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As your Caregiver Coach here at Beliefnet.com, it is my passionate mission to reach out and help you and other volunteer family caregivers. Each Thursday, I’ll identify a major challenge caregivers face, and offer research, tips, and motivation to coach you through it.
This week I want to start with addressing an issue I’ve been reading a lot about lately, and seeing a lot of lately among my own friends: the effect of caregiving on a relationship.
Caregiving has such an impact on so many parts of our lives. Research continues to show that the strain of caregiving is posing very real threats to even the strongest of relationships.
A study by Caring.com shows that when it comes to caregiving and relationships:
- 80% reported strains
- 46% reported damage to romance
- 25% of divorced caregivers said caregiving played a major role in the reasons for their divorce
What kinds of things can you do to minimize the negative effects of caregiving on a marriage?
- Communicate-talk with each other about what is happening; and about what is changing in your lives. Acknowlege that it’s going to mean new roles and responsibilities. Discuss how you will work together to adapt to your new caregiver responsiblities.
- Involve the family-although it takes some time, it’s important to create a circle of care. Each family member will have a different level of skill and tolerance as a caregiver. Try not to judge each other. Try to accpet those differences, and allow people to become involved in the way they feel most comfortable. I have learned that it does far more harm than good to try to push people into roles you think they should be in. Ultimately, if everyone’s comfortable with the care they provide, the family is happier, and the experience as a whole is healthier and happier.
- Spend some time apart-to deal with the pressures of caregiving, it’s extremely important to set aside time for just you. It’s very easy to lose yourself in a caregiver role–to be consumed by it. To be a good partner, you have to be a strong individual. Take care of yourself first. Make some time to pamper yourself a little, read a book, take an exercise class, work on a hobby, laugh with friends, or whatever makes you feel good-happy-special. You will be able to create or maintain a stronger relationship as a result.
- Spend some time together (intimacy)– it’s not easy to feel sexy when you are tired, cranky, and overwhelmed. Being romantic and close with your spouse is needed and provides important feelings of security and love. Don’t worry if you feel that you have to force the feeling at first. Create a little time to shut all the worries out and just be a couple. Hold hands and take a walk. Cuddle on the couch and watch a sweet movie. Have a nice dinner where you can actually look at each other and talk.
As always, I feel we have a lot to learn from each other, so I hope that these Thursday posts inspire conversations where we share experiences. In that spirit, I encourage you to leave your thoughts, and ask questions in the comments area below.