As you have discovered, caring is a lifestyle. It’s about you, your care recipient and every other person in your life, especially your spouse.
How do you stay in love when life seems to have drained you of love? How do you make time for the most special person in your life when your care recipient needs you for his or her survival–literally?
We offer some simple ways to help you keep your marriage on track. A good marriage is a great foundation to enjoy a wonderful life. Take care of it and it will take care of you.
Putting priorities in place may be the most difficult part of juggling caregiving and your marriage. How do you help your care recipient, who needs so much, and make time for your spouse?
Cathy Hazzlerigg, a life and relationship coach, likes to live by a Biblical principle, Marriage first. An important way to put marriage first is to commit to honest and open communication. Cathy offers these tips for communicating with your spouse:
- Use “I” language. When you use “I” language (“I feel”, “I want”, “I worry”), you take responsibility for what you feel, what you want and what you need. “I” language minimizes the blame game (“You make me feel so bad!”) and when blame is out of the equation, you both communicate effectively
- Bring your spouse into the solution so that your spouse becomes involved in making the situation better. When you’re both working toward improvements, you’ve created a team
- Be assertive, state what you want and what you’d like to see happen. Your spouse, no matter how well he or she knows you, can’t read your mind
- Use active listening skills, such as reflective listening. Reflective listening involves repeating back what you heard to ensure that what you heard is what your spouse meant to say. Clarifying (“I heard this…”) before responding helps to minimize misunderstandings
- Avoid reacting defensively. Tell yourself: “I will be calm”. If you feel yourself becoming defensive, ask your spouse to rephrase or re-word statements. If you really feel the heat of the moment taking control, then take a time out and agree to revisit the discussion when you’re both calmer
- Think of communication as a process. Discuss a situation, allow time for brainstorming, consider a potential solution, try the solution, then re-visit how successful the solution is. Participating in the process–and expecting that the right solution will come with trial and error–removes the pressure
- Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Understanding how your spouse feels will help you communicate effectively and work toward solutions that work for both of you
- Look for solutions that work for everyone, including, but not exclusively, yourself (or your care recipient). Everyone can make compromises; no one person should make all the sacrifices
As with all good things in life, marriage takes work, Cathy says. Some ways you can make sure you’re putting an effort into your marriage include:
- Be sure you’re meeting your mate’s needs. Ask yourself, “What am I doing for my spouse?”
- Respect your mate
- Look for the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. The more strengths you focus on in your spouse, the stronger and greater the strengths of your marriage
Some red flags that you might see in your marriage that may indicate the need for professional help:
- You feel like your communication is just like beating a dead horse. You go round and round without realizing a solution
- You fight a lot and feel that the love seems lost
- Sometimes, conflict is silent. If you feel the distance in your gut, it may be time to talk with a professional