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I've been in a mini battle of my own with my partner, who is caring for her mother 3 nights per week, along with having a very demanding full time job. I've been trying really hard not to bug her about other options, but i think she's finally "hearing" that she needs to ask her siblings for more support because her body is telling her a thing or two with illness and symptoms. Her family also has the funds to hire help, although like most families, they are reluctant to have a stranger in the home. I haven't wanted to ADD to her stress by asking her to please bring up her schedule to her family. I try to be a respite for her. She finally brought it up, and some relief is in sight. But 'tis a tricky business. Its not my family, its hers. Its not my battle, its hers. But i'm a very interested, caring, party in all this.
Having good boundaries about what is my role, my job, my responsibility or simply my opinion is key to staying on good terms with my partner and her entire family. Its helping so far, even as I have to manage my OWN anxiety when her mom, and thus my partner, has a very bad night.
Thanks for this, Holly. Wise stuff.
This response will be interesting
and a challenge. I can respond from the "Adult Daughter"
perspective, both as a Mom-caregiver groping my way, and also as a
partner who was learning to train my partner in how to support me.
First of all, I remember clearly
when I had this insight: The stress I felt (in watching my
mother age painfully while being able to do little to fix it)
was very much the same as my partner's stress (at watching
me in pain over my mother and being unable to fix it.)
The key for me, as the my partner's partner, was to get vocal about what "help" looked like to Me. I had to train him to butt out when he was on inappropriate territory. The more I could vocalize what I was asking for, the easier it became for me to accept help when I really did need it.
Based on that, could you tell your
partner that you need to have it spelled out about what help
actually means? Ask her/him to spell out what help looks like? I
have a Great article called In Service of Life about the difference
between Helping and Serving. I'll post it next.
As the Daughter, I was clear that
since this was my mom, I needed to call the shots about what and how
things would happen, so what worked for me was for my partner to ask
my permission, to ask for clarification, and to makes offers like,
"Do you want me to say anything when it looks to me like you've
reached a limit that you're not seeing?" Him asking for
permission was the key.
Gradually, we worked out ways of
partnering that were new to us. When my brain wasn't working, I'd
put important reminders on a blackboard in the kitchen, and that
gave him permission to remind me. When I was going down to visit my
mom, his job was to remind me to imagine a protective cloak over
myself. When I needed solitude, I put on a certain pink baseball cap
that meant that I was invisible. Absent. Not to be approached. All
of these agreements gave me back some sense of control, and it took
some work sessions between me and my partner to hash out the rules.
Bottom line: I got to call the shots. His job was to support me in
doing caregiving my way and when he was wigging out, to go take care
I'm not saying this is exactly what would work for everyone, but maybe there's something in there that speaks to you. it is surely a tricky position, being the partner to the caregiver. It's a very important job and kind of amorphous at the same time. It's great that you have such good clarity about boundaries. You may be able to negotiate your role in a way that takes some pressure off of both of you. You could also get one of those inflatable clowns with sand in the bottom and beat the @($*#&^ out of it. :o)
I have two mini-articles that might
be of use to you. One is called "How to Ask for Help" and
it includes asking siblings. The other is called "The Self-care
Necessity". I don't know if your partner is open to reading
things, but just you reading one or the other may give you some
ideas. Let me know if you'd like me to post one or both.
Wishing you well. Let me know how