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There’s no easy way to say it; caregiving ruins marriages. Marriages that began well and seemed indestructible crumble under the heavyweight of caregiving for a loved one. Is it even possible to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage?
Why Caregiving Ruins Marriages
It doesn’t take long after becoming a family caregiver to discover why it is so difficult to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage.
- Caregiving takes so much out of you that there is very little else to give to your spouse.
- You can get so caught up with the mundane of every day that you forget to nurture your marriage until it becomes too late.
- You start resenting your spouse because you are a caregiver for an in-law.
- You begin to put your caregiving responsibilities above your marriage.
- One of you is investing more into caregiving than the other causing resentment to build.
Even with these potential pitfalls, there are still ways to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage. The key is intentionality.
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10 Ways to Keep Caregiving from Ruining Your Marriage
If you see caregiving on your horizons or are even currently entrenched in caregiving, you will want to keep these 10 ways to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage on your mind. Not only will they help you maintain a healthy relationship during your time as caregivers, but you will have a stronger marriage when your caregiving days are over.
1. Make the decision together
This is by far the most important step to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage. Being a primary caregiver takes up a lot of your time and energy resulting in less time you have to spend with your spouse. If only one of you is on board then the other will only feel resentment and anger.
In addition to making the decision to become caregivers jointly, you need to be clear on what that looks like for you.
- What are your expectations?
- What roles will you assume?
- What are deal-breakers for you? When will you need to make changes?
- What intentional things will you do to build your marriage while you are caregivers?
Supporting caregivers are just as important to your loved one (and maybe more important to you) as primary caregivers.
Related Post: Do You Have What It Takes to Be A Family Caregiver
2. Remember you are part of a team
While one may feel as though they are doing more caregiving than the other, you are a team.
Do not discount the efforts of your spouse, particularly if you have clearly defined primary and support roles.
If one of you works, then the one who does not will be the primary caregiver. You will bear the bulk of the caregiving labor.
However, your spouse has an important supporting role.
For the supporting caregiver, your job is to provide your spouse with relief whenever possible. Take some of the load elsewhere in the home (laundry, dishes, cooking, errands). Do not rely on your spouse to ask or remind you to be involved.
YOU ARE A TEAM and your support is vital not only to your caregiving success but to prevent caregiving from ruining your marriage.
3. Brainstorm Solutions
With caregiving come a lot of challenges and problems. Instead of trying to handle it all alone, make sure you come to your spouse and brainstorm solutions. Don’t just vent or complain about what is making you unhappy. Instead, find a solution and a way to ease the problems.
If you’re the primary caregiver with your spouse in a supporting role and you feel yourself burning out, be clear with them and work out ways together to ease your stress.
If you are struggling with a particular caregiving challenge, discuss it with your spouse first. They will be coming from a slightly different perspective but will be able to provide more sound advice for you than someone unfamiliar with your particular situation.
Brainstorming solutions to your daily challenges together with your spouse will help you stay united and keep caregiving from ruining your marriage.
Related Post: Establishing Your Role As Caregiver
4. Make Time for Each Other
When I say make time for each other to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage, I mean schedule it.
Decide on a day and a time and hold it close. Your plans don’t have to be elaborate. Just be intentional about spending quality, one-on-one time with your spouse will make a huge difference and go a long way in keeping caregiving from ruining your marriage.
Use the time to focus on your relationship. Keep conversation away from your stresses – kids, caregiving, home, work.
- Try talking about your hopes and dreams.
- Tell your spouse what you admire most about them.
- Ask each other questions.
- Tell stories from your past.
Make time to court your spouse (wives, I’m speaking to you too!). You will find your marriage on the other side of caregiving even stronger because of your efforts.
5. Get Creative
A great way to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage is to be creative in your time spent together. Just because you don’t have a lot of opportunities to get out doesn’t mean you can’t have some wonderful experiences.
Not only does creativity keep you intentional in your time spent but it also gives you something to look forward to while keeping your marriage interesting.
- Find a hobby you both enjoy
- Take a fun quiz or two
- Write each other a note of what you love most about the other
- Enjoy a candlelit dinner after everyone has gone to bed.
