April – Avoiding a Caregiver Relationship

April – Avoiding a Caregiver Relationship

April Mental Health Discussion

Avoiding A Caregiver Relationship

Retrieved from Stock Video Footage – Storyblocks Video

One of the biggest struggles that I have found in my marriage is making a conscious effort to avoid it from turning into a caregiver type relationship. You get into a routine, you have someone who maybe needs their significant other more often than not, someone who is mentally ill while the other is not. It’s a tough balancing act, and after 8 years I’m still definitely not the perfect partner. However, I have always done my best to ensure that my husband is not my caregiver. For anyone struggling with this dynamic, I have a few recommendations that have helped for myself and I hope they can help you too. So, here we go!

My first tip is the most important one, which is making sure you use some of your good days to show your partner how special and appreciated they are. I know that’s hard to do when you’re feeling ill, trust me! You can barely take care of yourself, let alone cater to someone else’s needs. On my good days, I try to do lots of chores and maybe even make my hubby a nice roast for dinner. They appreciate this more than you could ever understand because it really shows them that you’re making an effort to be an equal member of the relationship. I also try to vocalize my appreciation as often as I can, to make sure he knows how important he is to me and my recovery. Another good idea is planning a fun date that involves things that they really enjoy – whether it’s a movie night in (they pick the movie and the snacks) or going out and trying something they’ve always wanted to do. Arrange a day to say “hey, it’s about you. Thanks for letting it usually be about me”.

Another thing that I think is important to do is join a support group. One of the best things I ever did was partake in a Bipolar Support Group run by one of the local counseling companies. This allowed me to lean on others and find like minded folks to talk to when I needed it. One of the things I like about this is that it takes some of the pressure off of your significant other. Of course they will always be there for you and listen when needed, and they’re more than happy to do so. However, it’s crucial to understand that they have their own things going on too – their own stresses and emotions. While they may or may not also be mentally ill, they still have every day things they deal with. Sometimes it’s good to give them a break to regulate their own mental health, and even be the one to listen to them.

One of the hardest things to do, is one of the most necessary when it comes to avoiding a caregiver relationship. Learn to be self sufficient sometimes. Obviously that is unrealistic to ask of someone who suffers from mental illness all the time, but I think that on the less awful days, we need to learn to stand on our own a little bit. We can’t go our entire lives being solely dependent on another. What if things don’t work out, or they pass away? Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. This is just as important for us as it is for them. It is very unfair to expect someone else to be the reason you’re alive and getting through the day. Obviously, lean on your loved ones during the tough times, there is NOTHING wrong with that. But we also need to know when we’re strong enough to do it on our own and weather the storm.

Lastly, keep the romance alive! It’s so easy to become complacent and stop putting in as much effort as you did in the beginning. It happens in any relationship. But if you don’t try to keep the sparks there at least a little bit, it can really start to feel more like a roommate arrangement than a couple relationship. We need to continue to show that love and affection towards them so they know we don’t see them as just our caregiver. We love you for it, but that is not all you are to us. You’re a lover and a best friend. If this is not something you excel at or if certain mental illnesses and issues keep you from being affectionate or intimate, be open to going to couple’s therapy. Your partner is an equal member of this relationship and have their needs that ought to be met as well, emotionally and physically.

 

I realize some of these points can be a little controversial, but this is just what I have written based on my own experiences and have found help me and my marriage. By no means am I saying to put someone above yourself and fully understand not everyone can accommodate these tips.

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