You don’t have to be an expert to know that accidents, illnesses, and unexpected disabilities happen every day. In a single afternoon, one incident or diagnosis can turn a family’s life upside-down. And unfortunately, a tragic accident or diagnosis can transform what was once a fully independent family member into a loved one requiring round-the-clock care and supervision. For 80% of these people needing long-term care, the go-to solution is a family member or friend becoming that person’s unpaid caregiver. 1
Caregiving by the numbers
If you’re a caregiver for a loved one or spouse, you’re not alone. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 43.5 million unpaid people provided care to an individual in the last year. On average, these caregivers spent 24 hours per week taking care of their loved ones—but that’s simply the average. One in four caregivers spent over the equivalent of a full-time job providing unpaid care (41 hours) per week. 2
A caregiver will spend, on average, this amount of days each month on the following activities:
- 13 days on preparation type tasks (cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and preparing food, transportation, distributing medication).
- 6 days on direct care for activities of daily living (feeding, dressing, grooming, bathing, helping them get around and use the bathroom).
- .54 days (13 hours) on finances, making doctors appointments, and researching services.
Source: Gallup-Healthways. (2011). Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.
Breaking down caregiving demographically, 60% of caregivers are female and 65% of recipients are female. 3
Most caregivers (85%) care for a relative or close loved one, and 15% care for a non-relative.
- 49% care for a parent or parent-in-law
- 12% care for a spouse or partner
- 7% care for a grandparent or grandparent-in-law
- 5% care for an adult child
- 5% care for a sibling or sibling-in-law
- 4% Uncle or aunt
- 3% Other relative
- 15% care for a friend, neighbor, or another non-relative
Source: AARP Caregiving in the U.S. 2015 Report
However, these are just the cold facts of caregiving. If you’re currently facing the prospect of becoming a loved one’s caregiver or you’ve recently gone through such an emotional upheaval, you’re likely experiencing some difficulty. Here are some common experiences in this process.
The emotional side of caregiving
You and your care recipient will likely have a variety of intense emotional responses. This is normal.
Your loved one’s radical change, whether it’s a spinal cord injury, chronic disease, loss of a limb, or any other number of debilitating circumstances, will undoubtedly test both of you. Anger and bitterness are to be expected, but you should also prepare to feel fear and anxiety that you won’t be able to physically or emotionally be able to handle your new stations in life.
You may mourn the loss of your loved one’s health as you struggle to adapt to the reality of your new future. Isolation is another common symptom, especially during the inevitable quiet times. You may also feel unbalanced because many of your own needs are now going unmet.
Adjusting to your caregiving routine
In the process of becoming a caregiver, keep in mind that adapting to a new routine will take time. As the caregiver, you will probably take over most, if not all, of the chores that keep a household in smooth working order. The division of labor (who does the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and so forth) will most likely fall on you. These added burdens pile on top of new responsibilities that arise from caring for your loved one.
Depending on the severity of their disability, you may also need to undertake personal grooming for them, administer pain medications, change dressings and bedding, and numerous other related tasks. Accept that things will not be easy. You may find it hard, but you will need to accept what has happened and embrace your new set of circumstances.
Considering professional help for the recipient
One of the major decisions you’ll need to make is whether to get a professional caretaker to help on an ongoing basis. Some people find it hard to accept that they can’t do it all, but for many, the sooner they realize just how difficult it can be to do it alone, the better their situation becomes when someone else steps in to ease their burden. You may feel awkward about asking for assistance, but it may be worth pushing through for your own stress relief.
Being a caregiver is taxing, and it can be detrimental to your own health as well. Consider these symptoms as legitimate reasons to seek outside help.
- Not eating due to a lack of time
- Losing sleep
- Getting out of your exercise routine
- Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs to dull your pain
- Feeling depressed or hopeless
- A loss of energy
- An inability to feel joy or happiness with things that you normally do
- Resentment toward your care recipient
- Ignoring your health problems and doctor’s appointments
- Not connecting with friends in your social network like you have in the past
Many of these are normal reactions when a loved one becomes ill or disabled. But keep in mind that you are not only their caregiver, you are also your own caregiver. And unfortunately, you can’t be a good caregiver for someone else if you can’t take care of yourself first—so be sure you’re still meeting your own needs too!
