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Wife thinking of leaving, fed up with my pain

watchyurbackwwatchyurback Posts: 73
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Matters of the Heart
This is a topic that comes up frequently here but I wanted to check to seek support here and find out what your experiences are from spouses trying to cope with your pain.
My wife of nine years is close to leaving me, taking our two children with her, after putting up with my pain from two two-level lumbar fusion surgeries. I'm so depressed, feel helpless, want to save the marriage but not sure it's possible at this point.
She complains that I'm not dying, so I should basically get over it. I've been on disability leave from work but hope to return soon, even if I'm still in pain, just to be able to say I tried.
I've been to physical therapy more times than I can remember, have tried yoga (which increased the pain), am taking minimal doses of painkillers as needed and antidepressants. Sometimes the pain is so intense I just retreat to the bed in the home office and lie there in in pain. Meanwhile she does most of the cooking, housecleaning and taking care of our young children. It's a heavy burden on her, and I sympathize with her. This is not the life she signed up for when we got married.
My depression and general withdrawal have greatly hurt our marriage. But I still try. I go out with her and the kids at least twice a week to the park or to amusement parks or restaurants. I mow the lawn, do a bit of gardening, tidy up the house when my pain is tolerable, and pick up our children from school when I can.
I feel so alone in this. Her family solidly supports her and is actively involved in getting her out of the marriage. I've told her I want to change and do everything she wants, like in the good ol' days, but it will take time because my pain is unrelenting.
I can't get her to understand what I'm going through. For her it's just a minor problem with which I have to come to terms. She wants a husband who can cook, clean house, work and bring home the bacon, serve her breakfast in bed, plan camping trips with the kids and so on.
I want to do all those things too, but my God, even when I was in minimal pain and still working I couldn't find the time to do all that. My work was so intense and time- consuming.
Please help :-(


  • Dear Phil,
    I'm so terribly sorry to hear what you're going through. I too am in severe pain, so much so I wonder what my future will be like. I can't imagine how much worse it will be down the road.
    Marriage is supposed to be 'In sickness and in health', I guess your wife forgot that part of the vows. My husband not only works 6 to 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, but has also taken on most of the household chores, cooking, laundry, shopping, you name it. And he never complains. He has told me that he can see the pain I'm in just by looking at me. That it shows on my face.
    Why are you taking the lowest dosage possible? If you got better control over your pain you may be able to actually do more. After my 3rd surgery, which was horrible and took me over 1 year to recover, I was finally put on the correct dosage and able to do so much more. I even lost 30 pounds in 2 months from being so active. (not too active but a lot more than before) Then I had to change PM's and th new one lowered my dosage. Back came those 30 pds and the inability to do very much. Think seriously about this, it could change your life. I'm on oxycontin and it doesn't cause any side effects that would keep me from doing anything. They don't make me sleepy, high, etc.. Maybe this would be a good place to start?
    As for the your wife, it's a shame that she doesn't know you well enough to know that you would never act this way if you could help it. None of us would! Some people just don't get it. One of these days they too will need help, be in severe pain, and remember how they treated you (us) and hopefully regret it. I wish you the very best and I wish I knew what to say to help. Good luck.
  • I'm sorry to hear about your wife wanting to leave you. I asked my Pain Management Dr. to talk with my husband about my chronic pain and how you just don't get over it. Things are better for us now since that appointment. Don't know if that could help you or to even try counseling. It sounds like she expects a lot from you of what you're not able to do. Maybe time apart may cause you to concentrate on yourself and getting better if you're able. Speak with your Primary Dr. as he may help you with referrals and that. Best wishes. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I agree with cateyes, your not doing this on purpose! I am so sick of people telling me (well, "us" for that matter) that "you aren't dying, there are people out there who's pain is worse than yours", yeah well-obviously there is, but we didn't CHOOSE this, it is very depressing but this is why this site is great :) So many people on here to talk to, so much information...i remember once seeing a post that a lady had written on here, saying how good it would be if there was a little island for all of us "neckies/backies" to live on :) Anyway, you can't understand chronic pain if you arent living with it. I was looking through google, and came across this comment, written by a wife whos hubbie has had chronic back pain for some time:

    Hi, my husband has the same condition as your wife. He has chronic pain caused by back injury. It was a long time ago, but it still hurts a lot. He can’t walk and sit properly. It’s not easy when you watch your spouse suffering from chronic pain, and not being able to help him. He takes some drugs, but has no relief. He often has constipation due to all the narcotics that he takes, and sometimes he gets even heavier side effects. It’s very hard to cope with chronic pain, and sometimes I don’t go to work because I can’t leave him like that. It hurts me when I watch him suffering and I hope I’ll find a way to help him.

