Being a family caregiver can cause complications in many different areas of a caregiver's life. One area that is often not discussed - a caregiver's love life. For many, caring for a relative can place a significant strain on his/her relationship. Whether single, married, divorced, or widowed, trying to juggle the responsibilities of caregiving with an intimate relationship can be challenging. Below are suggestions on how married and single caregivers can enhance a current relationship.
Caregivers Who Are Married
Discuss Expectations - Be upfront about what each one of you expects from the other. Doing so prevent misunderstanding based on assumptions. 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. Envisioning the bigger picture can serve as a motivating factor to get through the hard times together.
Caregivers Who Are Dating
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 can arise should you need 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 can also be beneficial for married cargivers.
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. While being a family caregiver, especially a primary one, can detract from the time and energy one has to give to a partner, it is vital to understand the benefit that connecting with a companion can have your well-being.
Has your relationship been impacted by your caregiving responsibility? What, if anything, have you done to try to keep it afloat?
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.