by Joey Haban, Tue Apr 26th:
People with chronic pain face more than just medical difficulties. An illness or condition that causes chronic pain affects not only the patient, but family, friends, colleagues, and so forth. One of the toughest areas to navigate is a relationship where your partner or spouse is also your caretaker. Patients have to figure out how to hold up their end of the relationship while dealing with their pain, and caretakers can get seriously stressed out, sometimes beyond the point of wanting to maintain the relationship.
It’s no wonder 75% of marriages involving chronic illness or pain end up failing. The best citation I have for this is a seriously depressing page of statistics.+ It’s not hard to see why. Both people envisioned a very different life for themselves and with each other, and some simply can’t deal with the responsibility of being a caretaker. It’s both tragic and forgivable. My doctor once asked me vehemently (and rhetorically) “Do you know how lucky you are to have your husband?” He has seen many chronic pain and illness patients, and seen many of their partners leave the relationship.
Researching the above statistic brought me to another interesting, if heteronormative, study that showed in various patient groups, “female sex was found to be the strongest predictor of divorce or separation in each of the three patient populations.” So, patients whose partners have stuck by them should give their gal or feller an extra-big hug — and if you’re a woman, at least make out a little.
Not surprisingly, much of this comes down to communication. Topics will come up that couples might rather avoid talking about. For example: sex. Often, one of the first things to go for chronic pain patients is the libido, due to medication side effects, body issues, or just the pain itself. It’s very hard to feel amorous when you’re so physically uncomfortable and exhausted, and there is no shame in that. This doesn’t mean it’s fun or easy to talk about, but it’s a whole lot better than just muddling along in bed (or not). Your partner would rather know about all that than wonder whether it’s their fault there’s no fire in your engine.
Many people with invisible pain issues make the effort to appear fine, or “front.” This may mean even your partner doesn’t know how you’re doing from day to day. And, cruelly, the toll it takes can make patients feel even worse. If you are unexpectedly emotional, obnoxious, moody, needy, or however your bad pain days affect you, let your partner know that a wide berth might be a good idea. My husband and I would often fight on Fridays for no clear reason, at a time when I had supposedly gotten over one illness and hadn’t yet been diagnosed with the next. Once we learned why I was a serious wreck by the end of the work week, ... Read more>>