Being a caregiver can be a richly rewarding relationship with the person in your care. As busy as it is, it’s fulfilling knowing that you are doing everything in your power to make their life as good as it can be.
However, as a caregiver, you also need to ask if you are short-changing your marriage and experiencing caregiver relationship stress. Your days might often end in a daze… who has time to be a couple?
It’s just as important to keep your romantic relationship a priority, as it is your caregiving relationship. You don’t need to have weekly date nights — but you also don’t want to lapse into what seems like a business partnership managing a family with someone you used to date.
As a caregiver, you are not alone in needing to take care of yourself, or dealing with relationship stress. Think of your relationship as the emotional environment you live in, and consider these tips to strengthen your relationship and avoid burnout.
Give each other a break
Time apart can help a relationship? It sure can. Whether you are parents managing the care of a child with complex needs, or caring for your own aging parents after work and on weekends, there will be times when you need some space.
Sometimes at the end of a day when many people have needed you — children, co-workers, the person in your care — all you want (and need) is some time to yourself.
Validating each other’s workload and time not only helps to see things from your partner’s perspective; it gives you much-needed time alone without feeling alone.
Find a way to have your spouse take the kids out for a Sunday afternoon, or to get out together for an hour to take a walk on a sunny day. Physical and mental space is important, and will make you better equipped to face your caregiving challenges together.
Kindness for the win
As a caregiver, there will be good days and tough days. As well, the person you are caring for will also have emotional days of their own, particularly if he/she is living with pain. Or, you may have a complicated relationship. It can be easy to take out your own emotions on your partner and add to the relationship stress, especially if you feel that you don’t have any other outlet.
The next time you are feeling caregiver relationship stress and you catch yourself snapping at your spouse, say, “STOP” in your mind. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that you and your partner are a team. Continue speaking in a gentler tone, or drop it altogether if you’re not in a good frame of mind.
After some time has passed, consider if the issue is really important enough to revisit later. Showing each other respect and kindness will go a long way in managing relationship stress and keeping your relationship healthy.
No matter how busy or challenging your caregiving days get, couples need to keep the lines of communication open. If you’re feeling worried, sad, or angry about a situation, you don’t need to keep it all inside to pretend that you’re managing things perfectly for your partner. Be vulnerable. Tell your partner what you’re thinking. Opening up about your caregiving or relationship stress will bring you closer.
Be a cheap date to reconnect with your partner
Caregivers don’t need to plan big romantic gestures or elaborate weekends away. Instead of having high expectations of our partners, it might help to just focus on one simple way of reconnecting at the end of the day.
Eating dinner together with the TV off, going for an evening walk, leaning on his/her shoulder on the couch, or holding hands are all ways that can help caregivers relax and reconnect.
Like everything in life, situations will ebb and flow. Your patient caregiver relationship and the stages of caregiving will also change. Even if you and your partner don’t have the quality time that you use to, another stage in your relationship will come. And when it does, you want to be sure that you are both still standing together, able to say, “love wins.”
See also, our article entitled 10 Caregiver Stress Relievers that Every Caregiver Should Practice.
If you feel you need more help in dealing with caregiver relationship stress, visit our Elizz services page to connect with one of our caregiver coaches, nurse advisors, or counsellors, as well as other Elizz services including personal care, help at home, and nursing and rehabilitation.