When a single person in chronic pain finally takes the plunge into dating and is fortunate enough to establish a relationship with someone who truly understands, there may be many challenging emotions that both parties need to deal with. If these emotions aren’t recognized and understood, the relationship won’t survive.
Most of these feelings are experienced by both people, but for different reasons. It is imperative that they be acknowledged and discussed in order for intimacy to be taken to the next level.
I am not a psychologist. I am simply a person who has experienced chronic pain for many years and finally decided it would no longer prevent me from finding true love. After many discussions with my very understanding partner, I came to the realization that our emotions (from different perspectives) were almost always identical.
Here are a few of these emotions and how we worked them out:
The person in chronic pain may feel guilty for being in that situation. As irrational as that may be, it still comes into play. “I feel guilty because I can’t do XYZ. Why can’t I be normal like everyone else? Why won’t my body let me do those things? How can I expect my partner to put up with me in this condition? Gosh, I feel so bad for being this way.”
The other person also feels guilt, but for a different reason. “Why can’t I take away his/her pain? I feel so bad watching this suffering. Why am I healthy, but this person is not? I want to ‘fix’ it, but I can’t.”
Solution: Realize that no one is at fault. No one chooses to be in chronic pain. Also, if the medical profession can’t offer a solution, why should the healthy person feel guilty about not being able to? On both sides, the emotion of guilt needs to go away entirely. “It is what it is.”
A person in chronic pain understandably has many fears. “Will I ever get better? Will I ever be able to do the things I want to do? Will he/she leave me once they get fed up? Do they have the patience to stay with me?”
The healthy person will also experience fear. They may wonder, “Will he/she give up? Will things get worse with my partner’s health? Will I be able to handle things if they do get worse? Am I truly strong enough to stick with this over the long haul?”
Solution: I can’t stress enough the importance of talking about these fears. Chronic pain does add a challenging element to any budding relationship. It’s the unknown entity we’re not trained to deal with when forming an emotional attachment to someone. Be honest about your fears. Both parties will usually feel a huge sense of relief that they share this emotion and have chosen to stay together and face it head-on.
It’s tough for the person in chronic pain to overcome moments of sheer despair and depression. “I give up. I can’t go on any longer. I can’t fight this battle anymore. It’s just too damn hard.” This happens particularly after the person has had a hard day and feels overwhelmed.
Despair and depression are contagious. The healthy person may become caught up in those emotions, and if he/she has also had a difficult day, may not feel capable of providing the support they usually would. Sometimes, they can also become convinced that there truly is no light at the end of the tunnel. “He/she is right. There is no workaround for this. Why do we even try?”
Solution: Whether chronic pain is involved or not, we all have days when both parties feel a bit down. Often, after a good night’s sleep or a period of stepping away from the problem, like watching a comedy or ordering some delicious Chinese food, the problem is returned back to its proper perspective.
This is one of those times when I advocate that both partners communicate their feelings of despair/depression to one another and then take a break! It doesn’t mean that those emotions aren’t there, but sharing something enjoyable in the comfort of each others’ presence sustains the belief that tomorrow will be a better day. And it usually is!
Dealing with chronic pain is an exhausting task for both parties in a budding relationship, but doesn’t have to prevent it from thriving. On the positive side, it truly does “sort the wheat from the chaff.” It forces us to boil the relationship down to its essentials and perhaps open up lines of communication that wouldn’t normally occur.
Please never let chronic pain prevent you from seeking, finding and maintaining your true love.