- Take turns playing your favorite tunes (you’ll be surprised at how much your taste in music changes!)
They even have subscription boxes now geared toward couples. Use your imagination and get creative in your marriage.
6. Find Help
A vital part of working to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage is building your caregiving team outside of the members of your household. Enlist the help of other family members, hire caregivers, ask friends of your loved one or people from your church to give you a hand.
Finding regular help will not only help you find time to spend with your spouse but it will also:
- Ease your burden so you feel less stressed as a whole.
- Allow you to accomplish more, giving you more time to spend with your spouse without the chores hanging over your head.
- Provide you with some much needed and deserved respite from the rigors of caregiving.
Related Post: Hiring Home Care for Your Elderly Loved One
7. Don’t forget to listen with an open mind
When you’re trying to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage, it’s important that you and your spouse are continuously and intentionally communicating. An important part of communication is really listening to your spouse without judgment or preconceived ideas.
It takes a long time to fully listen to your spouse. Our love for them wants to fix every problem to the point that we are actually putting words in their mouth.
Listen to your spouse. Let them get it all out. Then ask what they need from you and listen some more.
Knowing your spouse is listening to you is one of the best ways to keep secrets out of your marriage.
8. Allow each other alone time
As a family caregiver, so much of our time is spent seeing to the needs and desires of someone else. Our days and much of our nights are devoted to making everyone else safe, happy, and healthy. We literally get “touched out”.
Solitude is the best and fastest way to ease the internal tension we’ve built up.
However, as the spouse of the primary caregiver, you might feel as though you’ve received none of the attention. You might have been at work all day and are ready to escape the rush of professional acquaintance and embrace (literally!) the calming love of your spouse.
While this is a valid need, insisting on attention when your spouse is feeling more like a threadbare dishrag than a warm blanket of love will only lead to annoyance, resentment, and quite possibly argument.
Allow your spouse some alone time knowing the time together will be much sweeter when they’re completely recharged.
9. Show gratitude
Do you ever find yourself living out your day on autopilot giving very little thought to what you are doing? We get so accustomed to doing the same things day in and day out that it becomes a struggle to differentiate one day from the next.
With these habitual days, burnout can sneak up on you. You start feeling unappreciated, overworked, and before you know it bitterness rears its ugly head.
Your spouse goes to work and comes home and doesn’t even seem to notice the hot meal waiting or the clean laundry you rushed to put away.
Why don’t they appreciate you?
Well, unfortunately, just as you have become complacent in your daily activities, so have they. They’re not showing a lack of appreciation, they are just used to you doing these things that they become less noticeable.
As a side note, this is also why it becomes glaringly obvious when you don’t do those things. They’re so used to it, when it doesn’t happen it becomes noteworthy.
It’s so important though that you are appreciated for your daily efforts. Not only that, but it’s equally important that you show appreciation to your supporting spouse for their efforts.
- Thank them for going to work and providing.
- Tell them how much you appreciate them helping you out in certain areas.
- Show them how much their support means to you.
The more appreciated you feel, the better you feel about what you’re doing. It’s also a great way to show your spouse just how much they mean to you, not just for what they do, but for who they are.
10. Put your spouse first!
Finally, and perhaps the most important way to keep caregiving from ruining your marriage is to put your spouse first.
Early on in our caregiving, I would serve my husband last; before I sat down to eat my own meal. It was easier than listening to the constant, “Where’s mine?!”, from my MIL and kids.
After some sound advice from a dear mentor, I began serving my husband first.
By putting your spouse first you:
- Are solidifying their space in your life (God, Spouse, Kids, Family, etc.)
- You approach them from a place of service rather than expectation. Eased expectation means you are less likely to find fault making your marriage as a whole more harmonious.
- They are more likely to reciprocate, giving you greater support.
- One day it will be just the two of you. Putting your spouse first ensures your marriage is not rooted in your caregiving or your kids, but in your spouse.
Caregiving is a hungry beast that threatens to consume everything in your path – your life, your happiness, even your marriage. With some intentionality and a little extra effort, you can keep caregiving from ruining your marriage and be assured you have a battle-tested marriage that comes out even stronger when your caregiving days are over.
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