How to balance being a caregiver and a spouse? When spousal caregiving affects marriage…
How to balance being a caregiver and a spouse?
Once I asked myself this question – how to balance being a caregiver and a spouse at the same time?
Luckily, I work as a caregiver for disabled young adults, and since my wife has multimorbidity, I can easily answer your question.
Unlike my profession, succeeding as a spousal caregiver is knowing how to find time for yourself, when to ask for help, and how to make peace with your partner when resentment occurs.
These are only a few examples of the challenges that arise when you take care of your partner.
When your other half falls ill, your life changes upside down.
Not only chronic illness affects your loved one physically, but it also impacts them mentally, emotionally, and psychologically.
This is challenging enough, but imagine your spouse having more than one illness. It can break even the strongest of relationships if the caregiving spouse doesn’t know what to do.
So, how to balance being a caregiver and a spouse when chronic illness impacts marriage?
You have to stay with your partner for better or for worse, no matter what the future is going to bring.
Prepare for change because your life will never be the same as before your partner got ill. Make sure you reassess your role as a caregiver.
You have to resist the temptation of taking on every task. It may overwhelm you and make you feel isolated. Communication with your partner is the key to avoiding such isolation.
Be open when it comes to intimacy. Conditions like endometriosis make it difficult, but you can’t give up, keep intimacy alive.
Any unspoken negative emotions often lead to mental health problems, such as depression, or anxiety.
How to balance being a caregiver and a spouse?
Trying to answer the question “how to balance being a caregiver and a spouse” isn’t easy because of many factors impacting marriage while caregiving for your spouse.
We’re going to discuss such factors, including:
- Stay with your partner.
- Prepare for change.
- Don’t take on everything.
- Avoid isolation.
- Communicate with your partner.
- Be open when it comes to intimacy.
- Combat negative emotions.
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Focus on gratitude.
- Blogging improves your relationship.
These are just a fraction of what we (caregivers) are going through, but it’s a good start, as they are one of the most common factors.
Stay with your partner.
About 10% of caregivers look after their spouses.
Working as a carer is okay if you don’t know the person you care for, but when you become your partner’s caregiver, your marriage disintegrates gradually.
It often leads to divorce as men are more likely to leave their wives after becoming caregivers.
Men like to fix things, and they feel there is little they can do to help the relationship.
Unfortunately, women are six times more likely to be separated or divorced after a diagnosis of a chronic illness, than men.
Younger couples are also likely to split because like many spouses they become caregivers overnight.
It makes them feel stressed, angry, lonely, guilty, and overwhelmed. The longer it goes on, the more emotions like frustration and resentment they feel.
Caring for someone with a chronic condition is not a race, it’s more like a marathon because there is no cure, it’s about the management of the illness.
Since becoming a caregiver to your spouse can strain even the strongest marriages, oftentimes partners leave their loved ones.
But it can also be the other way round.
My wife asked me to divorce her on 3 separate occasions because she felt that she drags me down.
But I have never given up on her, I stuck with her despite the hardship and challenges.
Prepare for change…
My wife’s multimorbidity tried to take over our lives, changing us to some extent. But it didn’t change us badly.
We’ve grown to love and appreciate each other even more. What doesn’t break you makes you stronger, there’s a lot of truth in the saying.
You heard me mention “multimorbidity” on a few occasions. What does it mean you wonder…
Multimorbidity means having two or more conditions. My wife suffers from endometriosis and fibromyalgia.
Her stage IV deep infiltrating endometriosis left an emotional mark which caused her to develop fibromyalgia.
Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissue similar to the tissue that forms the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterine cavity.
There are four main types of endometriosis:
- Superficial – the peritoneum is a thin membrane that lines your abdomen and pelvis.
- Endometriomas – cysts filled with dark fluid, mostly blood.
- Deeply infiltrating endometriosis – penetrating deeper than 5mm below the peritoneal surface.
- Abdominal wall endometriosis – intramuscular.
There are also four stages of endometriosis:
- Stage 1 – minimal. There’s little to no scar tissue.
- Stage 2 – mild. There are more implants than in stage one. They’re also deeper in the tissue.
- Stage 3 – moderate. There are many deep implants. There also may be small cysts on one or both ovaries, and scar tissue called adhesions.
- Stage 4 – severe. This is widespread. There are many deep implants and thick adhesions. There are also large cysts on one or both ovaries.
My wife has one of the worst types and stages of the disease, which affects only 1-5% of women with endometriosis.
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), commonly called by the sufferers “fibro” for short, is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. The first main signs of fibromyalgia are:
- Fatigue and lack of energy.
- Trouble falling asleep, insomnia.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Memory problems and trouble concentrating called “fibro fog”.
- Headaches and migraines.
- Muscle twitches or cramps, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.
How common is fibromyalgia?
Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, however, it affects roughly 8 times as many women as men.
The only definitive way to diagnose fibromyalgia is by visiting a rheumatologist, who will have to exclude other conditions that have similar symptoms.
Endometriosis alone will change a man since his sex life will be affected. But adding to it another chronic condition makes it harder than ever.
Both conditions impact my wife’s mental health. She sufferers from general anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and depression.
