Dos and Don'ts for Living with Someone Who Has Chronic Pain

by Christina Lasich, MD Health Professional

Living with pain is certainly difficult. Living with someone that experiences chronic pain can also be very difficult. Relationships are tested by the stress of disability and pain. Some simple and practical do’s and don’ts can help to improve and restore relationships.

Do be empathetic

Empathy requires you to tune into what someone else is feeling. Often this requires that you first listen and be attentive. Next, in order to be empathetic, you must validate the bigness of what is happening to the other person. Validation is a way to show that something is true or real and accepting it. According to Dr. Hall in Psychology Today, there are various ways to validate someone’s feelings such as summarizing what you just heard. Finally, an empathetic person also shows compassion. In other words, by showing concern for the other person’s suffering, you will reflect compassion. Empathy is much different than sympathy in that sympathetic people really do not meet a person where they are at and give them a hug. According to Brene Brown, sympathy drives disconnection with the “fix it” or “silver lining” attitude. Empathy drives connection.

Do be Loving

Love is not a feeling. Love is an action word. Love does things. What things express love? Paying attention to another person is one of the highest forms of love. Acting patiently with kindness is what love does. “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres’ (1 Cor. 13:7). Being loving towards someone in pain not only requires you to pay attention, but it also requires that you anticipate the other person’s needs. A person may need extra help around the house like going grocery shopping or lifting something heavy. But the most basic human need is the need to feel loved. When the love tank is full, even the mountains of pain in someone’s life can start to look small.

Don’t Join the Pity Party

A pity party happens when someone just wants to feel sorry for one’s self and wants everyone to feel pity towards him/her too. The more one focuses on the bad stuff and feels like a victim, the bigger the party. Instead of feeding into these negative emotions, it is much healthier to try to change the tune by starting a joint gratitude journal or starting the day with a prayer of gratitude. Focusing on what the both of you can be grateful for can help to unleash hope into your relationship.

Don’t Allow Verbal Abuse

Living with chronic pain provokes a lot of negative emotions like sadness, anger, frustration and hopelessness. At times, these emotions can erupt or explode into an attack on whoever is nearby. You might be blamed for something. You might be accused of something. You might even be called names. However the verbal abuse comes out; it is not to be tolerated. Instead of responding immediately with your own attack, go back to the “do’s” discussed earlier. Respond to the attack once you have clothed your own heart in love and then ask the other person to do the same. “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Mat. 12:34).

There may only be one person in the relationship that is experiencing the chronic pain but both of you are suffering. Meet at this common ground and start to restore your relationship by finding ways to relieve the suffering. You can start this recovery process with these do’s and don’ts when living with someone that experiences chronic pain.

Christina Lasich, MD
Meet Our Writer
Christina Lasich, MD

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.