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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.

8 Comments. Leave new

Living with chronic pain is very dehabilitating. Normal activities like showering to dressing and day to day activities are more difficult and stressful! As living with narrowing in my spinal cord and shoulder injury, I may need surgery in the near future. I am disabled for depression/anxiety disorder and now chronic pain.

Living with my disability and chronic pain is very challenging, but some medications are helpful and or surgery as may be in my case! But as doctors keep saying, Keep moving, and exercise in spite of the pain!

I can’t do as much as I used to. I need help from family but don’t want to be a burden. What can I do?

I am not in a relationship at present but my medication reduces my sex drive so when I was in the past it did cause me problems in my relationships

My chronic pain has definitely altered both my marriage, and my relationships with my children. It has been many years since it began, and everyone seems to think that my pain is not as bad as it is, or I “use” it to get out of doing housework or spending time doing things with my family.

I feel very alone in my home, in my pain, and my pain management. There is never any understanding until things progress. Recently I started having muscle spasms so severe that my legs twist out from under me, I have fallen off the toilet during spasms and one cracked the orbital bone around my left eye. I spasmed yesterday and fell head first into a cabinet, ending up with a large knot swelled up, and considerable pain, both from the after effects of the spasm, and from what may be a concussion. But everyone still wanted supper, and nobody else was willing to make it.

I feel forgotten.

I so agree that family and friends are important in how one feels. I have from day one have tried to explain to my children since them being toddlers to adults what I have been going through day by day but I do try to or did try to attend all their important funtions. They are proud of me as I am of them to participate in their activities. talking has always been an important part of growing for them and for me. they inturn also explain to their kids about pain and pain control and the proper way of dealing with the actual discomfort of it and wwhy rest and proper meals are sometimes the best medicine.

Dealing with chronic pain was the number one reason for my marriage to end up in divorce. I couldn’t do certain things any more and our social life also suffered because of it and I guess she had enough. There was no for richer for poorer for sickniss and in health.

I have lived with chronic pain since I was 11 years old. Now in my mid-30’s I am so tired of being in pain everyday that I live as though the pain doesn’t exist most of the time, so it does not affect my family too much. I have always been able to talk through my issues with my spouse and my children were brought up with me like this so telling them that Mommy can’t play today was met with only slight disappointment. I minimize the complaints, ignore the pain when I can and stubbornly do as much as possible on my own. I don’t want my pain to hurt those I love so I don’t allow it to, my husband and children take on as much as I will allow in response and rarely let me lift anything heavier than the TV-guide copy of the newspaper (are those still the heaviest editions? Do they still exist?) when I am having a bad day.

If we live our lives with consideration for others as our top priority, those around us tend to want to consider us more too.

Living with chrnic pain, severe depression, severe axiety is horrible when you have a husbnd and 8 year old little boy who doesnt get why mommy cant do alot of things is horrible. To make matters orse my hasbund has left to Alberta and now picking up the load around the house he used to do is overwhelming. I ususlly cry just standing for mre than 5 min shopping is even more difficult people who have these probems it just doesnt effect you it effects your entie famiy snd your entire life. Especially when people who dont have thes problems and too make matters worse the dr usually doesnt believe you and that is the most heart breaking thing f it all I cant work which is why my husband to leave for our family so I guess it does effect relationships.

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