Alternative options to help take care of your loved one
If you are currently in this situation and you don’t know what to do, consider hiring someone to help with your caretaking responsibilities. You could even look into long-term care insurance. Or, if you have limited resources, Medicaid may help you pay for a nursing home. You may even be able to get help from your community or church.
No matter what you choose, if you are someone’s primary caretaker, you don’t necessarily have to do it all by yourself.
Abby and Earl have been married for nearly 40 years, raising children together and enduring the struggles and triumphs of a long life together. Now, at 65 years of age, Earl has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While Abby has always made sure Earl had home-cooked meals, clean clothes and plenty of love, her role as a wife is beginning to shift into that of a caregiver. Earl’s symptoms now require assistance walking, getting dressed and even eating when his tremors are at their worst.
Abby loves her husband as much as she did the day she married him but finding balance to her new role as a wife and caregiver has caused anxiety and confusion for both of them. The strong, capable body of her husband has become weak and painful, leaving Abby to care for her husband in a capacity that she has never known in their decades of marriage.
Emotional impacts: Acting as a caregiver for a loved one of any relation can be emotionally draining, however handling the range of emotions brought forth by the need to care for a spouse can be especially draining. While many seniors who are suffering from debilitating effects of aging or disease also suffer from depression, researchers have found that spousal caregivers may be likely to experience depression at an even higher rate than those for whom they care. Such depression can be spurred by a wide variety of emotional struggles. Care recipients may no longer have the cognitive ability to relate to their spouse, or be physically incapable of engaging in traditional intimacy, leaving spousal caregivers feeling as though they have lost the husband or wife they once knew so well. Many times, caregivers may feel as though they’re adjusting to taking care of an entirely different person, especially with diagnoses like dementia, which can leave caregivers mourning the loss of their previous life with their husbands or wives. While caregivers may feel guilty for these emotions, they are completely normal. Although you may fear talking with others about the changes in your marriage, support groups of caregivers in similar situations may offer a chance to talk about your challenges with people in similar situations. Physical challenges: Emotional strain can have an undeniable impact on physical well-being. Excess stress can lead to poor sleep, increased blood pressure, weight gain or loss, headaches or any other wealth of symptoms. Aside from physical conditions that negatively affect health, physical challenges may present themselves in other ways. For example, wives may have trouble physically helping their husband move around the home due to a sheer difference in weight and size, while husbands may find that their own physical conditions make it difficult to help their wife with mobility. To help work around these physical challenges, it may be helpful to seek assistance from a home care agency, physically able friends and family, or assistive devices like motorized wheelchairs or walkers that can help reduce some of the physical strain. Social considerations: When a husband or wife begins to require care due to the effects of aging or a physical or mental impairment, the dynamics of a marriage will likely change significantly. Favorite pastimes such as travel or meeting friends for dinner may become more difficult and require caregivers to choose between abandoning some of their old habits or modifying them to allow the care recipient spouse to comfortably participate. Aside from a change in socialization habits, some caregivers and their spouses may feel embarrassed to explain their situation to friends. People may find themselves feeling ashamed of how their marriage is changing. This can be a difficult adjustment. Depending on age and circumstance, caregivers may also find that some of their friends are not as understanding as they expected of their new caregiver/spouse role and have a hard time accepting a reduced ability to participate in old activities. Conversely, some groups of friends may be in a similar situation and may be willing to work together to find ways to maintain social connections that help bolster everyone’s mood and maintain a new sense of normalcy. Caregiving for a spouse can be one of life’s great challenges as you and your spouse figure out how to adjust to changes in body and mind that can be frustrating for you both. However, with a good system of support in place and allowing yourself to experience the wide range of emotions that will inevitably surface, the process can also be rewarding as you endure and conquer a new chapter with the one you love. Support resources can be found in various forms, including family (adult children and siblings) and friends; some of whom may be in similar situations and able to better relate to your feelings. However, family and friends are not always available, or you may be more comfortable seeking support from less personal influences. In this case, support groups of other spousal caregivers can be a place to find comfort and understanding, as well as inspiration and tips from others’ experiences. And when you need a break, spousal caregivers should consider seeking respite care from home care services, or adult day programs. Respite care can provide caregivers and their spouses with time away from one another, which is just as important now as it was at any other time during the marriage. Are you a caregiver for your spouse? If so, please share your experiences, or tips for finding balance in the comment space below. Content contributed by ClearCare, Inc.
