Research from the National Institute of Health find that just over 10% of Americans live in chronic pain—having pain every day for at least three months. For 17% of Americans, severe pain is part of normal life. If you’ve turned on the news lately, you know that this pain problem is directly tied to the opioid crisis. But even for those who are able to manage pain without the struggle of addiction, there can be noticeable effects on work and relationships. This blog will address the ways in which pain may come between you and your loved ones, the signs that you should seek couples counseling in Highlands Ranch, and ways to reconnect with those you love .
How Pain Affects Your Relationships
Pain is stressful. It distracts you when you try to concentrate, ruins your short-term memory with constant interruptions, and can even cause anxiety or mood disruption. Your brain only has energy to devote to so many things at once, and pain ranks high on your brain’s list of “important things.” Why? Usually, pain is a sign that something needs to change. You put on shoes that you think fit and experience pain later, this tells you the shoes do not fit well. You lift a heavy cabinet and your back screams out in protest, this tells you to lift with your legs or ask for help. But when pain is chronic, your body still keeps sending out these alarm signals, putting you on-edge and demanding your attention. When people visit Dr. Lazarus in Littleton for couples therapy, many report that the person who is in pain is irritable, frustrated, distracted, and distant.
If your loved one had an acute injury, such as getting banged up in a car accident, it would be easy to accommodate these needs for a few days while he or she heals. The problem occurs when pain is chronic, because this “temporary” shift may seem like it takes over the person in pain forever. For the partner, there may be feelings of guilt, resentment, or frustration as well—your helpmate in life has taken a big blow, and may take a very long time to return to their previous levels of functioning. For the person in pain, seek effective pain management with your physician or pain specialist, and consider offloading some stress and learning new coping skills with a therapist. The partner may need to seek support as well. Both people in the relationship may need to re-think priorities and values, focusing on what is really most important. You may need to adjust your favorite activities together to accommodate the pain, but remember: the best part of being with your partner is shared time.
When to Seek Professional Help
No matter how hard you work at home, you may find that you and your partner are still struggling with the relationship effects of chronic pain. If you feel like harming yourself or others, if you or your partner is finding it increasingly difficult to engage in fun or daily activities, or if you feel that your resentment is growing faster than your understanding can accommodate, seek professional help to save your relationship! Intensive couple’s therapy with an animal-assisted therapist can help people break through barriers and remember why they love each other, no matter how much stress, pain, or other life circumstances get in the way. To set up a session, contact Dr. Steve Lazarus today!