partners should listen carefully and be understanding of each other's point of view. Each person sees things differently. Do not be closed-minded, but listen with intent and consider the partner's viewpoint.
- Make eye contact and stay positive. Give the partner undivided attention by looking them in the eye and being positive during conversations that need to happen. This allows both partners to realize their importance in the relationship.
- Spend time with friends. This can give each partner a break. Whether this is done as a couple or separately, it can bring some normalcy back into the relationship. It also shifts the main focus in the relationship from chronic pain, at least for a short while.
- Realize that both partners are hurting. Not only does a chronic illness cause physical pain, but the partner hurts differently. Both people in a relationship must realize that their past life has changed, but that does not mean they cannot be happy in their new life. Open communication about this can bring partners closer.
- Make plans for intimacy. This includes resting during the day and taking pain medications at an appropriate time. Although dealing with chronic pain may mean more planning or adjustments may be needed, physical intimacy is still an essential part of a romantic relationship. Both partners should openly discuss ways to ensure physical intimacy remains a priority.
- Find new ways to split responsibilities. Previous household chores may have to be divided differently. For example, the partner with chronic pain may not be able to mow the lawn, however, they can fold the laundry, pay the bills, or put a meal in the slow cooker. This is necessary to ensure both partners contribute to the chores.
- Show each other affection. Physical touch is important in any relationship. That does not need to change due to chronic pain. A soft hug, a kiss, or a sweet note are great ways to show affection that require little effort.
- Spend quality time together and laugh. Find a new hobby that both partners enjoy, watch a comedy, or do something fun together. Open communication can determine an activity that both partners enjoy while spending quality time together.