The monthly cost of Long-Term Care is enormous and can quickly deplete family resources. However, there are Estate Planning strategies that can help you protect your assets while allowing your spouse to receive public assistance benefits to pay for the cost of his or her Long-Term Care.
Medicaid is a public assistance benefit that pays for the cost of Long-Term Care, including the cost of living in a skilled nursing facility (nursing home), an assisted living facility, an adult family home, or Long-Term Care in a person’s home. To qualify for Medicaid, a recipient must meet certain financial eligibility standards.
Protecting Assets When Your Spouse Needs Long-Term Care
The Medicaid resource (asset) limit is often a concern for married couples when one spouse needs to qualify for Medicaid and the other spouse will continue to live at home. In Washington State, Medicaid resource eligibility is based on the total amount of resources that both you and your spouse own.
Not all resources are counted toward resource eligibility. Exempt resources include your house, personal and household items, one vehicle, burial plots, and burial funds of $1,500 or life insurance with a face value of $1,500 or less.
This means you get to keep your house (and all other assets on the above list) and your spouse can still be eligible for Medicaid Long-Term Care benefits.
Resources that are non-exempt are counted toward resource eligibility. Non-exempt resources include cash, bank account funds, and investments. As a general rule, married couples cannot have more than $56,726 in non-exempt resources (community spousal resource allowance of $54,726 plus $2,000 for the Medicaid applicant spouse).
Medicaid Asset Preservation Strategies™
If you have more than the allowable amount of non-exempt resources, there are ways to protect those assets while still obtaining Medicaid Long-Term Care benefits. A solid plan utilizing our Smart Spend-Down TM procedures can help you avoid unnecessarily depleting your assets.
Non-exempt funds may be spent on exempt resources, such as a home or vehicle. Also, non-exempts funds can be transferred to a special kind of Medicaid friendly Annuity. The right annuity can preserve funds for the well spouse, while allowing the other spouse to be eligible for Medicaid Long-Term Care benefits without spending down those excess assets.
Other appropriate spend down items include the purchase of personal property items, the cost of repairs to the applicant’s home, and payments for professional services, such as lawyer fees and accountant fees.
At Elder Law Group PLLC, through the implementation of Medicaid Asset Preservation Strategies TM (MAPS TM ) we help our clients protect assets, obtain Medicaid benefits, and create necessary Estate Planning documents. We provide Estate Planning to protect you and your assets from Long-Term Care costs.
As skilled asset protection lawyers, we will give you legal advice on the best options available to meet your objectives and protect the assets you have accrued over a lifetime. We invite you to learn more about our team here, and read what our clients have to say about us here.
Contact us or call (509) 468-0551 (Spokane office), or (509) 579-0206 (Tri-Cities office), for personal, compassionate guidance on Long-Term Care, asset protection, and Estate Planning.
Since you were a kid, you’ve always dreamed of a great marriage and finding the love of your life. Honestly, everyone does too. This is why it might be heartbreaking when you see things shift.
It’s horrible to know that someone you love doesn’t love you back anymore. It will be more hurtful if it is your husband. You need to know fast if a marriage is fading away. Which is why you need to know these signs and do something about it;
1. He Rarely Checks You Out
Checking out your look and saying that you are beautiful will not be done because he lost interest in you.
2. Not Hugging You Anymore
Hugs are a sign of intimacy and protection. But if the love is gone, these things will start to fade away too.
3. Sleeping On A Bed Separated From You
When he does this continually without any explanation, it means that he doesn’t want to be close to you anymore.
4. Rarely Home Together With You
Being home with you for him brings so much stress and bad vibes which is not what he want right now.
5. Often In A Bad Mood
Being grumpy or silent will be done because he doesn’t feel any positive side in being with you anymore.
6. Not Talking About His Day Anymore
He doesn’t bother sharing about his day because he shows the Signs of A Bored Husband in Marriage
7. Always Spending Time With Someone Else
This means that he starts choosing his friends or literally anyone over you.
8. Not Wanting To Hear Your Story
When you want to talk about something, he starts showing a bad mood because he doesn’t care.
9. Not Accepting Your Kind Gesture
He rejects every How To Tell Someone You Love Them Without Saying I Love You because he truly don’t want to be with you.
