• How pain affects your life: Relationships

    How pain affects your life: Relationships

    Chronic pain touches every aspect of daily life, arguably none more powerfully so than in the area of relationships. Family and friends alike can be greatly affected by a loved one’s chronic pain in ways that can last long after the pain is diagnosed and treatment begins.

    For chronic pain sufferers with a partner, chronic pain can be the cause of frustration with things like daily parenting and household chores. Partners of people in pain may resent the fact that they are often the primary breadwinner, main caretaker (or children and the pain patient), and head of household chores.

    Financial strain is often the cause of conflict in any relationship, and chronic pain patients may incur more than their share of medical bills. Sexuality and intimacy may suffer as well, due to the pain itself and the frustrations experienced due to unequal distribution of responsibilities.

    Parenting with chronic pain can be even more of a struggle, as young children don’t always understand a “boo-boo” that isn’t visible and doesn’t go away. Pain patients may not be as patient with their children as they would like. These difficult relationships with children can lead to feelings of inadequacy as a parent, which can then turn into depression or deep sadness or low self-esteem as a person and a parent.

    At work, it can be difficult to feel comfortable in a setting where colleagues may resent frequent absences or what is perceived as special treatment for an invisible illness. When just getting to the job every day is a nearly insurmountable task, this resentment at work can make a chronic pain patient want to quit.

    How you can help yourself

    As with many things, communication is key when dealing with relationship issues that arise due to chronic illness. Negotiating with your partner for duties at home that are valuable but less taxing may help relieve your partner’s burden. Making regular time for intimacy, both physical and emotional, can also help strengthen the bond between partners. A spouse that is a caregiver should make plenty of time for self-care to prevent compassion fatigue as well.

    With kids, being as open as is appropriate for their age can help them understand why Mommy or Daddy is not always able to play catch or go to the park. A parent with chronic pain presents children with an opportunity to develop tremendous compassion. Being patient and explaining can go a long way.

    Finally, chronic pain patients can strengthen relationships at work by building in opportunities to work at home, taking breaks with their colleagues, and keeping open lines of communication with employers and colleagues. Because chronic pain can limit time on the job, many pain patients are extra efficient when they are at work. Taking time to touch base with others on the job can help them see the value you bring to the job, even when in pain.

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