    I'm not here to tell you that your wife doesn't care, she might feel lost, have you tried speaking to her about this? Maybe on a not so painful day, you could arrange the kids to go to a family members for the night, and you two could have an evening at home together. Good luck and let us know how it goes mate
  • i hear you
    and i have been there .its brutal .i wont lie to you my friend .if she is going to leave ..she will do it ...i want to tell you that everything will be ok .but i can't ..i went through it with my first wife and we had been together for 12 years .but she get pi5534 off with me and found someone else ..o was gutted .we are friends now but it took me years to come to terms with it ..some people can't manage with a ill person ..my new wife ..i say new ..we have also been married 12 years today wed 26 may as it happens .marrieds me knowing that i was ill but even with her nursing back ground and the fact that she knew i was ill when she married me ..had nearly ended our marraige more than once .i am truly sorry for you and you are going to have a tough time ahead .just try to look after your self and dont do anything stupid .if it s any comfort there is another person on here going through the same thing she is called Amanda .sorry Phil ..i really am
  • Phil you both need counceling from a therapist who deals with back pain/chronic pain patients. If she hasn't left yet there is hope.

    As you can see from all the replys you and she aren't alone in having problems. Sometimes the problems were there before and this is just an excuse and sometimes the problems develope because of the fears that come with injury.

    A good therapis will help both of you understand what you are really feeling and afraid of. There are soo many variations that we don't even understand. All the easy ones are things like fear of lost income, losing the house, caring for an invalid, change in life style. How about some of the others like fear in the spouse that they won't be able to pick-up all the slack. Some people are very uncertain about their ability and want the security of being taken care of.

    The therapist can also help you understand what you are dealing with as the one in pain. I'm not saying this is you but many patients go into depression and are their own worst enemy. You are taking minimal doses of painkiller and other meds but this isn't necessarily the right treatment for you. Activity is necessary for alot of reasons. Limiting your meds is inhibiting your activity which is probably making you feel worse.

    I don't know what your diagnosis is but maybe it's time to get some other opinions and try some other treatments. Talk to your wife and see if she will help you with this. Being part of your treatment will help her to understand what is going on. As I said before - if she is still there you have hope.
  • As in my case, sometimes the spouse is just a selfish jerk that doesn't see it, doesn't want to see it and only cares that "he" can no longer do what HE wants because of my pain. My life is limited because of pain, therefore so is his. Tough Sh$$. I'd gladly trade him.
  • OK, I am not a religious person, but I always fall back on the saying "God helps those who help themselves." This is SO important for us, because there is really nobody out there who will do for us, we HAVE to do for ourselves. So since I can't tell YOU what to do, I'll tell you what I've done.

    1) Make sure I'm getting constant care from doctors I trust and respect. Sometimes you have to fire a couple to find good ones.

    2) I see a psychiatrist regularly for for treatment of the depression and anxiety that come along with being a chronic pain patient. Psychiatrists are trained in treating the brain, which is the center of emotion, so are better able to precribe appropriately.

    3) Recently I found a therapist who specializes in health issues and started seeing her so I could deal with everything going on. I might bring my husband in as well for a few visits, to help bring him into my healing process.

    Because this is a new life, not the same one I had before. I need to learn to live it well. When I learned to live the old one, I had teachers- I figure I'll need teachers for the new one too.
  • I am so sorry that you are going through this. I am fortunate that my hubby is supportive to the point I even caught him looking on the 'net' about chronic nerve pain, neuropathy etc. After one of my appointments that I got bad news in, I was having a "pitty party" as my hubby drove. He asked me what was wrong, and I mumbled "you didn't sign on for this." His reply was 'Ummm.. I think it was in the vows?" My mood went up from there!

    Maybe this could help her understand?

    1. Bring her to some of your Dr. appointments so she can see and understand a bit more?

    2. Do a search for "Spoon Theory", and you will find a story a woman did of her own chronic illness (Lupus) and how to picture "spoons" as how her day can be best used based on her pain and condition. It doesn't focus on a specific illness - could be used for cancer, arthritis, spiny issues etc. It might help her understand how you go day to day? My former co-workers and hubby thought it was great!

    3. Like others have said, make some special time for just the 2 of you - make her know she is still number one in your heart!

