It’s no secret that long-term caregiving can take its toll. Depression, fatigue, and anxiety are all too familiar to those caring for loved ones. But spouses and partners may also experience an impact, feeling resentful when their needs take a backseat, and then suffering guilt for having those feelings. This can be disastrous for a relationship. Indeed, a survey conducted by Caring.com found that 89 percent of respondents said that caregiving necessitated more time away from their spouse and 80 percent reported caregiving as placing a strain on their marriage or relationship. It’s not the same for every couple, of course—plenty of people find the support of their partner to be invaluable—but even the most supportive spouse may have episodes of resentment.
If caregiving is placing stress on your marriage, here are some tips to keep your relationship strong:
Your aging parent is very important and may need immediate help on occasion. Still, you made a commitment to your partner, presumably for the rest of your life. That doesn’t mean that your relationship can always come first, but make it a priority to spend time with each other.
Set time aside every day to talk. Griping and venting are okay, but don’t forget to chat about things other than caregiving, too!
Send an “I love you” text, say “thank you,” take a shower together (saves time, right?), pick up a treat at the grocery store. Remember birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays—carryout Chinese or even frozen dinners are fine; fancy isn’t the point here. Carve out date time, whether a weekend away or a ritual evening walk around the block. Little things can go a long way toward making a person feel loved.
If you promise your spouse something, make it so. Sure, emergencies happen (especially for caregivers), but don’t let life interfere too often. Honoring promises is a certain way to let your partner know that he or she is a top priority in your life.
Is your spouse coming home from work later, eating less, drinking more? Watch out for these and other signs of stress or trouble, and address them before they spiral out of control. It can be hard with everything else going on, but your marriage may depend on it. So be aware.
If you find that it’s too hard to find the time to connect with your spouse, maybe you need more support from relatives. Or maybe you will have to look into alternative arrangements for your loved one. Sacrificing your marriage to caregiving should not be an option.