Five different disorders make simple existence a full-time job for her. Adding to it the guilt and burden she feels for me, makes it extra difficult.
If that doesn’t change spousal caregivers, I don’t know what does…
Don’t take on everything!
Many spousal caregivers (including me) throw themselves into their new role so much, they neglect their own health.
We sacrifice our own life to make our partners healthy and happy.
The problem is, there is no cure for chronic illness, hence it’s called “chronic”.
If you try and take on everything on yourself and ignore your spouse’s participation, even if in a small way, you develop a feeling of helplessness or resentment.
Anxiety and depression, I can deal with them even though in no way it is easy to do, but my wife also has OCD, which makes things extra difficult.
Sometimes I have to do things I’m not meant to, things that feel unnecessary for me. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, however, makes me do things she wouldn’t normally touch.
So if you ask how to balance being a caregiver and a spouse?
It can be really hard. Sometimes I have to say no to things because it’s so overwhelming, I simply couldn’t cope if I did more.
If you take on more than you can manage, you will develop many negative emotions, and the stress that comes along with it will put you at risk of caregiver burnout.
If you shut down, it will make your partner feel isolated, but you will also feel the isolation.
Avoid it at all costs because as a spouse who is a caregiver, you may feel isolated from family, friends, and colleagues at work.
That may even discourage some of them to talk with you.
My wife doesn’t want to talk to people about her struggles, as she doesn’t want to be seen as one who complains.
I’m a believer in speaking up openly because people who don’t care or don’t want to listen to you, clearly aren’t your friends.
Besides, if you keep a lot of information private, people will have no idea how bad you might be feeling.
They may as well have a good heart wanting to contribute to your well-being.
I recommend you to talk about your challenges with people you trust so the anger doesn’t build up and erupt when you become overwhelmed.
You can always find and join an online or in-person support group. There are countless such groups on Twitter and Facebook.
Talking to a therapist is the most effective way of coping with the build-up of emotions.
Simply, opening up to your partner’s doctor may also be helpful, since the doctor knows your partner’s situation already.
Communicate with your partner.
Talking openly to your partner is very important in any marriage, but it’s especially important for those where one person is taking care of the other.
You cannot guess your loved one’s needs. You may need to have some delicate conversations about everything.
You can learn more from your loved one than any book about her/his chronic illness because your partner can describe the symptoms in the most accurate way.
Couples who ignore or avoid their problems may push themselves apart.
You need to avoid unloading your frustrations and anger on your partner.
When you communicate, be sure to talk in terms of “I”, and avoid using “why”. Using the “I” statement is more productive.
You have to try and learn to speak your partner’s language.
Honest communication is the key to any healthy relationship. I’ve learned this first hand. It helped prevent misunderstandings.
Talk with your partner about how your new role as a caregiver is affecting you and how can both of you better adjust to new challenges.
Always listen to your partner’s concerns, and do it without interruption.
I’ve made a mistake in the past trying to offer my wife a solution to a problem, whilst she was still explaining to me the very issue.
So, communicate with your partner, and be open to more, be open to intimacy…
Be open when it comes to intimacy.
If your female partner, like my wife, suffers from endometriosis, it can hit you hard. It can literally hit your manhood hard because sex becomes a luxury if she has a good day.
But too many variables come to play, so at the end of the day, sex isn’t always possible.
Some couples want to maintain the same level of intimacy as they had before their partner’s health changed.
For others, the sex part of their relationship may be over, or they may need to put it on hold until the sick spouse gets better.
It’s a shame because you love each other, and you want to get intimate. It seems like you can’t.
It’s important to talk about sex so your partner understands your needs, and if she truly loves you she’ll manage to satisfy your expectations.
After all, men don’t need much to get satisfied.
Your sex life should be the least of our worries, but still, you can kiss and touch one another.
If your wife doesn’t have endometriosis, you should have no problems giving her orgasms orally, as it is not the case for many women with endo.
Endometriosis causes in many cases orgasm to be painful.
Fibromyalgia may also cause many symptoms that prevent your partner from having sex but not at the same scale as endometriosis.
Some chronic disorders cause short-term loss of memory, and your partner may forget what you talked about a few minutes ago.
Anything can ruin the moment but you should not give up on intimacy.
You can always find a way to connect through touch.
Combat negative emotions…
A chronic illness at some point will impact your loved one’s emotions. When that happens, anxiety and depression are most common. But sometimes the person may develop OCD.
All of the emotional and physical strain can also affect your mind.
Anxiety often appears when you begin to worry about the future enough times you begin to believe your image.
Nobody can predict the future, and you have no evidence for something because it never even happened.
Depression is an outcome of something that has happened in the past.
You begin to think about your past enough times, it blends with reality, and you struggle to notice that everything seems negative.
Some people develop Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder which gives them a false sense of security.
You may think that there is a part of your world you can control, but in the end, OCD controls you. Anything that doesn’t go your way may make you feel extremely stressed.
You have to combat negative emotions, but it’s not as easy as it’s being said.
Your partner may be in the pain and emotions cycle, but such an overwhelming situation impacts you as well as the caregiver.
