Oftentimes, when one thinks of what a relationship will be, they picture a partnership; a union between equals. It is no secret that achieving that ideal partnership requires a lot of work from both partners and that it can be a challenge to maintain, even for those in excellent physical health But when one partner has chronic pain or a chronic illness, it brings forward a whole new reality that – while not impossible – makes the feeling of equality within that partnership more difficult to achieve. It is usually near-impossible for the partner without the condition to fully understand how it affects their partner without being able to experience it themselves, and in addition to the physical stresses on his/her body, the person with the chronic condition may also have feelings of guilt or inadequacy because they’re not be able to keep up with the kids or contribute to the household as much as they would like.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), reports that 20% of American adults live with chronic pain – that equals 50 million people across the country! In addition, according to the CDC’s website, 6 out of 10 Americans live with some sort of chronic illness.
There are a wide range of emotions associated with having a chronic condition: shame, embarrassment, feeling undesirable or defective, guilt, feeling trapped in one’s body, just to name a few. Many days can feel completely overwhelming, leaving the person suffering with the condition feeling like they can’t do anything at all. Watching your partner struggle with their chronic condition usually leaves you feeling helpless and unsure of what you can do to help.
If your partner is suffering from chronic pain or a chronic illness, you’re probably feeling helpless and unsure of what you can do to help. Read on for 5 ways you can support your partner through their illness!
5 Ways to Support a Partner With Chronic Pain or Illness
1) Be Curious! Even though you can’t personally experience what your partner is going through, taking the time to research your partner’s condition, or asking your partner questions about what they’re going through can go a long way in building your understanding. Not only will this give you first-person perspective on what your partner is going through, they are also likely to appreciate your effort in truly understanding their struggles.
Being curious means also having to lose the “fix-it” mentality – and this can be hard to do! Your partner probably wants to talk and vent to you about what they’re going through. Try not to offer possible solutions unless they’re asked for. Instead, ask them what you can do to help!
Bonus: For more on how you and your partner can “vent” effectively, check out this video!
2) Offer Reassurance! Those living with a chronic condition often have fears or worries that they are a burden on their family, and especially to their partner. Remind your partner that they are not a burden to you, and make note and encourage celebrating the small victories your partner experiences with his/her condition. Recognizing how much effort it takes to do a load of laundry or vacuum one room can do a lot to remind your partner that they are a contributing member of the household – not a burden!
3)Take Time For Yourself! You’ve probably heard that if your own cup is not full you cannot pour into the cups of others? Well, the old adage rings true – especially If your partner is living with a chronic condition! Chances are you probably put a lot of extra duties on your own shoulders so your partner doesn’t have to worry about it. While it’s great to go above and beyond, it can also lead to caregiver burnout – and that isn’t going to do anybody any good!
Whether it’s reading a book, going for a hike, ducking out for a massage or a pedi, make sure to make self-care a priority!
4) Go To Appointments! Ask your partner if they’d like you to join them at their doctor’s appointments. Not only will this help you foster a greater understanding of your partner’s condition, your involvement will also show your partner that you care. If it’s okay with your partner, you may also use this as an opportunity to ask the doctor your own questions so you can increase your understanding and learn new ways you can help.
5) Show Appreciation! Your partner may have chronic pain or a chronic condition, but they are much, much more than that! They are not defined by their condition, and often appreciate being reminded as such. What are some of your favorite things about your partner? Is he/she funny? A logical thinker? Are you fond of his or her ears or hands? Let them know! We could all use a reminder of the reasons we are loved from time to time, and shifting the focus away from your partner’s condition while reminding them of the reasons they are loved will be appreciated!
The dedicated professionals at Solid Foundations Therapy work with couples, individuals, and families to repair and strengthen relationships, communication, and more! Learn more at www.solidfoundationstherapy.com!
**This is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice, merely a way to show support to those living with a chronic condition.