Chronic Pain in Marriage: How to Manage It Together
Chronic pain can be a debilitating, ever-present force, and its presence goes far beyond the pain itself. Whether it’s caused by back pain, migraines or fibromyalgia, it imposes a burden that can trouble even the strongest families and relationships. Depression and other mental illnesses often go hand-in-hand with such pain. Feelings of anger, guilt, anxiety, and resentment aren’t far behind. However, if your partner suffers from chronic pain, managing it together can ease much of this burden and even bring you closer than before. Here’s what you need to know to thrive together despite chronic pain.
Communication is essential
Any good relationship requires open and honest conversation, but this is especially important when chronic pain is involved. Many sufferers experience mood swings, and the ceaseless pain – along with the physical limitations. It can arouse anger, frustration, and resentment as well. When these emotions go unexpressed, they often fester and develop into the sort of deep-seated issues that can sink an otherwise happy relationship. If you and your partner find it difficult to talk and share openly on your own, seek help from a counselor. A marriage counselor can facilitate good communication and allow you to understand each other’s perspectives and needs.
Seek a support network
While supporting one another is essential, sometimes it’s helpful to seek support from other people who are going through the same challenges. Chronic pain support groups provide the opportunity to meet with such people. There are also caregiver support groups for people who live with chronic pain sufferers. Spouses who function as caregivers are up to six times more likely to suffer from depression than non-caregivers. Caregiver support group can turn the odds back in your favor, serving as a wonderful source of advice and encouragement from others who have been in your shoes. Attending support groups is also a great way to create a more active social life, which is important to combat the isolating effect that chronic illness often causes.
Manage through mindfulness
If you or your spouse is in chronic pain, it’s tempting to try and escape or suppress the feeling. Unfortunately, that often exacerbates the situation. Instead, studies suggest the opposite may be a better solution. Mindfulness and self-reflection are powerful tools for managing both pain and the stress and emotion it often arouses, and they’re even more effective when done together.
It is also important for both of you to set aside time to regularly reflect on your relationship, the role chronic pain plays in it and how each of you can better contribute and meet each other’s needs.
Engage with education
Often the most common source of conflict when it comes to chronic pain is a simple lack of understanding. If you have not experienced it yourself, you may not fully understand what your partner goes through and how their condition affects them. Take some time to learn about your partner’s condition, and about the difficult burden of chronic pain in general, to ensure that you’re both on the same page. Your partner may also wish to learn more about the role of the caregiver. This way, each of you will have a better perspective on the other’s experiences, allowing you to form a stronger, deeper bond built on a shared empathy and understanding.
Chronic pain is an insidious condition, and the burden it imposes can easily tear a relationship apart. It requires a great deal of love, understanding, and devotion, but if you and your partner are willing to put in the work, the tips above will equip you with everything you need to survive – and to thrive – together.
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