You can practice self-care, focusing on doing more of what makes you happy, but in the end, there is your partner who needs your help.
You have to find time to prioritize your own well-being and try to discuss the importance of your self-care with your partner.
Remember, that if you become ill, you will be no help to your partner anyway, so take care of yourself or seek help.
You can always seek help in the form of therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is such common practice, which combats negative emotions.
Ask for help when you need it.
Before reaching for professional help, you have many options to choose from.
I give you more options because my wife waited for her first CBT for 9 months. It was extremely difficult for me to balance work and caregiving.
I didn’t know how to balance being a caregiver and a spouse at the same time when I had to be at work.
It affected me pretty badly because as a man, I meant to provide for my woman, but I couldn’t fix her health.
Being kind to yourself is something you should practice daily. Self-compassion means giving yourself credit for the caregiving work you do.
Stay away from self-criticism, harsh inner voice, and allow yourself time to take care of yourself.
There are also mind-body practices that can build your physical health and can also deepen your awareness and connection between your mind and body.
Mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation techniques can reduce stress.
Make eating well and getting quality sleep priorities.
While it can be difficult to keep a social lifestyle, your friends and family still matter. Even if you cannot meet them face to face, you can meet them via zoom or phone.
And while we’re on the subject of family and friends, remember, you can always ask them for support.
If that doesn’t work, you can find a charity in your area filled with people who love doing it for free or seek experience in the job.
And don’t forget about respite care. Your partner can benefit from it immensely, and you can have a well-deserved break.
Focus on gratitude.
I once thought it was a lot of crap, I’ll be honest, but since my wife became severely ill, we both began to notice the little things that really matter.
I’m an optimist, and I can give you the best advice anyone ever will…
When you wake up and lift your head off your pillow, this is all really you need!
What does it mean?
We live once. If you’re able to get out of your bed without pain, that is all you need to be happy.
Look at your partner. She battles with daily pain and struggles just to be okay.
She doesn’t have the luxury of feeling normal.
You do, my friend.
No matter how hard you have to work to make your partner happy, you should appreciate the privilege you have to feel well.
Be grateful for having a cup of coffee, a piece of cheese, or cake. My wife is not allowed because such yummies make her flare-ups get worse.
Women with endometriosis and fibromyalgia have the same problem.
They cannot have sugar, dairy, red meat, even alcohol isn’t allowed. Imagine not having a cold one or an ice cream. I appreciate everything I eat.
But I don’t do it in front of my partner not to upset her.
Whenever we go for a walk, a simple stroll in the woods makes us ecstatic whenever we spot a robin, a squirrel, a fox…
We appreciate blooming flowers and sunshine, even though life isn’t for us sunshine and puppy cuddles.
We love to travel since we can’t have kids. Yep, endometriosis is responsible for that too.
We travel and plan to do it on a full-time basis in the near future.
Yes, as for April 2021, I plan to retire on our 10th anniversary, yay!
I want to give my wife the best present of her life, by giving her freedom, better care, my full attention…
What, where, how?
Blogging my friend, blogging…
Blogging improves your relationship!
Blogging about something you do, furthermore – love, is a dream job.
This is where I’m heading. I work on quitting my job, literally. Working away from my wife gives me a lot of worries, it stresses her too.
Additionally, I have to rely on my employer to provide me with a job that at the end of the day is always going to be uncertain.
It brings me a penny’s worth of income, I cannot take enough time off when my wife needs me the most.
My wife has to wait in a cue for her turn to be seen by a doctor.
All this stress got me thinking, it’s crazy! Why do that? Work my entire life, pay taxes, until I retire, then live I’ll few years I have left having less than I deserve…
Why on earth should I do this?
Because society expects me to. No, this is not me, I’m not a sheep that follow trends. I need to escape this crazy rat race.
And if doing something I love, which is helping people, also benefits me and my poor wife, why wouldn’t I do that?
Blogging requires patience, hard work, a positive attitude of not giving up, and even more patience.
I have to make one thing clear…
Before you make enough money to retire, it will take you a minimum of 3 years.
But when done right, you can live comfortably and retire way before anyone else. Financial freedom is possible if you really want it.
So, if you’re asking again, how to balance being a caregiver and a spouse? I say, blog your way there!
Knowing that you have to stay with your partner and focus on their well-being no matter what the future brings isn’t enough.
There are many factors that influence your life as a spousal caregiver. Your life will definitely change, and you will have to reassess your role along the way.
Wanting to take on every task will be tempting, but it may overwhelm you to the point of isolation.
In order to prevent this, communication will be the key.
Being totally open with your partner is going to deepen your intimacy and keep it alive.
You will have to express what you feel because any unspoken negative emotions will lead you to have a risk of mental health problems, such as depression, or anxiety.
Lastly, if you truly want to change your life and don’t know how to balance being a caregiver and a spouse, blogging will help you solve the majority of your problems.
I hope you found it helpful.
Hi, I’m Lucjan! The reason why I decided to create this blog was my beautiful wife, who experienced a lot of pain in life, but also the lack of information about endometriosis and fibromyalgia for men…