Caregiving: Dealing with the strain on your marriage

Caregiving and marital strain often go hand in hand. Know the impact caregiving can have on your marriage and what you can do about it.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Marriage isn't always easy. This can be especially true for those acting as a caregiver for a parent, in-law or other loved one with Alzheimer's. Understand how caregiving might affect your marriage and what steps you can take to protect your relationship.

Source of marital strain

Taking care of someone with Alzheimer's can be consuming and stressful and that stress can affect your marriage. Caregiving can affect your relationship with your spouse by:

  • Posing a financial burden
  • Cutting into your time together as a couple
  • Cutting into the time you have for family matters, such as child care and housework
  • Causing frustration and fatigue
  • Causing resentment of the loved one in need or of your spouse
  • Creating tension or conflict between your spouse and other family members involved in your loved one's care
  • Creating more things to disagree about

Tips for coping

As a caregiver, you might be so focused on your loved one that your needs and those of your spouse fall by the wayside. While a healthy relationship can endure in the presence of stress, it's important for you and your spouse to make your marriage a priority.

Remember that paying attention to your needs while acting as a caregiver isn't selfish, it's essential for your health and resilience. When your needs are taken care of, the person you're caring for will also benefit.

To protect and strengthen your relationship with your spouse:

  • Make time to talk. Talk to your spouse about your role as a caregiver, your relationship, and how you can support each other. Communicating will help you stay connected in the face of stress and help prevent misunderstandings.
  • Spend time together. Being together is important for your relationship. Look to community resources, family and friends to help you care for your loved one, so you can take time for your marriage.
  • Look for ways to enjoy your relationship. Don't let the difficulties of caregiving take the joy out of your life or your marriage. Look for ways — big or small — to celebrate your spouse, laugh together or pamper each other.
  • Connect with community. Consider joining a local support group for caregivers or connect with other caregivers online.

Know when it's time for a change

You, your spouse or both of you might come to a point where the demands of your caregiving become too much. You need to recognize when this happens and work with your spouse to make other arrangements. Better yet, work together to develop a backup plan for caring for your loved one ahead of time.

March 20, 2018 See more In-depth