10. Talk In Short Sentences
If this is accompanied with a bad vibe it means that he is tired of being with you.
11. Not Making Romantic Eye Contact
Eye contact is a Physical Signs A Woman Likes You Like Crazy which can be found in him too. If he lost it, it can mean that he doesn’t care about you anymore.
12. Not Buying You Gifts Anymore
Gifts are a gesture of kindness. Once the gift stop it can imply that the love stops too.
13. Checking Out Other Girl
He finds that other girl’s looks are way better than you which will hurt.
14. Comparing You To Other Girls
15. Leaving When You Get Mad
Trying to calm you down will not be done because he doesn’t care about you being happy.
16. Not Wanting To Solve A Problem
A problem in your relationship doesn’t matter because not being with you doesn’t hurt.
17. Threatening To Divorce You
This threat can be true if he continuously say this to you.
18. Never Smiling At You Anymore
Smiling at you is the most basic signs of kindness. If this is gone, the rest of it is probably gone too.
19. Not Finding Your Jokes Funny
Stop laughing at your jokes can mean that he stops adoring you.
20. Annoyed At Your Attempt To Cheer Him Up
He simply thinks that you are too annoying.
More Ways To Know That He Is Not In Love With You Anymore
The world starts to get darker when he stop showing his love towards you. You shouldn’t get blindsided. So you need to know the ways to know that he is not in love with you anymore;
1. Starts Cheating
He’ll often display the Signs He is Player
2. Doesn’t Stop You From Breaking The Relationship Up
When you show the Signs Your Girlfriend is About to Break Up with You he actually want it to happen.
3. Doesn’t Care If You Are Close to Another Person
Trying to make him jealous is a hopeless attempt.
4. Rarely Contacting You
Contacting you is not what he wants.
5. Likes It When You Spend Time Away From Him Often And For A Long Time
Having a big space from you is a relieve to him.
6. Making Everything Your Fault
It seems that what you do is never enough.
7. Doesn’t Care If He Makes You Cry
This is a true signs your husband doesn’t care about you anymore because anyone who does this have a cold heart.
Tips To Solve The Love Problem
Of course you don’t want to let go of the marriage without a fight right? this is why you need to follow the tips that we’ll give you to mend the problem in your marriage;
1. Ask Him About It
Don’t speculate, it’s better to know for sure. Ask him to have a serious and intimate talk with you and start to ask him about the thing that have been bothering him about you and about his feelings.
2. Show Your Love And Stay Patient
It’s important to still show your love. But he might reject it several times, so be patient.
3. Ask For Help To Solve The Relationship
If you feel like you can’t do it alone, ask for professional help if you want.
4. Make A Commitment To Grow
Both of you should make a commitment to solve the problem and to grow.
5. Move On
If he really wants to let go of you, what you need to do is to use the How to Move On from a Relationship when You are Still in Love
When you are committed to a marriage what you are doing is actually committing the rest of your lifetime to your husband. But it is not rare that along the road the prospect of happily ever after starts disappear by showing the signs your husband doesn’t care about you anymore. Once this signs show, your marriage can go to waste. But to stop that you need to follow the steps that we have given you.
Emotions — even anger and hurt — have a purpose. These strong feelings need to be appropriately understood, valued and utilized so you can better care for yourself and know your spouse deeply.
Emotions were designed by God to have value and purpose; they’re not just accidental outcomes of being human. Since emotions have a purpose, they need to be appropriately understood, valued and utilized so you can better understand and care for yourself and know your spouse deeply and relationally.
Women are more likely to admit they have emotions and can usually identify them, but women often have learned through experience to discount any “negative” emotions, thinking they’re not supposed to burden anyone with their feelings. A woman can’t care for something she’s pretending doesn’t exist.
Men have strong emotions, too, but their feelings are typically masked by anger or labeled as unmasculine and therefore buried so deep that men aren’t aware of them. If a man doesn’t even know the emotions exist, he can’t care for them.
Talking about emotions in marriage is often neglected because couples have had unpleasant experiences when they’ve revealed their feelings. For example, if a husband tries to make his wife’s emotions go away, he’s trying to eliminate an essential part of who the wife is. In essence, the husband is attacking the wife’s identity, the core of her being. That’s painful, and it’s no wonder the wife eventually stops talking about emotions. But when couples avoid talking about emotions, they miss the opportunity to deepen their marriage relationship. Couples should deal head-on with emotions by embracing and understanding them.
