While you're caring for an older family member, your spouse may come to feel that your marriage is taking a backseat to the other loved one's needs.
After all, caregiving can take time and attention away from your spouse and disrupt your schedule as a couple or family. Sometimes the financial burden of taking care of an older loved one can have an impact on your marriage, too.
"There have to be adjustments made in the marriage,” says Dolores Gallagher-Thompson, a visiting professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis. “It's a time of transition for the marriage. Your spouse needs to understand that he (or she) needs to share you more — and support your efforts."
Fifty-four percent of caregivers are married, according to the "Caregiving in the U.S. 2020" study by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.
Having a general conversation with your spouse about the situation, reassuring him or her that these changes won't last forever, does help.
"The goal is to get your spouse on the same page, to help him or her see why this is necessary at this time in life,” says Nancy Schlossberg, professor emerita of counseling psychology at the University of Maryland and author of Too Young to Be Old.
In the meantime, it's likely to help if you can:
1. Discuss your expectations
It's inevitable that some shift in roles will occur, so “have an expectation exchange where you talk about what's going to change and how you're going to handle it,” Schlossberg says.
Whenever possible, both of you should try to align expectations about how you'll allocate your time, set boundaries with the care recipient and find ways for the two of you to socialize or have couple time. When you can't, negotiate and try to compromise.
"If you can keep the lines of communication open, that's the most important thing,” Schlossberg says.