As a chronic pain sufferer, there are a lot of things that you have to deal with and think about that other people do not understand. The situation is made even more frustrating when it is a spouse/partner that does not understand your limitations. The results of this misunderstanding can lead to anger, bitterness, and ultimately the ending of the relationship. This article is a closer look at what to do when your significant other does not understand your limitations.
When you are dealing with chronic pain, fatigue, or any of the many symptoms of fibromyalgia, you are constantly aware of your limitations. You know when the pain is getting too great and telling you to stop. You know what combinations of tasks are sure to put you in the bed for a day or two. You also know that some days are better than others and that you can’t always count on your body to do what you want it to do. The process of learning to honestly assess your limitations is not easy and is really the first step of communicating that information to your loved ones. You are their teacher now. How can you communicate your limitations to someone if you do not know them yourself?
When you are first learning to deal with a chronic condition, like fibromyalgia or chronic pain, it quickly becomes clear that you are not able to maintain the same level of activity as before. To the person that is in a relationship with you, it can be confusing and frustrating when the roles in the household suddenly change. If you were the person that always shops, cooks, cleans or whatever else, and now suddenly you are not able to do as much as before, it is hard to process that shift. It is also hard for your family and significant other to process that shift as well. So, after you honestly assess your limitations as a result of your condition (which can take many months or even years), it is imperative that you have honest and open conversations with your spouse/partner. Communication is key! You can not expect them to understand what is going on if you do not communicate it to them. If you are not entirely sure of your limitations, then you need to communicate that. Be prepared to answer questions and discuss solutions. It may take more than one or ten conversations to get clear on your reality, and that reality may change over time. Keep those lines of communication open, so that you can try to be on the same page all of the time. This is an adjustment for them too. Be patient and calm, and try to keep from getting frustrated and upset if they do not understand. You can always pause the conversations and revisit it later if it is going off of the rails.
When you are trying to explain your limitations to your spouse/partner, and they are just not understanding or are making it all about themselves, it can be very frustrating. Firstly, If they do not understand the reality of that situation, it is useful to use analogies that help to explain it. Spoon Theory is a great tool for anyone with a chronic condition, to help their spouse/partner understand their limitations. Second, If you have a partner that is determined to feel sorry for him/herself because of this shift, then you may need to give them a reality check. You are not taking a break, or deciding to be the evil stepmother to their Cinderella. You are dealing with chronic symptoms and pain that is limiting your energy and activity. Make it clear that you would rather keep things the same if it meant that you could not hurt all of the time. Being in pain, exhausted, depressed, and bed bound is not a privilege, and is not your choice. This happened to you, you did not choose it to get out of housework. If your significant other cannot step out of themselves and see the reality of your situation, then you may need to think about counseling or outside professional help to address that situation. If you have access to counseling or psychiatry, it is not a bad idea to seek help for yourself and/or your relationship during this process.
With enough communication and dedication to solving the issues that surround your chronic condition, you can keep your partner/spouse close to you, and they can be there to help support you while you deal with your issues.