Partners in Pain
Successful couples communicate and collaborate to overcome chronic pain, says psychologist Annmarie Cano.
What are some of the ways chronic pain can affect couples?
Some couples approach pain as a shared problem or challenge. These are the couples that make the best of the situation. Other couples, however, think of pain as only one partner’s problem. In these cases, one spouse is left to deal with the pain alone, and this situation can definitely put a strain on the individual but also the couple’s relationship.
What should a partner know or do when their spouse is suffering from chronic pain?
Open communication is key, and so is compassion for each partner’s inner experiences. It’s also important that both partners learn how to use the pain-management skills (for example, muscle relaxation) so that the partner can confidently assist the person with pain in their pain-coping attempts.
Can someone “pain-proof” their relationship?
There really is no way of preventing pain or any other stressor from affecting one’s relationship. However, it makes all the difference when people shift their thinking from “My illness means the end of a meaningful life” to “I can live a meaningful life with my illness.” This goes for relationships too. If both partners can approach the pain as something that is part of their lives together, not something that defines their lives together, they can begin to identify and live out their goals.