Accepting emotions without judgment
If husbands and wives understand that their spouse cares for them, that someone is concerned about what is going on inside them, it sends a clear message that their feelings matter. It’s saying, “I want to know what’s going on, and I’m not afraid to listen. Your emotions are something for both of us to understand, and your feelings matter to me because you matter to me. I want to hear about it.”
What often happens is that someone becomes upset, and the other spouse withdraws until the upset spouse has stuffed the feelings to avoid judgment. But keep in mind that emotions were created by God on purpose, with purpose. So even “negative” emotions have purpose, giving couples the best opportunity for developing an intimate connection. Sharing joy unifies people; sharing grief, fear or shame cements them together. Don’t be wary of powerful emotions; embrace them as assets to developing closeness and connection.
Emotions are information
Emotions are morally neutral data — neither good nor bad. Learning this can help you draw closer to your spouse. It frees husbands and wives to discuss feelings without fear of value judgments. If emotions are just bits of information, you can’t talk about them in terms of being good or bad, healthy or unhealthy.
Here’s an example: If a husband feels lonely because his wife has taken a new, exciting job with a longer commute time, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a jerk for not supporting her career. It might just mean he’s lonely, period. He shouldn’t be shamed for experiencing loss. Likewise if a wife takes a lot of time to get ready for church on Sunday morning and she’s sometimes late, it doesn’t mean she’s disrespecting the worship service. It might mean she just has a desire to look her best. A husband should appreciate that and not devalue that desire.
Emotions — especially fear, pain and grief — inform us what’s going on in our inner life: what we need, what we want and where we struggle. In a marriage, spouses need to help each other discover and meet their emotional needs.
After couples are able to talk about those emotions and identify those needs, they can develop an appropriate strategy in response to the emotions. It’s similar to knowing to bring an umbrella when the forecast is for rain.
Good plans usually require spouses to care for each other. For example, a strategy to help the husband who feels lonely because his wife is gone for longer than she used to be would require his wife to suggest ways to spend more time with him or to invest in the relationship in other ways. The husband wants his wife to give something; she can meet his emotional need. The wife who wants to look her best for church may need her husband to pick up some of the duties on Sunday morning. To have her emotional need met, the wife desires her husband’s help.
Following up on the plan
The plan to address the emotional need, want or struggle should be implemented in a timely way. If the supporting spouse doesn’t act on the plan, it’s useless. Worse, it sets up a pattern of eroding trust. For example, if the wife won’t schedule more date nights with the husband, he will not only feel ignored but also disrespected and unloved. He will learn to avoid sharing his emotions with his wife.
If any one of those parts of the emotional care system — identifying, planning or following up — is missing, your relationship will be severely handicapped. If they are in place, however, your marriage can thrive.
If you are caring for someone with COVID-19 at home or in a non-healthcare setting, follow this advice to protect yourself and others. Learn what to do when someone has symptoms of COVID-19 or when someone has been diagnosed with the virus. This information also should be followed when caring for people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms.
*Note: Older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for developing more severe illness from COVID-19. People at higher risk of severe illness should call their doctor as soon as symptoms start.
Make sure the person who is sick drinks a lot of fluids and rests
- Help the person who is sick follow their doctor’s instructions for care and medicine.
- For most people, symptoms last a few days, and people usually feel better after a week.
- Have their doctor’s phone number on hand. to help you make decisions about seeking appropriate medical care.
- Call their doctor if the person keeps getting sicker. For medical emergencies, call 911 and tell the dispatcher that the person has or might have COVID-19.
Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
*This list is not all possible symptoms. Please call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.
Keep a separate bedroom and bathroom for a person who is sick
COVID-19 spreads between people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets, created when someone talks, coughs or sneezes. Staying away from others helps stop the spread of COVID-19.
The caregiver, when possible, should not be someone who is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
The person who is sick should isolate
The sick person should separate themselves from others in the home. Learn when and how to isolate.
- If possible, have the person who is sick use a separate bedroom and bathroom. If possible, have the person who is sick stay in their own “sick room” or area and away from others. Try to stay at least 6 feet away from the sick person.
