I have been a caregiver for my mother for three years; she is 86 and lives alone. At first, she just needed a little help around the house. But as her health declines, the amount of time I spend at her house increases.
Unfortunately, it is beginning to take a toll on my marriage. My husband is always complaining that we don’t spend enough time together. He got agitated when I had to cancel our weekly date nights, and he complains that I spend all my time with my mom.
Our limited time together doesn’t seem to be enough. How do I protect my marriage when I am the caregiver for a parent?
Heather Jones, Saline, MI
Protecting Your Marriage When You Are a Caregiver
Caring for an aging parent requires time and energy. This can place a considerable strain on even the healthiest of marriages.
But just because you are a caregiver doesn’t mean your marriage has to suffer. Here’s how using love languages can help caregivers protect their marriage without sacrificing the quality of care they provide their parents.
Learn the 5 Love Languages
You may be familiar with love languages. This popular phrase was coined by Dr. Gary Chapman in The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. In his book, Dr. Chapman explains that there are five main ways that people express and receive love; each person communicates love differently.
The five love languages include the following:
- Words of affirmation: Love is expressed with words that build up their confidence.
- Quality time: Your partner needs to spend quality time together to feel loved.
- Receiving gifts: Love is exchanged by giving and receiving gifts.
- Acts of service: Your partner feels love when you help them with tasks.
- Physical touch: Your partner needs to be touched to feel loved.
Chapman then explains that each person has a “love tank,” and to feel loved, the love tank needs to be regularly filled.
Identify Your Husband’s Love Language
Now that you are familiar with the five love languages, it’s time to figure out your husband’s love language. Here are a few ways you can do this.
- Listen to what your partner complains about the most.
You can learn a lot about your husband’s love language by listening to the things he regularly complains about. For example, if he is saying things like, “You don’t acknowledge anything I do for you,” then his love language is probably words of affirmation.
Does he ask questions like, “Why don’t you cook dinner for me anymore?” If so, then he probably understands love through acts of service.
- Pay attention to the way your partner shows you love.
People usually show love to others in the same way they would like to receive it. Pay attention to the things your husband does for you to show you he loves you.
Since he often comments about the amount of time you spend with your mother, there’s a good chance his love language is quality time.
Speak His Love Language
Now that you’ve identified your husband’s love language, it is important to practice it.
Assuming that your partner’s love language is quality time, it is essential to make time for him. Here are a few tips.
- Have meaningful conversations. Take a few minutes every day to talk to your husband. This can be done anywhere, at any time—just make sure he has your undivided attention. Maintain eye contact when he is speaking to you. This will help reassure him you are paying attention to him, therefore reaffirming your love.
- Share a daily meal together. If possible, have at least one with just the two of you. Again, make sure he has your full attention—this means no television or phones. Maybe put someone else in charge of handling any phone calls that could come up regarding your mother.
- Consider respite care. If you have trouble spending quality time with your husband, you may want to consider respite care. Your mother can temporarily stay in an assisted living community. Respite care is available at all of our assisted living locations, including Linden Square.
Remember, for someone whose love language is quality time, quality is more important than quantity. If your caregiving role only allows you to spend 30 minutes a day with your husband, make sure those 30 minutes count. While speaking his love language won’t solve all of your relationship problems, it is a step in the right direction.
Need Respite Care for a Loved One?
Heritage Senior Communities offer respite care at every location. Contact us to ask questions or to schedule a private tour at one of our sites.