    4. Try to explain some of your pain in ways she can understand. I.e., the burning from my back is like when you hit your funny bone, but it is constant? Something like that.

    I hope things work out. Take care, and please keep us posted! Support *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I just wanted to say thanks to all who responded to my post. I really have found strength and encouragement in all of your kind words and in reading about your own experiences.
    Thankfully for now the situation seems to have calmed. My wife has backed off the threat of divorce and the relationship seems better, basically because I started doing some of the things she wanted me to do, and which, frankly, I think are good for me and my pain. So I've been a bit more active with the family, attending some school events with the kids and generally being more affectionate toward my wife. I understand now that I have been so focused on my pain and trying to deal with it that I neglected my family. I think many of us find ourselves in this situation. But pain is a selfish monster, I've found. It wants to take over your life at the expense of all that is good and pleasurable. That's why we speak of "painful experiences," hurt feelings etc.
    The suggestions to up the painkiller dosage are helpful. My pain management doctor has said the same. Frankly, I've always been afraid of the side effects and don't want to risk dependency, but I think it's time to accept that my life is not getting better without meds. It's getting worse.
    My wife has accepted my invitation to join me at my next pain management appointment. My doctor has always recommended she attend but she had no interest.
    Over the past year-and-a-half, since my lumbar fusion surgeries, I've had a roller-coaster of emotions. On good days I'm ready to conquer the world, go back to work, travel to Europe, apply for new jobs, take the family on trips etc., re-landscape the yard, rebuild the decaying kitchen, replace all the corroded faucets and all that. Of course, after trying even one of these, I'm out for the next three days with excruciating pain, lately with sciatic involvement, probably from the bulging disc at L-3 adjacent to the fusion.
    So I can never be everything my wife wants me to be. My psychiatrist says, "what the heck are you doing anyways, trying to please someone else all the time??? Be yourself. Be honest. Try to do what works, given your pain, and do it for Your sake."
    He's right.
    God, I can't tell you how many times people I thought loved me have said, "it's just pain. Get over it." What is wrong with them??
    My mother-in-law got in my face recently about not doing enough to cope with my pain. That was really nice of her. Ugghhh.
    Please let me know more about how you have coped with similar situations. I'm still bracing for the worst (divorce) but taking it one day at a time, trying to do my best.
  • Phil,
    What a star you are, your plight has poignancy for all those relationships struggling with pain and attempting to carry on as normal when this is not possible, things cannot be as they were, at our residential PM our wives and girlfriends attended and gave emotional testimony in how pain had impacted on them, all the hopes, dreams and ambitions equally tainted. A partnership is about balance and honesty, I have responsibly to all my family members to give of myself and share equally all those roles and responsibilities that my diminishing physical capacity allows, it is wrong to expend all that energy on myself, I have learned to adapt, some things I can no longer do, I look for alternatives and develop similar goals with equal value, my three children benefit from my slower and attentive pace.

    I was pleased that some of the important things from your wife’s perspective are now in the same focus for you, even in constant pain life is not just about us. The best support I received was at the PM residential from those not in pain, they had understanding and that balance of support and encouragement

    That was very honest of you to say that inadvertently you had neglected your family and although not in pain listening to how we react impacts on them, is not for the faint hearted and a true measure of your leadership status.

    What others think you can do and what you can actually do differ and those lines of communication on both sides are equally important. We all live that fantasy that everything is normal and on the worse days the simplest things are impossible.

    Pain is a team event we need support and an occasional reminder of how and what we should be doing, in reality my wife did sign up for the better or worse element and I would not be the same person without her continuing love, encouragement and understanding.

    I wish you well in developing a shared strategy for coping together and attending your clinic together is a positive starting point.

    Take care and be kind to yourself.


  • John you have a way with words. It really is important for us to step back and take a good look at ourselves. Pain is just as addictive as anything else in life. We've been told that alcohol and cigarettes and drugs are addictive. How about things like shopping, and tanning, and eating? My point is that good and bad things can take control of us. Until we take an honest look at ourselves we don't recognize these addictive, obsessive compultions.

    Phil I am so happy that your wife is going to the appt with you. Now I think you should make her a partner in your care. Ask her to be your "control". Give her the responsibility and the power to make sure you don't slip away again into self-pity and/or pain medication abuse. You almost could write up a contract that says she can insist on you going to the doctor if she feels something is wrong. This gives her the responsibility and some power.

    I've been on both sides of the relationship when injury and severe pain happens. It is very hard to be the spouse who feels left out.