- Shared space: If you have to share space, make sure the room has good air flow.
- Open the window to increase air circulation.
- Improving ventilation helps remove respiratory droplets from the air.
Caregivers should quarantine
Caregivers and anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should stay home, except in limited circumstances. Learn when and how to quarantine.
Deciding when it is safe to be around others is different for different situations. Find out when someone who is sick can safely end home isolation.
Every year, millions of couples come face to face with a serious illness. A new diagnosis — whether it’s Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart failure, kidney dysfunction or another major medical condition — is life-changing for both of you. Yet research reveals that the needs of the well spouse are often overlooked, just when he or she needs the strength to support a partner in new ways.
If you have suddenly been put into the role of caregiver, what should you do — and how can you stay strong while you do it? Psychiatrist Susan Lehmann, director of the geriatric psychiatry clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, recommends these strategies.
Listen and share time.
Not sure what to say? That’s OK. Assure your spouse that you love and support him or her. Listen if your spouse wants to talk, or just spend quiet time together. If possible, keep sharing routines that have been part of your life together — a TV movie and popcorn on Friday night, morning coffee and the daily newspaper, walking the dog. After a serious diagnosis, you both may cherish these everyday traditions more than ever.
Well spouses cope better when they, like their partners, have accurate, firsthand information about their mate’s condition, treatment and needs. “While the internet may provide both general and specific information about the condition and treatment, it’s important to remember that reliability of medical information varies widely across internet sites,” Lehmann says. “Some websites may provide inaccurate or misleading information, so it is important to discuss your concerns, including information you have read from other sources, with your health care providers.”
Talk to practitioners together.
Don’t sit in the waiting room or stay silent during medical appointments. “It is always helpful to have another set of ears listening to the clinician explain the treatment plan,” Lehmann says. “Knowing that time with the physician or nurse is limited, it is especially helpful to generate a list of questions and concerns together with your partner before medical appointments.”
Prioritize your questions — putting the most important ones first — to be sure you receive the information you need most at your spouse’s next appointment. “If you are unable to ask all the questions on your mind during an appointment, ask if you can schedule a follow-up phone time or send your additional questions to the clinician or his/her assistant by email,” Lehmann adds.
A major medical diagnosis can lead to doctor-recommended changes in your spouse’s diet, physical activity level, medication routine and need for rest. A well spouse’s support and encouragement can help a partner stay on track, but this new role can also trigger frustration on both sides. The well spouse may feel stressed; the ill spouse might not appreciate nagging.
“Sometimes it is helpful to enlist the support of the health care practitioner in prioritizing which changes are most important to implement and to remind your partner that these changes are ones that the clinician is recommending,” Lehmann says. “This can often diminish the sense that the well spouse is trying to exert undue control, but rather is a partner with his/her mate and the health care practitioner.”
Are offers of casseroles and housecleaning pouring in? Let well-wishers lighten your load so you can focus on your ill spouse and get needed rest and support for yourself.
“Being a care partner can leave a person feeling overwhelmed and exhausted,” Lehmann says. “Ask to speak with the doctor, nurse or social worker about home services for which you may be eligible. Many insurance plans provide coverage for home nursing services and for occupational therapy and physical therapy, which can be very helpful in improving your partner’s safety and function in the home.”
Know What You Need Now
Don’t underestimate your needs when your partner faces a serious illness. Recent research involving heart attack survivors and their partners has revealed that a well spouse’s risk of depression and anxiety increases when their partner experiences a major health crisis. And in a study of men with advanced prostate cancer, researchers have found that emotional distress increases equally in both partners, yet the well spouses are less likely to receive emotional support.
“Often, the well spouse puts his/her own needs on the back burner, so to speak, when a partner has a serious health concern,” Lehmann says. “Being able to talk about your fears, frustrations and worries with someone you trust will not only help you feel better, but you will be more able to help and support your partner.”
Caregiving: The assistance family, friends and professionals provide to those who are elderly, sick or otherwise unable to care for themselves. Caregiving can include buying groceries, cooking meals, cleaning, assistance with bathing or personal care, making and driving someone to medical appointments, dispensing medicine, helping someone get in or out of bed, and more.
