"It's a major concern," agrees Todd Sitzman, MD, a past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. "I see it on a weekly basis. There's isolation, not wanting to go out, not wanting to participate in marital relations, and the marriage suffers."
Dr. Sitzman believes that taking time to educate your spouse can be a big help. The key things to communicate include the following.
- The condition you're is going through is real.
- It's often lifelong.
- You have no control over your symptoms.
- Along the way you may experience good, pain-free states, but there may be exacerbations of the pain over time.
One of Dr. Sitzman's back-pain patients lost her job. She and her husband had subsequent financial difficulties and fought until the husband said that he'd had enough.
For some couples, battling with the challenges of chronic pain actually brings them closer together. "We had only been married for six months when my symptoms began," remembers Shelley Kirkpatrick, 32, of Bellefontaine, Ohio, who suffers from severe fibromyalgia. "At the worst of my symptoms my husband was literally bathing me, brushing my teeth."