    I understand what your psychiatrist is saying but it also seems a bit harsh. Being married and having a family is all about give and take. Sometimes you take more and other times you give more. Have you ever done any couples therapy? Or maybe work with a therapist who treats pain patients?

    I can't wait to hear how that appointment goes. And thank you for sharing this difficult time in your life. This thread has helped lots of people who are afraid to talk about this painful subject..
  • is not only tough for us, it is tough for our loved ones, particularly spouses. While we sit in denial that things aren't "this" bad, they have to face what they see, and many of us have "invisible" pain.

    Have you read this by T. Zuckerman - "Am I Tough Enough"? Talk about getting a good cry in, but I recommend it AND showing it to your wife.


    I have been wondering about getting off my meds (or seriously decreasing them) and I could tell my husband was just not thrilled with that, which surprised me.

    He finally told me yesterday that he does not want to go back to "those days" when I was in so much pain I could barely get out of my recliner to go to the bathroom. He sees my increase in pain meds and the spinal cord stimulator as what gave him his wife back. So now I understand a bit better.

    We had some tough times......but thankfully I married a great guy who really did mean his vows. It also helps that our boys are almost grown, so no little kids around. I have those grippers/grabbers ALL over the house - like 5 or 6 of them - and I use them all day long. I have a stronger one in the laundry room so I can do laundry by myself. I do not bent, lift or twist and won't for the rest of my life. The grabbers/grippers give me my abilities back and I do almost everything except dishwasher and toilets/tubs.

    Good luck! Too bad you have the stress of her potentially leaving to go with everything else. I've always said - if our spouses could only be in our bodies for 1 hour, BOY, would they never complain again. Just would be glad not to be us!

    Take care,

  • Thanks again to all who responded to my post about my wife's reaching the breaking point with my pain and withdrawal. I have learned a lot from your comments. It is so hard to think about your spouse's needs when you are in chronic pain. This is the evil nature of what we here must endure. Far too often, people, including spouses, dismiss our anguish, give us misguided advice in the belief they are helping, blame us for indulging our pain, giving in to it, surrendering all hope to the great pain god. I think they are frustrated. The person who once was cheerful, outgoing, funny, spontaneous, productive, creative and engaged is suddenly withdrawn, slow, disabled, struck down by a demon that they can't see or touch. And for so many of us, this change happens when we should be at the top of our game, in our thirties or forties or fifties, when we are expected to work long hours, be productive, get the big promotion, tend to our children, be emotionally available and accessible for our spouses and children and, in some cases, try to take care of our own aging parents.
    I suppose for our loved ones, our pain becomes a slow death that they must endure, even though our conditions are rarely terminal. Chronic pain is a strange beast indeed, as there are no "templates" or models for our families to fall back on, as might be the case with a fatal illness. They need not worry that we will die, but a part of us does die. I don't think anyone is prepared for this bizarre journey, least of all our spouses and children.
    All I can say is, I didn't ask for this pain. I never wanted it. I had been a very ambitious, successful professional and then one day the music stopped. My two-level lumbar fusion was a failure. It was like fighting fire with fire.
    How can drilling six screws into my vertebra, connected with rods, scraping out my discs and replacing them with expensive implants, cutting away big chunks of my spine and reconstructing my spinal architecture -- how can that possibly relieve pain? This I will never understand.
    Thanks for listening to my outcry. I shall survive.
  • Phil you touched on what I think is the hardest part for us and for our spouses - the death of our dreams.

    When we are growing up we develop a dream of how we are going to live. What car we want, where we will live, what job, what type of spouse. As we get older this dream is refined and often gets even bigger and better.

    Then this hits. We seek treatment but can't control the outcome. Often the economic side cripples us just as much as the physical.

    Now all of a sudden the vacations are gone, the big house may be gone, the college plans for kids are gone and the future is not what we planned.

    What we often forget, as you point out, is that our spouses are in the boat with us. Unless they have some ability to step in and provide the lost income they are floundering with us. And if they do, this added work creates it's own stresses on the family.

