Pain and Relationships

Key learnings:

  • We will explore the affects chronic pain can have on relationships
  • Tips to help partners and family support those with chronic pain
  • Who you can turn to for further relationship support

How Chronic Pain Can Affect Relationships

Chronic Pain is a condition that can not only affect the person that is experiencing the chronic pain, but can extend to your relationships with your spouse, children, family and friends. This may be due to the inability to interact emotionally or physically.

Chronic pain places a strain on most intimate relationships. In general, poor relationships have a negative effect on health and mental health. For those patients living with a chronic pain, poor relationship function makes it harder to manage. As the negative effect of a relationship intensifies, many people living with an existing and chronic physical condition can expect to see their condition worsen. Counselling and couple therapy can help to improve relationship function, therefore improving health and mental health conditions.

Hear from Dino Urzi – Clinical Psychologist

  • What are some ways to discuss pain with loved ones?
  • How can loved ones provide empathy, not sympathy, to people living with chronic pain?

Fight Chronic Pain Together

Pain is subjective – we can’t experience each other’s pain. Therefore, it is important to discuss with loved ones what you are experiencing so they understand what you are going through. Remember that your loved ones are also on the journey with you. If you struggle to express how chronic pain affects you, take some time to write down your pain experiences. Also consider the tone of voice you use when talking to you partner, friends or family. If you are feeling particularly sensitive or tired, consider arranging a better time to talk when your emotions have settled a little, or use breathing techniques to calm and centre yourself first. Reconnecting with these relationships is essential and will go a long way to ensure that your support system has strong foundations.


Tips from Dino Urzi

– Clinical psychologist

If you understand your own pain better, then you are more likely to be able to let a loved one know how they can best support you. Be mindful to:

  • Acknowledge your own pain.
  • Know that pain is subjective, which means that we can’t experience each other’s pain.
  • Remember that close family and friends may lack an understanding of your pain and how to help. This does not translate into a lack of care.
  • Be patient with loved ones who may not “get it”.
  • Describe your pain without using extreme wording like “nothing works” or “this will never go away”. This will create a “fix it” response in our loved ones.
  • Help loved one’s understand that you have down days and then every now and then you also have better days. This is not only important in helping loved one’s understand where you are but it also helps present you with a more balanced view of our pain without getting caught in the doom and gloom.
  • It is important to make your loved ones aware that we are not after solutions but rather an empathic ear, which is someone who is prepared to listen without judgment or solutions.

Chronic Pain Relationship Support

If you are looking for additional support, consider speaking with your GP, who can refer you onto a profession that can provide both parties with skills on how to live and manage chronic pain.

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