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Marriage can be hard. Add something like arthritic pain to the mix and, well, even the strongest relationships can struggle. Living with pain can make you feel like you have to work even harder at “everyday” things that other couples have the luxury of taking for granted. But, whether you struggle from pain or are as healthy as an ox, marriage takes work.
If you, or your partner, suffer from pain, you might consider one or more of these ideas for giving a little extra TLC to your relationship.
1. Daily “check-ins” with your partner. Make a habit of openly communicating your physical and mental states each day. This will require honesty on both your parts. Don’t hide the days you’re not feeling well. Try using a pain scale (1-10) so your spouse can gauge where you are today compared to yesterday. Pain is subjective so even this simple act of assigning a number to your pain can help them better understand where you’re at today.
Ask them to tell you how they’re feeling too. Are they frustrated?
Tired? Feeling more understanding today? Open lines of honest
communication can go a long way instead of trying to spare each other
2. Life takes a village. We hear this phrase all the time, almost to the point that it sounds cliché. But, let’s face it, we need each other. Life can be downright hard. Add in chronic pain, a new baby, a tragedy… well, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. It’s ok to lean on friends and family or whoever makes up your tribe.
Not the type to spill the beans to your pals over lunch? That’s ok. It’s not about sharing every aspect of your life with the entire world. Find a way to accept help and support in a way that works for you and your situation. Maybe it’s just having an evening out with your friends. A movie. Anything that gives you and your spouse a break. Because the truth is, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, your spouse probably is as well. It might do you both good to have a couple hours apart to catch your breath.
3. Stop keeping score. This may be the hardest point on this list. We humans are natural score keepers. From wanting to know who’s winning the game to complaining that our little brother got more cookies than us… we do it well. But, this can slowly eat away at a marriage.
Instead of reciting to yourself how many times you’ve done the dishes, changed your spouse’s socks, made the bed… whatever it is… stop. Especially if your spouse is in pain. Odds are they wish they could be helping out more… they just can’t. Don’t hold it against them. See it as an opportunity to serve them in love. It’s not easy, but don’t entertain these thoughts when they pop in your head.
4. Make intimacy a priority. If your spouse is in pain, having marital relations may be a challenge. But, there are still things you can do to create intimacy with each other. Hold hands. Cuddle. Give your spouse a back rub. Laugh together. It’s really amazing how far a good belly laugh together will take you.
You can also talk to your doctor about the limitations pain is having on your intimacy with your spouse. They might have suggestions or medications that might help.
5. Accept the limitations. If your spouse suffers from something like knee or hip arthritis, scheduling a weekend away where they’ll be walking all over the place may not be a good idea. It could end in a great deal of pain and frustration for both of you.
Instead of making the same plans you’re used to, try something new that will be easier for your spouse. Accept the fact that, through no fault of their own, they can’t do the same activities they used to.
Will these guarantee a strong marriage? Nope. But maybe it helps give you a starting point. Even if all you can do today is one small gesture. Navigating marriage is hard. It just is. And it’s even harder for people struggling with pain. Remember, above all else, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.