A relationship becomes all the more difficult if chronic pain or chronic illness is involved. Many difficulties faced by those with chronic pain or illness are also faced by their loved ones. I cope with pain on a daily basis, and it can also difficult for those closest to me.
This article will primarily focus on things that you can do to help or to cope, if your spouse or loved one experiences chronic pain.
- Use phrases such as “I can sympathize,” but don’t say “I understand.” The reason for this is that everyone’s experience is different; I cannot necessarily understand what someone else is going through, and they can’t necessarily understand what I’m experiencing, either. It’s good to try to relate and empathize. This is important. But it’s not the same as saying you completely understand what someone’s going through. Think about the words you’re using when you communicate, and how they might affect the other person.
- Don’t compare pain. I once watched a documentary in which a neurosurgeon was discussing how to deal with pain patients. He mentioned how everyone experiences pain differently. Comparing aches and pains can turn into an egotistical “pissing contest,” if you’ll forgive the phrase. It can lead to arguments such as, “Well, I’ve been in pain too…” Just don’t go there.
- Ask your loved one, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Maybe they don’t need anything more than your company, but by asking this question, you’ve shown that you’re willing to do whatever you can to help ease their suffering. Just hearing those words and knowing that someone cares has a huge impact.
- Be wary of pain triggers. As a chronic pain patient, I have certain triggers that can set off my pain. I need the person I’m with to understand that I can’t always watch a loud movie or listen to music. We, as chronic pain patients, need our loved ones to understand that we can’t always do the things that other folks do.
- Therefore, ask, “What would you like to do?” Because of pain triggers, I have to be careful in certain situations. I can’t really go out to movies or be out late, for example.
- Say “I love you.” We need to hear those words to keep us grounded. In my experience, I feel so alone and isolated when I’m in pain that simply hearing that can do wonders for me. I need to know that I’m not alone, and this helps.
- Hold their hand. Sometimes the simplest gestures are the most impactful ones. I want to know someone’s there for me.
- Rub their back gently during pain attacks. This is something that’s helped me in the past; something about a soft, gentle circular motion is very soothing. I can concentrate on it and try to distract myself a little bit from the pain.
- Be supportive. If you’re living with your loved one, contribute to the household; help by taking care of things and carrying your own weight. For example, if I have a month or more of severe pain attacks during which I’m incapacitated (which usually happens once per year for me) I need to know that the person I’m with will be able to help out more and take care of me if I need it. I need that extra support.
- To build on the last point, take care of yourself, too. Those with chronic pain need a bit more attention and care, but you cannot neglect yourself or your own needs. To cultivate a healthy relationship, everyone needs a little space.
Do you have some suggestions? Please feel free to comment.