Relationships with Others

mother and child

Relationships are important…

Good relationships are important for anyone – but even more so if you are in pain.  You need a good supportive system around you – family, friends, medical experts, self-help groups – who know and understand what you are going through and who can give you the space you need to take care of your pain.

Building relationships

Many people write to PainSupport about the difficulties they have with getting some people to understand their pain. This may be because pain can’t be seen, it’s an ‘invisible illness’ and a very personal experience.

Some people especially don’t understand how we can go out, look well and appear ‘normal’ one day – and then refuse invitations another. They may not appreciate how our activity and energy levels can vary from day to day, even from hour to hour.

Your pain is REAL. Believe in yourself, even if others question your pain. You are not responsible for other people’s reactions. When necessary, help others to understand by explaining calmly how your pain affects you. Others can’t guess what we need, so if you need help – ask!

Nurture your relationships

  • Treasure and respect your relationships, especially with those closest to you.
  • Making new relationships with people in the same situation as yourself is a wonderful relief. You are no longer alone. Hope returns. No-one understands the full experience and impact of pain like another person with a similar condition. If you aren’t already a member of the PainSupport Discussion Forum and could do with some extra support and new friends, you are most welcome to join, there are people out there just like you.
  • Involve your family and friends in your pain control programme. Suggest in a diplomatic way that they need not be over-protective and fuss you about the pain – you are now taking control for yourself. Explain how you need a quiet time set aside when you can relax in order to reduce and control the pain.
  • Try to avoid body language that says PAIN – limping, rubbing the area, sighing, taking pills in public, etc. This causes you increased tension and pain. Instead, without complaining, explain in simple straightforward language how the pain affects you and what you need. Avoiding this sort of body language also helps others to see you as a real person and not just as a person in pain. You are more than your pain.
  • If the pain is bad we often can’t cope with long visits or with going out to socialise. This is when you need your family and friends. Even if you can’t go out, you can still talk to your contacts about your day on-line, on the phone or by email or even by letter.

Communicating with others

  • There’s a knack to getting what you want. Others can’t guess what it is you want so you need to tell them in a straightforward way.

Say how you feel, or what you want or need, with an ‘I’ statement. Begin, ‘I feel upset about…’ or ‘I would like…’

Side-step arguments by saying, “I feel…”
For example, instead of saying, “You always upset me when you…”
Say, “I feel upset when you…”
This last statement is more likely to get a calm and reasoned response than an accusation of ‘You always…’.

How much to tell others

  • We need to make a judgement about how much to tell people about our condition and who to tell. We don’t want to become a ‘pain bore’ and tell everyone everything! So we need to decide when and where it is appropriate to explain our condition in order to have our needs met. If someone asks how you are, often a simple reply with be sufficient,

“I’m fine.”
“Doing OK.”
“Much better, thank you.”
“Not so good today, but I’m coping OK”

 Then change the subject to something interesting – and enjoy their company.

  • Remember, we can’t change other people, we can only change ourselves.

If you need extra support with a relationship, check out our Links pages for details of sources of counselling. Find out how to get the most out of medical consultations,
Medical Consultations.

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