Being a caregiver is not done in isolation. If you are a caregiver, chances are, you are simultaneously juggling other roles and responsibilities such as marriage. Marriage is HARD by itself…but layer on a challenging season of care giving…things just got way more complicated! It is not impossible to give care and walk successfully in your marriage, but it is not easy. Protecting your marriage during a season of care giving requires awareness, intention and proactivity to navigate the journey well.
Caregiving alone can be stressful and if we aren’t careful, it can become oppressive and all consuming.
Caregiving can be done well, but like all things, it will challenge you at the core, stretch you to your limits and it will affect your relationships with others. If you are a married caregiver, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Caregiving packs a powerful punch and brings with it a tremendous wave of emotions, responsibilities and challenges that not only affects the caregiver, but the entire family, starting with your marriage.
How to Protect Your Marriage When Caregiving
Good news! We have choices we can make to help safeguard our marriages and even thrive during the trying season of caregiving, together.
Commit to Open, Honest Communication
Just because you are married, does not mean your spouse can read your mind. Shocking, I know! Caregiving is complex and multi-faceted and changes the dynamics of a household. Don’t leave your body language, tone and words up for (mis)interpretation because oftentimes, you will find yourself sorely disappointed, hurt or feeling misunderstood.
Share your heart with your spouse. Be honest with your thoughts and feelings. Don’t make them guess. More times than not, they will be wrong. Commit to making communication a priority in your marriage and especially during difficult seasons like giving care. Allow feelings to be shared openly and without fear of judgement, guilt or shame. Create a “safe” environment for your soul to unload and freely seek to be seen and understood. On the flip side, extend the same courtesy to your spouse. They too have feelings that need to be communicated.
This mutual exchange is critical to successfully navigating the waters of caregiving as a team.
Intentionally Make Time to Re-Connect
As a caregiver, so many things are vying for your time and attention, it’s easy to get swept up and distracted. Carve out time each day to reconnect with your spouse. It does not need to be time consuming or cost a lot of money. Just commit to protecting some sacred, non- negotiable moments for just the two of you. Be intentional with whatever time you set aside and give your undivided attention to them. Whether its 5 minutes over coffee or an hour after the kids go to bed, find ways to stay connected to one another.
Remember What Matters to Your Spouse
Caregiving is not a single individual’s undertaking. Even if you are the only one providing 1:1 care, your spouse is still involved and affected by your emotional and physical investments. Be aware that caregiving can be isolating, not just for you, but for the other people in your home, especially your spouse. Feelings of invisibility are common and extremely painful. Remember that your spouse, their feelings, the happenings of their day and their interests still matter. Intentionally create opportunities for them to share what is important to them, ask about their day and for their opinions and insights.
Affirm Your Spouse
Words of affirmation are powerful and can go a long way…best part is they are free and don’t have to be time consuming. Affirm your spouse by focusing on WHO they are to you and how you feel about them as a person, not for what they DO for you.
Express Gratitude Often
When times are difficult, it seems so much easier to focus on the negative and to express what is missing or what has been going wrong over all the blessings and what has been going right. Make a conscious effort each day to call to mind your gratitude for one another and for your lives together. Consider setting aside a few minutes at bedtime to share with one another 3 things that you are each grateful for.
Spend Time in Prayer Together
This is the greatest gift you can give to one another. Commit to spending time together in prayer each day. The Lord will bless this commitment and multiply the fruits of this time spent together, with Him in prayer and through time in His Word. Pray for one another, for the circumstances at hand and ask the Lord for His direction, His intervention, His wisdom and His strength.
As a married caregiver myself, I feel your pain. I know this season is not easy on you or your marriage. Matter of fact, I know that its downright heartbreaking on more days than you would like to admit. But remember, you and your spouse are a team. This caregiving season might feel lonely, but you aren’t alone. If you aren’t working together as a unified front, re-commit to fostering a “we” mentality.
How do I turn “me” into “we?”
Go to the Lord right now in prayer and ASK.
Let me pray for us:
Father God, thank you for marriage. Thank you for giving us these precious blessings, our spouses, to walk hand in hand through life with. Lord, the caregiving road ahead is uncertain. There have already been some bumps and bruises and if I’m honest, the uphill climb looks scary and HARD. Right now, I feel lonely and afraid. But, I know in my heart Father, I am not alone.
I love my spouse Lord and I want to love him well through this season of caregiving and beyond. Take us both by the hands Father and secure our union with one another and with you. Draw us closer to you as individuals and as a couple. I humbly ask you to grow us and stretch us in and through this season. Strengthen our marriage and prepare us as a couple to be used in a mighty way for your glory in this caregiving season.
Heavenly Father, even though we are struggling in the trenches, I pray that you will make your presence boldly known in our lives. I ask that you fill us with your powerful Holy Spirit and I pray that you will use this season for our good as a couple. Help us love our spouses well especially when life seems chaotic and overwhelming. Father give our hearts the desire and the discipline to make our marriages a priority during this challenging time and I ask that you bless and multiply our feeble attempts to strengthen our union that you have brought together to be made more beautiful in such a time as this.
Thank you, Father, for my spouse. He is such a gift. Help me love him, honor him and respect him in all that I think, say and do. Never let me lose sight of him as a hand- picked gift from you. In all circumstances and through all challenges, help us ride along this journey in tandem with one another and in tandem with you.
In Your Son’s Most Precious and Powerful Name Jesus I Pray,