Caring for aging or ill family members can take a toll on your relationships. How do you keep your marriage strong despite the strain? Christina Steinorth, a psychotherapist, popular relationship expert and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships has some take-action tips to keep your marital bond from buckling.
Practice good self-care. We are unable to be a good spouse or caregiver unless we take care of ourselves first. Eat right, exercise, rest and equally as important, take 20 minutes every day to nurture your body and your mind. Do things that bring you joy and a sense of calmness. Read a magazine, get a massage, sit in silence, have coffee with a friend, go for a walk or any other thing you find relaxing.
Even if you take five minutes away from everyone you care for and invest it in yourself, it’s OK — you’ll be in a better space mentally and physically to give your marriage what it needs when you’re in as good of a place as you can be yourself.
Touch base with your spouse for at least 15 minute a day. With the demands of caregiving, it’s extremely easy to fall out of touch with your spouse. Don’t let this happen by taking 15 uninterrupted minutes a day reconnecting with your spouse. Call each other if you can’t see each other in person and talk about your day. Ask what went on in your partner’s day, and consider making plans for the weekend (it will give both of you something to look forward to). Conversations don’t need to be deep and emotional to re-connect. Even light-hearted chit-chat will have great results.
Do a weekly activity with your spouse. Shared experiences help keep our bond with our partner strong. They give you something to talk about after an event, and they give you good memories to hold onto when you hit a rough spot in your relationship. Go for a walk after dinner a few times a week, shop and cook a meal together once a week, consider going bowling. Activities don’t need to be expensive and complicated to keep your bond strong; they just need to be mutually enjoyable.
Keep an ongoing pulse on your relationship. If you feel your marriage needs extra attention or other issues have accumulated while you’ve been caregiving, don’t be afraid to have conversations that address your concerns. Rather than have difficult conversations, many people feel things will “magically get bet better.” They won’t! Pick a time and place where both of you can sit down calmly, without interruption, and with minimal stress, and open up a dialogue about what your concerns are. Stay away from blaming, and really listen to what your partner has to say to you. Next, follow through with what the two of you have discussed. Talk without action doesn’t solve problems.