Heart failure: When the heart cannot supply as much blood as the body needs, because it cannot fill completely or cannot pump with enough force. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and heart valve problems can cause heart failure. Heart failure does not mean the heart is about to stop. Medications and lifestyle changes can reduce symptoms.
He sat in my office and said, “I just don’t love my wife anymore. I wish I did, but I don’t. I’ve even asked God to give me love for her. But I just don’t have any feelings for her anymore.”
This husband was absolutely sincere, but he was misguided in his understanding of love. He pictured love as warm, emotional, romantic feelings for his wife.
Since these did not exist, he could not manufacture them and even God was not providing them, he concluded that his marriage was over. Thousands of men and women in our society have come to the same conclusion.
True love, the kind of love that keeps a couple together for a lifetime, is not a feeling but an attitude. It says, With the help of God, I’m going to do everything I can to enhance the life of my spouse.
This attitude leads to words and actions that are beneficial to your spouse and often stimulate warm emotions inside the spouse’s heart. If this person reciprocates with words and behavior that express his or her love for you, warm emotions may also return to you.
One of the great tragedies of Western culture is that we have equated love with warm emotional feelings. In fact, these warm romantic feelings are the result of love, not the essence of love. This is why love can be commanded, as in Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives”; and love can be taught and learned, as noted in Titus 2:4, where the older women are instructed to teach the younger women to love their husbands. God doesn’t command emotions, but He often commands attitudes and behavior.
The good news is that whatever God commands, He enables us to do.
Love Is an Attitude
In the early days of my marriage, my wife and I were fairly miserable. We both wondered if we had married the wrong person.
In my desperation, I said to God, “I don’t know what else to do, and I am asking for Your help.” As soon as I prayed that prayer, there came to my mind a visual image of Jesus on His knees, washing the feet of His followers.
I sensed God say to me, “That’s the problem in your marriage. You don’t have the attitude of Christ toward your wife.”
I knew what He said was true. At that time, my attitude toward my wife was, Look, I know how to have a good marriage. If you will listen to me, we’ll have one. She wouldn’t listen, so I blamed her for our poor marriage.
God gave me a new perspective. The problem was not her but my attitude.
I said, “Lord, forgive me. With all of my study in Greek, Hebrew and theology, I missed the whole point of love. Please give me the attitude of Christ toward my wife. Let me see her as one whom You love, and let me be Your agent for loving her.”
In retrospect, it was the greatest prayer I have ever prayed regarding my marriage because God changed my attitude. I was no longer waiting for warm feelings; I was choosing to love her as Christ loved His disciples. I asked my wife three questions:
- What can I do to help you?
- How can I make your life easier?
- How can I be a better husband to you?
Her answers led my behavior. When I started serving her as Christ served His disciples, her attitude toward me changed. It did not happen overnight, but within three months, she started asking me those same questions. My behavior had touched her heart, and her attitude and behavior had changed.
First John 4:19 says that we love because God loved us first. Love stimulates love.
Love as a Way of Life
Some say love is an act of benevolence. That is not totally true. People can do a beneficial action with an unloving attitude.
The husband who says with a harsh voice, “OK, I’ll take the garbage out if you will get off my back” has not performed an act of love.
The husband who mows the grass simply because his wife has been nagging him for weeks is doing a kind act, but it may be done to silence her critical words.
The wife who agrees to be sexually intimate with her husband simply out of a sense of duty or guilt is not performing an act of love, either.
Love is the choice to cooperate with God in serving your spouse. The individuals who truly love see themselves as God’s agents for enriching the lives of their marriage partner. For them, love is a way of life. They are constantly looking for ways to help, encourage and support the partner.
Such love often stimulates warm, romantic feelings in the heart of the spouse. Emotions are the icing on the cake. But without a loving attitude and appropriate behavior, the icing will melt.
A man I spoke of in the first part of this series, the one who sat in my office complaining that he did not love his wife, eventually discovered the biblical concept of love. And with the help of God, he committed himself to loving his wife. His wife reciprocated his love, and their marriage was reborn.
I have seen this happen hundreds of times over the past 35 years as I have counseled couples. It can also happen in your marriage.
The Scriptures say the Holy Spirit pours the love of God in our hearts (Romans 5:5).
God wants to use you in your marriage. Ask Him to give you a loving attitude toward your spouse and to pour out His love through you. It is a prayer God will answer.