How to Not Destroy Your Marriage While Caregiving for Others

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From this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…

But what if it’s not one of you two who got sick? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 40.4 million unpaid caregivers of adults ages 65 and older in the United States. Nine out of ten people from that group are providing care for an aging relative, and the relative majority is caring for a parent.

Becoming a caregiver changes a lot, and that is not an exaggeration. Your life is different now, and you have to come up with a plan to keep your marriage alive. Here are 5 tips for caregivers about how to protect your marriage.

Tip #1. Support Does Matter
Never underestimate a caregiver’s strain on the marriage. Being a caregiver may feel like having way too much on your plate, which doesn’t become any easier over time. In fact, caregiving affects marriage a lot. For example, dealing with an aging parent can lead to caregiver spouse burnout that will inevitably affect your marriage. The important thing to remember here is that you don’t have to deal with it alone.

Caregiving won’t ruin your relationship if you build your support group with people who are ready to give you a hand or two. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your best friend on speed dial; you can also consider joining support groups or counseling sessions once or twice a week. If you find your safe place and take some time to recharge, you can stay refreshed.

Tip #2. Never Forget to Schedule Some Me-Time
Have you ever felt like caregiving is ruining your marriage? The only reasonable outcome of everyday stress is burnout. To avoid that, you need to take some time to relax and regain your energy. No doubt, it is important to find time for your partner; however, sometimes, you will have to put your physical and mental health first to function at all.

Never underrate your own needs to have a rest. Treat yourself, do that face mask, watch the sitcom you’ve planned to, and, most importantly, don’t shame yourself for being a human. Elder care and marriage can coexist if you are taking care of yourself first.

Tip #3. Communication Is Key
When your spouse is a caregiver, it takes two of you to build strong and healthy communication in your relationship. If you’re the one taking care of an aging person, the bad news is your family members have no clue about your emotional state. So they may have a hard time guessing why you are so frustrated or irritable.

Have there been times when you lost your composure over little things? And your partner is confused because your reasons are not that obvious for them as they seem for you. Spouse caregiver burnout is much more common than you think. Talk with them, explain how you feel, why you feel that way, and what you need them to do to make things better. Actually, it works both ways; they also need to be heard and listened to. Everyone does.

Tip #4. Don’t Forget to Give Your Relationship That Precious Sparkle
Just a few extra minutes of snuggling in bed can do wonders for your marriage. Caregiver spouse intimacy is not off limits! Surprise your partner with a nice bubbly bath and a glass of wine, or take an evening off to do something together.

Sometimes even the little things are enough to show that you love your partner and care about your relationship. Just do it! And maybe one time you’ll come home to see the tickets to your favorite movie, a Broadway show or opera as a thank you for all your efforts.

Tip #5. Consider Other Options
An aging parent with health problems is, in fact, a common situation for most families. It might become a real problem when your spouse is a caregiver, so you may want to explore other options, such as care services. In-home caregiving help can become a lifesaver as you will still have some control over your parents and keep your life balance.

A nursing home gives you back the intimacy of your home, and what’s more, you can stop worrying about your parent’s wellbeing. If your parent has a chronic disease or other health issues, you can also consider a geriatric doctor. Talk with your parents and your partner to figure out what works best for all of you. Remember to keep their interests in mind as it’s not about choosing between a spouse and an elderly parent.

Marriage and caring for aging parents are not mutually exclusive. As long as you put some effort into handling your family-life balance and maintaining harmony at home, nothing is impossible. Patience and understanding are crucial for working through this complicated stage of your life. Just remember to choose your priorities and work out a strategy and stick to it.