Chronic Illness and Relationships Part I

Having a relationship with people – whether friends, family or just professional relationships – is a challenge.  We ALL do things that annoy EVERY person on earth at some point.  No person thinks that everything you do is exactly what you should have done.  It kind of sucks!  But at the same time it’s what gives us leeway with one another.  It’s like a – you aren’t perfect – so it’s okay that I’m not perfect as long as I try to be the best ‘me’ that I can be.  Relationships are even more challenging for people that are chronically ill.  And it goes both ways.  The chronically ill person gets annoyed – rightfully so – with how they are sometimes treated and chronically ill people can annoy others – both because of a lack of understanding and a mindset that forces a certain level of self-absorption.  According to the article, to help others understand better.  Here are some things that we as chronically ill can do:

1. Offer information on a “need to know” basis.  Don’t overwhelm people with information about your illness. You are not a spokesperson for your illness.  However, there will be times when you will need to share such as if your friend wants to go for ice cream but you have a reaction to dairy – your friend NEEDS TO KNOW.  If someone doesn’t want to hear it, even when it is necessary to know, that may be someone that you need to limit contact with.

2. Don’t feel obligated to educate people.  Again, you are not a spokesperson for your illness. You don’t have a responsibility to educate people about your illness.  Also, don’t obsessively talk about your illness. You can let people know that you have an illness and if they are interested they may ask.  Just because they don’t ask, doesn’t mean that they aren’t interested.  It also doesn’t mean that they are cowards.  Though those are the two common reasons people don’t ask.  Only avoid people if they make you feel like you are less of a person because of your illness with negative commentary or body language

3. If your friend is interested, find some valuable information about your illness.  There will be people who genuinely care.

This same article also talks about how to talk about specific relationships.  I will address love relationships more thoroughly soon.

1. Avoid blame.  Don’t blame your partner for making you do something that you couldn’t physically do.  Explain to your partner why you can’t do something for them.  Also don’t blame yourself for not being able to do certain things.  Chronic illness limits you.  It’s just a harsh reality.  I have a hard time with both of these sometimes.

2. Be honest. Don’t hold back your feelings of frustration or sadness over your illness.  If you want to scream, scream (as long as it’s not at somebody).  If you want to cry, cry.  Don’t shut out your partner.

3. Say thank you.  Your partner needs to know that they are appreciated.  Make sure that you say it.

(It’s funny as I write these I see where I can improve my own relationship.)

4. Acknowledge their pain.  When your partner is experiencing their own pain, offer comfort.  As someone who understands pain, you have great potential to offer the best support. Also you may be best to understand because you probably know what it’s like to not be comforted.

5. Ask for help. (This is the one that I need to work on the most.) Don’t depend on only your partner to meet the needs of your chronic illness.

6.  For some people, sex can be a challenge because many people with chronic illness are in pain physically.  They should do what they are comfortable with while still trying to address their partner’s needs and desires.  A person should never physically or emotionally hurt themselves solely to please the other person.

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