Spousal Caregiving: 5 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Strong

Strengthen the bond with your spouse by renegotiating your roles, finding new hobbies and more.

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- Posted on Feb 26, 2021

A woman serves as caregiver to her spouse

It’s normal for spousal caregivers like Judy Spence to look back nostalgically at the early days of marriage and wonder, Is this all there is? After all, the stresses of daily caregiving can lead to disconnection, anxiety and resentment in both partners. Though caring for a spouse might fundamentally alter your relationship, it does not need to signal the end of intimacy or adventure in your marriage. Here are tips from the caregiving experts at Home Instead on how to boost your bond.

Redefine marital intimacy. If a chronic illness makes sexual intimacy impossible, you can still reap the health benefits of touch—including reduced stress and lowered blood pressure—by maintaining a close physical relationship. Try holding hands, stroking each other’s hair or giving each other a shoulder or foot massage.

Fall in love with different personality traits. Maybe you cherished the way your husband always made you laugh, but now his dementia causes him to have angry outbursts. Mourn the lost attributes that you loved, but also find new things to admire about your spouse. Appreciate the courage it takes to perform physical therapy exercises every day or his newfound interest in watching movies with you.

Find new things to bond over. You might not be able to travel the world in retirement as you had hoped. There are still a variety of activities that you can do in tandem. Take a painting class together or do jigsaw puzzles. If one spouse is ill, hiring a caregiver from a company like Home Instead can allow a couple to spend more quality time with each other.

Renegotiate your roles. Make sure that each spouse feels that they are still making an important contribution to the household— doing so can ward off feelings of low self-esteem and resentment and strengthen your connection. Find things your spouse can still do—and then give her control over them. Just because your wife can’t drive, it doesn’t necessarily mean she can’t pay the bills. Perhaps your husband can’t cook anymore; let him plan the menu instead.

Celebrate your anniversary. Even if the two of you aren’t up for a night of dinner and dancing, it’s important to mark the occasion. Let your children help plan a party, have a meal catered or put together a scrapbook of special moments from your marriage. This burst of romance can go a long way in renewing your relationship.

For more on navigating spousal caregiving, go to homeinstead.com.

Read more: How to Deal with the Emotions of Caregiving

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