How to Manage the Effects of Chronic Pain on Your Marriage

Although the word refers to a wide range of conditions, chronic pain is one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. Despite this, the challenges that couples encounter when one partner is suffering from chronic pain are quite similar. Activity irregularity, which feeds resentment, is largely to blame for the unique relational issues that chronic pain poses. Education, the development of pain management skills, and focused, nonjudgmental communication can all be used to address activity inconsistency.

Chronic pain: what is it?

Chronic pain is defined as any pain that lasts six months or longer, regardless of whether it originated from an accident or an illness like fibromyalgia.

While chronic pain can linger for a very long time after an injury appears to have healed, acute pain is the immediate outcome of an injury. People with fibromyalgia are an example of chronic pain that is not related to a particular injury or cause, and they frequently spend years hearing from their doctors and loved ones that their crippling symptoms are probably all in their heads.

What role does this play in relationships, exactly?

Let’s define inconsistency in activities.

One of the best examples of how radically unpredictable the symptoms of chronic pain may be is fibromyalgia.The pain symptoms, which are frequently described as skin-on-fire sensations with deeper, excruciating pain at trigger sites, can range in intensity from incapacitating to barely perceptible throughout the course of a day. For the majority, this leads to a harmful habit of overindulging on days when there is little pain, only to “pay for it” with several days of much worse symptoms.

If your partner suffers from fibromyalgia, you can find it quite frustrating to watch your wife mow the lawn one day and struggle to get out of bed the next. This kind of unpredictability upsets the established routines, the sharing of daily tasks, and obligations in a way that frequently causes resentment for the partner who is healthy and unwarranted guilt for the partner who suffers from chronic pain.

What can be done?

Activity inconsistency can be treated by learning activity pacing and practicing strict self-care (ideally with the assistance of a therapist who specializes in treating chronic pain).Regardless of their pain level, activity pacing helps persons with chronic pain maintain some level of activity. Self-care, which includes rest, nutrition, and stress reduction, acts as a stopgap for flare-ups.

Speak with your doctor about sleep recommendations, or Google “sleep hygiene” for more information. The best person to address diet issues is a dietitian who can test for food sensitivities.

Inflammation is frequently linked to chronic pain, and it can be made worse by poor dietary decisions. The topic of stress management is too large to cover in full here, but individualized coping strategies can be established in therapy, which has been shown to lower pain levels and enhance quality of life in general.

Communicating effectively

Intentional, non-judgmental communication can help to overcome the relational effects of activity inconsistency. Many persons who have chronic pain tend to either exaggerate their pain in order to be taken seriously or to minimize their symptoms in order to avoid appearing burdensome.

Being precise and explicit is important in intentional communication. The values we give to experience through judgments enable us to express what we enjoy and don’t like. Although judgments can be helpful as quick cuts to prevent us from discussing everything in detail, they become problematic when utilized as the main form of expression.

A strong adjective vocabulary that can accurately and fully explain physical experiences and abilities is essential for non-judgmental communication about chronic pain. Instead of using the judgmental and ambiguous phrase “you feel terrible today,” consider breaking “terrible” down into its component parts, such as describing the burning in your legs or the numbness in your hands.

An individual pain scale

Together with your spouse, create a unique pain scale to put the ideas of purposeful and nonjudgmental communication into reality. The healthy partner can comprehend what different levels of pain signify in terms of severity and an impact on functioning by utilizing a tangible scale that was designed using exact terminology.

Determine your pain level on a scale of 0 to 10, then explain how it relates to your capacity to carry out specific duties and respond to demands from your spouse.

Saying, “I do,” is considerably more impactful.

I won’t be able to do the dishes today because I’m at a 5, but I can read the kids bedtime tales.

than it is to exaggerate or understate suffering.

A collaborative pain scale assists couples in navigating the unpredictability of chronic pain and makes sure that both partners are making important, controllable contributions to the marriage, thereby avoiding bitterness and estrangement.

Chronic pain is frequently linked to severe emotional anguish and an increase in relationship negativity, but the negative consequences can be lessened if both couples are prepared to take initiative. Spouses can work together to heal instead of fighting in solitude when the focus of interventions shifts from the individual experiencing the suffering to the pain and its effects.