Living with Chronic Pain

How Spouses Cope With Chronic Pain


Chronic pain can strain personal relationships, especially romantic relationships. Partners or spouses may feel helpless. They often become caregivers with additional responsibilities, such as household duties and parenting. Financial problems can also add pressure to the relationship.

Becoming a caregiver to a significant other is difficult. Both partners in the romantic relationship will have increased stress, fear and anxiety. Unfortunately, marriages in which one spouse has a chronic health condition are more likely to end in divorce in comparison to marriages where chronic health concerns are not an issue. However, certain suggestions may help both partners cope if a chronic pain condition develops.


The role of each person is likely to change when chronic pain occurs. The person with chronic pain may become dependent on their partner. This frequently results in depression and feelings of helplessness. The healthy partner typically acquires additional duties in the partnership. If the person with chronic pain can no longer work, financial burdens often develop.

Household responsibilities 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 relationship and the responsibilities.


It is important to show care and consideration when a partner has a chronic pain condition; however, being overly concerned can have a negative effect. For example, allowing a partner to skip physical therapy sessions is detrimental to recovery. Studies show that when partners are highly solicitous, additional pain is reported.

Empathy and support should be shown to each partner. There is a fine line between being supportive of a partner’s needs and enabling them to do further harm. It is critical to help the partner without being overly protective.


Open and honest communication is key in providing each other support in a healthy relationship. Oftentimes, there is no easy solution to problems that may arise. Lack of conversation leads to distance, which can contribute to an unhealthy relationship.

Each partner should be completely open and honest about their stress levels and their feelings. By letting each other know exactly what is needed, confidence and security is provided. Sending cues concerning feelings does not typically work, especially when chronic pain, depression, and additional stress is involved.

Medical appointments

A slew of medical appointments usually accompanies chronic pain. This can pose an issue for both the person with pain and their partner. While it is not required for the significant other to attend all medical appointments, being present at some of them can provide greater understanding.

Prepare for the appointment with a list of questions. Be sure to take a notebook to write down the answers and other pertinent information. Being present at a medical appointment also provides a good time to get a better understanding of the chronic pain conditions and how the healthy partner can provide the most support.

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