Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.
When we think of pain, first thing which comes to mind for most people is physical pain, and there's plenty of that to go around. From back pain to migraine, people just cope as well as they can, some better than others. The angry ones can be passive aggressive, making everyone pay, usually by showing that they are unable to cooperate in what their loved ones most want but available to do their own self-driven projects. The effect on their loved ones then ranges from disappointment to depression, anger and passive aggression in return, for example, excluding their "handicapped" significant others in facets of their lives or finding alternative sources of joy. Those poor bystanders and fellow travelers may, indeed, love their ailing partners but are at such a loss in their own lives due to the physical and emotional incapacities over which they have no control that their chances of happiness are forever impaired. While they may not want to quit or abandon the unfortunate other, they feel stuck and unfortunate , too. Thus, physical, emotional and relationship pain all combine to equal more than the sum of the parts.
Then, there's purely emotional pain, as the pain of post-traumatic stress, mental illness, grief, and any kind of loss or disaster-- often a combination of these unhappy circumstances. The significant other suffers similarly. In fact, the overlap between physical and mental pain makes for little difference between the effects on relationships which result. The one big difference is that the loved ones struggle even harder to influence their handicapped significant others because they believe they do have greater power and control to say the right thing, give a suggestion or create an opportunity which will make a difference. It may, but not usually. Usually, the change comes from deep inside the person with the emotional pain. However, it is a truism that if anyone in a family has a problem, they all do, so each one has to figure out how to help him/herself.
Addiction, whether substances, food, overwork, or inappropriate sexual activity, is a whole other kind of pain. There's an internal stuggle which creates constant tension, fear, pain, release and shame in the addict and helpless, anger, depression, frustration and distance in the family or significant others. Once, again, a cycle of alienation develops between the addict the his/her loved ones. The pain reverberates quite far, indeed.
So, here's the point. When we think of pain, let us consider all the unfortunate secondary victims.