Being a family caregiver can cause complications in many different areas of a caregiver's life. One area that is often not discussed is a caregiver's love life. For many, caring for another relative can place a significant strain on his/her relationship and in some cases can lead to a break-up or divorce. Whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed, trying to juggle the responsibilities of caregiving with the time and dedication needed to maintain or pursue a relationship can be challenging. For a caregiver who is married it's not uncommon for his/her spouse to have unmet needs, feel neglected and even experience feelings of anger and resentment. For a caregiver who is single, divorced or widowed, maintaining or pursuing a relationship can be difficult and in some cases nearly impossible. Below are a few tips for both married and single caregivers that may help in enhancing a current or future relationship.
Be upfront about what each one of you expects from the other. Doing so can help in clearing up any assumptions or misunderstandings. It can also go a long way in reducing potential arguments.
Explain Your Concerns
Talk about your worries and hesitations regarding your caregiving role and your relationship. By "laying it out on the table" both of you can gain a better sense of what each one is concerned about and hopefully have a better idea of how to support each other throughout this difficult journey.
Reminisce and Envision
Think back to when you first met and remind yourselves why are your married. Doing so may help reignited your passion and remind you about the bigger picture. Envision the bigger picture as a motivating factor to get through the hard times together.
Be Honest About Your Role
Describing what your day-to-day routine looks like to a potential partner can help set the stage for a relationship that is flexible and understanding. Clearing up expectations can also help minimize arguments that commonly arise when you have to cancel plans or cannot commit to something in advance because of your caregiving role.
Schedule "Date" Time
If at all possible, consider setting a day, evening or weekend when you can spend alone time with your companion. Having other relatives, friends or neighbors "check-in" on your loved one, spend an afternoon with him/her, etc., can give you some time to get away and focus on your relationship. This tip is also a must for caregivers who are married.
Know Your Limitations
If being in a "full-time" relationship is not possible, it doesn't mean you can't mingle and socialize with other individuals. A social life is just as important as your caregiving role. It's just one of the many things needed in order to take care of yourself.
There is no question that we can all benefit from being in a loving, caring, supporting relationship with a companion that can fulfill our emotional, spiritual and physical needs. Being a family caregiver, especially a primary one, should not serve as a complete barrier to having a healthy and thriving relationship.
If you have an experience or a recommendation you would like to share, feel free to submit a comment below.
Christine M. Valentin
As a licensed clinical social worker, I help individuals caring for a loved one reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress. This blog is meant to share with you, many of the suggestions I recommend to many family caregivers. Sign up to receive them directly.