    It takes some very mature people to understand that life is constantly changing. Goals need to be adjusted. And as those vows say "in good times and bad". We all have out moments of temper tantrums when we realize that our plans are all screwed up. When the moment dosn't end it's time to get some outside help. Phil print out this thread and show it to your wife. Then ask her to see a counselor with you. Hard times happen to everyone. Many of us need outside help - I did and I'm not ashamed to say it.
  • i have now found myself in the same boat sort of. Just found out my wife is cheating.....I see a divorce in my future. In my state their is no adultry reasons, so i must file for unreconcilable differences. She has not worked in over 6 years and we have young kids still. So im looking at about $2000 a month in child suppport and alimony. I used to keep my head up thru my disability but now i am in a deep state of depression. Oh, well life goes on...........
  • Hi Phil
    I was reading all the posts here....and it occurred to me how exhausted (emotionally) your wife might be.We women are different than you guys....I know how much it would mean to me if my husband would sincerely suggest I just take a break...if your wife has been trying to "hold it all together" for the family,it may be too much.The divorce cry may be a cry for help,from you.Just a thought....the changes in your health affect the entire family.And the effects are different for each person.We women like to do it all...but sometimes we can't. Sagehen
  • Look, the way i feel about this is simple.

    If you were living with a high maintenance spouse prior to your injury, then that spouse will have a hard time adjusting to the fact that you are in pain and can not do as much for them as you used to. That's especially true if you spouse was raised by the generation born in the early 1920s or 1930s.

    That generation believed that everyone should work and no one had a right to take time off for healing. They infused their children (our current spouses) with that thinking, and the result goes something like this: "well, you look okay (i.e, you're not bleeding) so why can't you just get up and do x,y or z" or "even if you are sick, you should not be laying around doing nothing. get up and do some housework or something"

    It seems pretty damn insensitive to me.

    Combine that inbred teaching with a spouse who is already somewhat spoiled and pampered, and you get a ready made problem for the other spouse with spiny issues.
  • I too think that you 2 need to get into counseling, as she may need a venue to express what she is really feeling. She may still leave, but at least youe can say that you gave 100% and that she had to come to the decison that was best for her. It'll still hurt.. but hopefully, you'll have a lot less regrets and have some answers to why she is acting this way - and then already be hooked in w. a counselor who can help you work through this, and on w. the rest of your life. If she does decide not to leave, the counseling may be able to bring some of the major issues out in the open, and give you 2 a chance to resolve them and/or to figure out a way to compromise.
  • Thanks to the many contributors who responded to my post here. I just wanted to update you on things. My wife has not left -- yet. We basically patched things up, as so often happens between me and my wife, and life picked up more or less where it left off. However, the underlying problems remain: my pain and disability; my reduced income due to my disability; her needs and hopes and expectations from a husband who once was an ambitious, successful professional but now struggles to get through the day with intractable pain; the future of our young children, who also feel my pain (so to speak) though they express it obliquely.
    I'm very worried about all of these problems that have been made worse by my pain.
    But I emphasize that they've been made worse. There were many problems between the two of us going back to the time we were dating. She hasn't changed much since then, and basically I'm still the same man, though the disability has changed me.
    We both have to come to terms with the reality of my disability and what it means for our marriage and our children. This challenge is very difficult. I worry a lot about the future of our marriage and of our children. I pray for a future in which the pain is manageable enough for me to return to some kind of work, to find a purpose again in life, at least professionally (of course my family is my purpose in any case).
    Thanks again,
  • >:D< Sending you big hugs

    Im so sorry to hear of your problems Phil, but it appears that hopefully there is a chance for you 2..

    My first Husbands way to deal with my first cancer battle was to have affairs and finally he beat me senseless and stabbed me also..Glad to be rid of him by the time my second battle started..I hate to think what he would be like if he would have had to put up with my problems now???

    Its a hard road at times and we all feel so alone at times but always remember there is someone on this site that has you in their thoughts and prayers..

    I never thought I would ever ever trust anyone again and then I must be so lucky as my finacee/hubby now is always trying to find ways to improve my life and is always googling this and that for anything new.

    I found a "Writing" on this site called "A Letter to the Normals from a person with chronic pain".. Just search for it on the site..Its a powerful read and Ive found it extremely helpful to express how I feel.

    Hang in there my friend and take care
  • Phil you sound like you have a pretty good handle on your situation. It's good that you recognize that things are never perfect.

    But keep in mind that if you were in perfect health many of the same problems would be there. Instead of health causing the reduced income in todays economy you might have lost a job or had a cutback. Many marriages experience bad times where one or both spouses cheat or think about cheating.

    I think we tend to get caught up in our spine problems and blame them for everything bad in our lives. If we look at our "healthy" relatives or neighbors we would see that they have alot of the same problems.

    Hope things work for you. Remember that many couples who have been married for 50+ years had some really rough patches.
  • Sometimes, it would be touching just to have them say, hey take a rest - let me do that for you! It would mean the world.
  • You guys make perfect sense.
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