Raise your hand if pain (in some fashion) has affected any of your relationships?
Are you more tired than before? Are you unable to attend your child’s after-school activity because it physically hurts everywhere? Maybe there are times when even if nothing is “wrong” —you’re still in a bad mood? First of all, you’re not alone. I get it (probably more so than you might think). Secondly, I want to help.
And so does, Everyday Health’s Dennis Thompson Jr., a career journalist with more than 20 years’ experience. After speaking with Dr. Pat F. Bass III, an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Louisiana State University, Thompson says, “Interactions with a spouse, your children, as well as friends, and other family members alter in ways both large and small due to the physical limitations and emotional strain that come from living with chronic pain.”
Unfortunately, this is kind of normal but with some guidance, it doesn’t have to be.
Thompson shares with us that the influence chronic pain has on our personal relationships greatly depends —on the amount of pain you personally feel, how you identify with it as well as how you relate to each person in your life. Do they know you’re hurting? Or, are you pretending everything is alright?
I know it’s usually easier to talk about shit than to actually put it into action and sometimes even talking hurts, but by understanding your new normal as well as learning new ways to cope, you can enjoy your life and your relationships despite chronic pain. With some help from Thompson and his medical team, here’s what you need to know.
Maintaining Meaningful Connections
Spouses of those experiencing chronic pain face grave difficulties on their own. Maybe you two started dating before your pain journey began? That in itself can have negative repercussions. Intimate relations with your partner can be tricky too. Your significant other may also have to bring more to the table when it comes to household chores and bills —eventually leading to financial burdens. You may even fight more because of this.
I want you to understand all of that is completely normal. You can overcome these obstacles.
Thompson emphasizes for those with kids that it can be upsetting for young children to see a parent in pain every single day. “They may be confused about what’s going on, and anxious because their future seems uncertain.” They may also feel resentment towards you that you’re not as available as you once were, or maybe even guilt —if they think it’s something they did that’s causing your pain.
As a result of this and everything else, you may withdraw from social events and relationships outside of your immediate family. That in itself can drive a wedge between you guys. Thompson reminds us, “Attempts to hang out might be rebuffed —if the person is experiencing a bad flare-up or thinks less of themselves because of their illness.”
A Few Elements to Consider
Coping tactics can guide you on what you can do if your pain is negatively impacting the people closest to you. Here are five.
1. Find a communication balance.
The ones in your life need to understand how you are feeling. “Staying silent will only cause them to feel estranged from you,” Thompson describes. “On the other hand, sharing too much can cause them to feel overwhelmed, helpless, or depressed.” Instead, try to find a happy medium —keeping in mind that it will differ from person to person.
I’m sure you know their personality so channel that when you guys chat.
2. Have a good ole’ sex talk with your spouse.
This can feel awkward to discuss but chronic pain does not have to eliminate intimacy. Maybe you need to plan for it instead of avoiding it? Thompson tells us, “Make plans for encounters that fit into your medication schedule as well as the ebb and flow of your daily pain.”
He also says to not be intimidated to experiment with new positions.
3. Oh, and when you make plans —try to keep them.
This is another prime example of easier said than done. Maybe when you made plans, you had every intention of actually going but when the time comes and you can’t muscle enough energy to get ready, you bail last minute. That’s okay. Instead, be upfront about this with your friends from the start. And try to only commit to events that you know you’ll be able to make. Keep it simple. People love honesty.
4. Participate in practical household chores.
This is where finding your new normal comes into play. “If you see that you’re unable to perform certain tasks that were once your responsibility, replace them with new ones that you are able to perform,” Thompson proposes. Doing so will keep you as an active and contributing member of your household.
5. Ask for support.
By asking for help, you’re bridging that gap. You’re making that person feel close to you. The people in your life want to help —so let them. Chances are, they may not know how to approach you. Maybe they fear offending you? They are in your life for a reason. Remember that.
Because yeah —managing chronic pain is, in fact, a full-time job. Trust me. I get it. Not only is it personally challenging, it’s a family affair. Everyone is involved in one way or another. But that’s the thing —you’re not alone. I’m here too. Instead of isolating yourself and putting up these pointless walls, break them down and let your loved ones in.
After all, you guys may not have it all together but together, you can have it all.