Supporting Families


3.24 million people in Australia suffer from chronic pain, which has a substantial impact on their quality of life.

Chronic pain not only causes physical symptoms but it has a toll on relationships. It can be a contributing factor for the development of anxiety, depression and anger.

According to Pain Australia, 1 in 5 Australians live with chronic pain and over 60% of them live with anxiety or depression.

Relationships and Chronic Pain

Many people who live and manage chronic pain find that life with pain has a significant impact on their relationships. The causes of these changes to relationship can vary, including:

  • Misunderstandings about chronic pain and the toll it takes
  • Misunderstanding about the incurability and chronicity of pain
  • Compassion fatigue due to the ongoing nature of pain
  • Changes to roles and responsibilities as a result of pain
  • Changes to the physical, emotional and mental health and well-being of a person living with pain
  • Changes to the health and well-being of the person not living with pain

Research suggests that issues in close relationships have in turn a significant impact on the severity of pain experienced, the levels of physical disability and the levels of depression experienced.

Strategies that can help:

Research into chronic pain has shown that building social connections through groups such as voluntary organisations or hobby groups, can help reduce pain, increase function and improve quality of life.

With the changes which have occurred as a result of COVID-19, many of these groups are now available in digital platforms, making accessibility more available.

Finding meaning and purpose that utilise strengths, skills and interests, despite pain, helps people living with chronic pain to re-engage with social connections.

Research shows that social connections lead to improved self-confidence and self-esteem, improved sense of control and ownership over life, improved well-being (including sleep and weight), decreased levels of depression and anxiety, and a more positive view of the world.

Partner’s self-care: Partners are better carers when they prioritise their self-care. Self-care can involve ensuring enough exercise, eating a well-balanced diet and seeking support. Taking this time to look after themselves, refreshes their physical, mental and emotional energy for their caring role. Caring for themselves also manages their stress levels and reaction to the situation.

Strategies for rebuilding and repairing relationships include:

  • Education on chronic pain
  • Education on pain management strategies
  • Open, honest communication
  • Reducing criticism and judgement
  • Working on empathy and compassion (both for yourself and partner)
  • Planning and setting goals together, this can include housework division, exercise and activities that meet both your needs
  • Stepping back and allowing the person living with pain to try things
  • Focusing on things outside of pain, particularly fun, leisure and intimacy
  • Dealing with emotions in an assertive and constructive way
  • Dealing with challenges and problems proactively as they arise
  • Showing appreciation for the support and presence of your loved one in your life
  • Learning psychological and relational flexibility (accepting what is, as opposed to what was or could have been)

Repairing relationships takes a level of acceptance and acknowledgement of what has led to the damage in the relationship. It also means consciously choosing to do things differently. Being honest about how pain has changed your relationship and each other. This can cause a period of grief; mourning the life you both had been building towards. But it also opens the possibility of a stronger bond and more resilient future.


Get in Touch

Contact Us

Stay in the Loop