Living with Chronic Pain
Dating While Living With Chronic Pain
Dating can present a unique set of challenges for individuals with chronic pain. When pain levels are high, dates may need to be canceled, postponed, or modified, which can be difficult for others to understand. Common dating activities, ranging from holding hands to sexual intimacy, have the potential to increase pain levels. Individuals may feel the need to “hide” their chronic pain to seem more attractive. Unfortunately, the stress of dating and starting a new relationship may seem like more effort than it is worth.
However, dating while living with chronic pain is not only possible but may also reduce pain levels. Love works as a pain reliever. Studies show that brain scans of individuals in the early stages of love are similar to scans of individuals taking strong pain relievers. While social isolation and loneliness can increase pain levels (by activating the body’s fight-or-flight response), strong relationships can help reduce pain (by the brain communicating to the body that it is safe).
Chronic pain doesn’t define a person. Individuals with chronic pain should define themselves based on their personality traits, hobbies, passions, and other strengths rather than their chronic pain condition. However, transparency about chronic pain is important, and in some cases, being vulnerable encourages the other person to share personal details about their lives as well, which can deepen emotional intimacy and build trust.
Dating is a trial-and-error process. If rejection occurs, it may have nothing to do with an individual’s chronic pain. Rejection happens to everyone and can happen for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with pain or illness. The only way to find a compatible partner is to be brave enough to try dating and resilient enough to keep looking despite the challenges dating with chronic pain may present.
Additional source used to create this article: U.S. News and World Report.