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Overcoming the Challenge of Chronic Pain in Relationship

September 16, 2014

If you are suffering from chronic pain, you know exactly how much stress can be placed on your ability to interact with others. Relationships in all aspects of your life can be severely impacted by chronic pain. Have you ever snapped at someone you care about because you are hurting? Perhaps you’ve missed certain family gatherings, school functions, or events because of pain.

When pain causes anger and absences, it can threaten the health of your relationships. However, it is possible to work past these problems and keep your relationships healthy no matter how badly you are hurt. Explore the options you have to make relationships with your children, partner and friends better and pain-free.

Explaining Pain To Your Children


If you are a parent, the relationship you have with your children is important and, unfortunately, can be seriously impacted by chronic pain. This is because kids are unable to understand the root causes of pain in their parents and may feel as if their parent’s irritability and illness is ‘their fault’.

Parents should always communicate to their children that the pain they experience is caused by something outside of anyone’s control. Children need to know that they cannot cause an illness nor can they cure it. Parents are wise to explain this to young children in simple terms. For instance, say, “Mommy is sore today. We can play quiet games,” or, “Daddy hurt his back a long time ago. Maybe we can watch a movie together until I feel better.” With clear and concise explanation, it is hopeful that your child will not feel responsible.

As adults we often forget how helpless we felt as children. We don’t remember how big the world seemed, how our parents were the superheroes and how we assumed it was our job to help them best we could. Chronic pain is one heck of a villain, and no child should think they are failing to combat it. Give your children praise for helping around the house, for carrying things you can’t, and be sure to engage in loving activities like hugging, holding hands, or just sitting quietly together.

Thinking Of Your Significant Other

Being in a relationship with a person who lives with chronic pain can be stressful. You must remember that the healthy member of the relationship is taking on quite a bit of stress, too. He or she might not be able to feel your pain and might feel a deep emotional pain because of this. Being a caregiver is painful–physically and emotionally.

If pain is your constant companion, it is important to recognize that other people feel pain too. When experiencing shooting pains and relentless aches all the time, it can be easy to brush off the soreness another person feels from a long day at work. But pain isn’t a contest. Avoid trying to be in competition with your partner. Don’t compare your partner’s pain to your own and avoid bringing up your illness at every turn.

Hand in Hand

Instead, care for your partner in pain however you can. One way you can help is by offering support and empathy from a unique point of view. Check-in with him or her often and talk openly about how pain affects his or her life too.

Also, be sure to tell your significant other how he or she can help you make pain tolerable. Maybe just sitting and talking together can help you reconnect. In these conversations, be honest about intimacy. How can you enjoy each other without hurting? Or, let him or her know that, even if you do hurt, the bonding of being physical (gently) helps you forget the pain for a little while (if this is the case).

Keeping Up with Friends and Family

Much like a spouse or life partner, friends and family may feel as if they are being blocked out of your life when you aren’t able to spend time with them. Try to invite them over to your home if possible. Tell them how you can spend time together. Perhaps you will want to suggest a relaxing meal out, a picnic in your living room, a movie, or something that doesn’t require a lot of movement.

Let your friends know what they can do to help. If you need help with meals, just ask. There’s no shame in asking for help. Keep your relationships honest and your friends will appreciate being the friends they were meant to be.

Living with chronic pain poses many challenges. One of the largest obstacles to navigate is relationships. Relating to your kids, partner, family and friends may be hard because of how chronic pain can cause irritability and absence. This may make you think that you ought to play less a role in these people’s lives. However, the opposite is true. Your family and friends want you to be present in their lives and they want to know your needs so they can serve you. By honestly communicating your needs, being patient in times when pain flares up, and leaning into the joy that comes with relationship, life, despite chronic pain, can be good.

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