Cuddling Up With Pain: A Spouse's Guide
“We’re goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get married…” Welcome to the chapel of love, except we have a problem here. A sign on the door says, “Beware of Pain.” The door is locked and presents quite a barrier to all things good inside. In reality, chronic pain can present a formidable roadblock to a healthy relationship for many reasons. For one reason, a painful disability can hinder efforts to socialize. Pain can also inhibit physical touch and intimacy. The final blow to a relationship can be a lack of stability. Financial stability and emotional stability play key roles in long-lasting relationships. How can the couple survive? What can a spouse of someone with chronic pain do to help the situation? For starters, some key virtues are needed to unlock the door at the chapel of love.
A spouse should bring JOY to the chapel of love. Joyful energy is such a pleasure to be near. People are happier when doing something enjoyable together. People in pain can experience less pain when doing something enjoyable. Even when certain hobbies are lost, others can be found. Together a couple can find alternative ways to experience joy together.
A spouse should bring PATIENCE to the chapel of love. The vow, “For better or worse” indicates that there is a certain amount of patience required in a relationship. A spouse should be able to roll with the good, the bad, and the ugly side of chronic pain in a calm manner. Any anxiety will make pain worse. Any anger will make matters worse. Any fear will make a relationship crumble. Pain can create a lot of negative feelings on both sides. If a spouse has a good outlet for frustration, patience will come more naturally as he/she rolls with the punches. Together a couple can find ways to practice patience together.
A spouse should bring ACCEPTANCE to the chapel of love. One has to accept what one cannot change. Many relationships have been ruined because someone was trying to change the unchangeable. If things do not change to one’s liking, then rejection starts to erode love. As a relationship grows, people evolve and pain happens. Passing judgment on someone with pain and disability will ultimately kill the friendship. Adapting is difficult, but a necessary aspect of any loving relationship. A spouse needs to try to accommodate the other in order to continue the harmony. Once found, an acceptance point becomes a balance point on which a relationship can continue to grow. Acceptance is ultimately rooted in respect, honor and love; all of which are necessary to enter the chapel of love.
With chronic pain as a barrier, the chapel of love can be as impenetrable as a prison. Once inside the chapel, a couple might find it inhospitable because of the presence of pain. However, by adhering to the virtues of joy, patience and acceptance, a spouse can help to keep the heart unlocked and open. Long-lasting, healthy relationships are hard to come by even in the best of circumstances. Keeping a friendship together after pain, disability and misfortune have struck, tests the fortitude of anyone. Unfortunately, spouses of those with chronic pain can also be silent, invisible victims. Break down the barriers and let the love shine on.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.