A man sits, unknowing what to do as his wife is blurred in the background.

Your Wife Has Chronic Pain? Here's How You Can Support Her.


Recently, I noticed that when stories get published on The Mighty pages, there are comments that we, as authors, can see. In response to an essay I wrote about things I don’t admit on my bad days, someone left a response that I hadn’t previously thought about. Basically, I was asked what can someone do to support a person dealing with chronic pain. Seriously. And in thinking about it, I realized it’s something I’ve never been asked before. After 21 years of being chronically ill within a marriage, what I came up with surprised even me.

1. Give me space. I know that doesn’t sound helpful, but sometimes it’s exactly what I need. This disease is relentless. And it’s progressive., which means that every time I think I come to terms with it and how I am feeling, it changes and I have new stuff to deal with. It makes me angry and it makes me cry and sometimes I don’t even know how to help myself at times, so I definitely don’t know how you can help.

2. Give me a hug. A hug can go a long way. You see, I get that you want to help me and I get that you don’t want to see me in pain. Hell, I see the pain in your eyes when you look at me this way. All I want to do is make it go away, and I can’t, so how can you? We both know words don’t help when I’m like this. But, a gentle hug says so much more than any words ever could.

3. Get the kid on board. OK. So this is a tough one, if not impossible, but I’m going to say it. Many of us who are chronically ill are women, so I am addressing this as a mom. I just physically cannot do the stuff I used to. Some days, just vacuuming is an issue. Any day you can get the kids out of my hair is a blessing. Be creative and make up quiet games, get them to help make dinner, or clean up. And ladies – don’t expect perfection if your guy is helping out here. There is none in the world of children or chronic pain. He’s trying.

4. Help me find my bliss. Going philosophical here, but it’s not as highbrow as it seems. Just talk to me about my pain. Talk to me about what I need in reference to my pain. The sweetest thing my husband ever did for me was to purchase a personal TENS unit to help relax my muscles. I love it! (That, and the nightly back rubs when I was overexerting myself caring for my mom.) Find out what works and buy it, do it, commit to it. It’s hard and disappointing when I’m alone in trying to make a change that I know will help reduce my pain.

5. Talk with me. Ask me how I’m doing. And listen to my answer. Then ask me how I’m really doing because you know I lied to you when I said I’m OK the first time. I know you’re tired too. And I know you work hard. You may be the only one actually holding down a job. I don’t want to add to your stress. Talking with me lets me know you want to know what I’m going through even though you can’t fix it. And also know I don’t expect answers. Maybe just a hug.

6. Appreciate me. Understand that the things I mentioned in the beginning are always true. And it affects me mentally. I feel like a burden more than you will ever know. Becoming chronically ill, autoimmune, disabled, a pain patient, or all of the above while in a loving relationship changes everything. I know it’s not what you signed on for, no matter what you say. Those little romantic gestures other women are so nonchalant about can change my whole week.

But the most important advice I can give is to go with your gut! Go with Love. It always works.

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Thinkstock Image By: tommaso79

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