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Life can be tough when you are suffering from autoimmune disease, chronic pain, or chronic illness. There are so many issues to deal with. Sometimes, it gets even tougher when your carer is also your spouse and other times it is the sweetest gift one can give to their significant other during a time of need.
“Caregiving often changes the dynamics between partners — from sharing the joys of living and planning a brighter future to merely surviving the numbing drudgery of daily care tasks. Some of the passion and friendship may go out of the relationship; sadness or even mutual resentment can creep in.”
There can be a downside when your spouse is also your caregiver (or your significant other, partner, etc.). To anyone who is suffering from autoimmune disease, chronic pain, or chronic illness, you don’t have to be alone through this journey.
It’s perfectly normal if you’re embarrassed about some of the things your spouse has to do for you.
It’s perfectly normal if your spouse has ever questioned your pain.
It’s perfectly normal if you have felt resentment towards your spouse for being able to do more than you.
It’s perfectly normal if your spouse has ever run out of endurance when it comes to taking care of you.
It’s perfectly normal; you’re just someone going through something that can be devastating and unfair.
Sadly, when you have a sick spouse, it can be very demanding on the caregiving partner. Tempers may flare. It may become overwhelming. It may not be how you anticipated your relationship was meant to be. You didn’t ask for this. The plans for a brighter future are either forgotten or put on hold. Every day starts to feel like mere drudgery. Romance may die off.
The household can be thrown into chaos and routine is out the door, even with the most empathetic and understanding spouse. But the last thing you need during this time is to start fighting – one spouse is totally exhausted and the other is delirious from chronic pain. Life may feel like it is going out of control.
So how can you ease the burden for your spouse as the caregiver?
a. Find alternative ways of sharing the household chores. Maybe buy a Roomba (or similar) automatic vacuum cleaner. Use the dishwasher to clean the dishes. Hire some additional assistance for the household chores.
b. Write an instruction booklet for some of the household chores. If you are a control freak or obsessed with the house being “just right” all the time, arguments break out over the way tasks are being done, then you really need an instruction book. Write out your favourite recipes (from best casserole to your favourite smoothie). But if your spouse makes a meal for you or cleans up the house, instead of criticising them, acknowledge their effort and accept that it is different to your way. Sometimes different is just fine.
c. Schedule some time alone. As strange as that sounds, you both may need a break from each other. Whether it is just a walk in the park or an entire day out. Go out for a coffee with a supportive friend. You will both appreciate the times together after a break.
d. Schedule some special togetherness time. Not as part of the daily grind. A little romantic time where you are forbidden to talk about your illness. Nurture the relationship. Talk to each other. Don’t become consumed with chores. Ensure they know how much you appreciate them and love their support and you really don’t mean to fight or argue when the pain gets unbearable.
e. Considering downsizing and decluttering your home. When illness strikes, how important is all that clutter if you can enjoy it? Are you no longer able to attend to the garden around the house and be better in an apartment?
f. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Most of the reason why spouses fight is simply over small stuff. Let go of the anger, let go of the control, let go of your pride. Try apologising when things went wrong. Relax your high standards. Let go of the stress. If being a more relaxed spouse seems difficult, learn meditation.
One of the most demanding but rewarding roles a spouse could take on is to care for their significant other during a time of need. That burden can be eased with the support of other services where required. Whilst some couples may not survive the time together during a crisis like illness but for many, it will draw them closer and make a stronger relationship. It’s all in the way you learn to manage it and the support you seek. Is it time we had a chat to ease that burden?