Keeping Love and Respect in the Partner/Caregiver Relationship

When a couple gets married, they commit to love their partner “in sickness and in health.” However, major illness or injury, such as amputation, can have a big toll even in the strongest relationships. No matter what the cause, limb loss can affect mobility, opportunities, activities, comfort level, and mood. But keeping good practices in a relationship can help keep it healthy.

Listen. Good communication starts with good listening. Practice listening actively to your partner, focusing on his or her words, body language, and voice tone. Practice listening, where you repeat back to your partner what you just heard from him or her. This, along with asking clarifying questions, will help ensure that you understand each other.

Know yourself. You are the best judge of your own internal experiences. Before you ask for what you need, pause and think. Ty to identify your true feelings and needs accurately. For example, try to differentiate between whether you are physically uncomfortable or emotionally distressed. This will help you ask for what you need more precisely.

Make requests, not demands. If you value the person who is helping you, you can do this very powerfully by using the most basic manners. Statements like “Please, would you help me with …” and “Thank you very much” are amazing in a relationship.

Be specific. When making a request of your partner, try to be as specific as possible. A common problem in almost every relationship is expecting our partner to be able to read our mind. Many problems can be avoided by simply saying exactly what you need. For example, “Would you be able to give me a ride to my doctor’s appointment tomorrow, please? We would need to leave the house by 9:30.”

Recognize the person as a partner first and then a caregiver. It happens, but we sometimes slip into taking our partners for granted. When experiencing a major health problem, it can be easy to regard our partner as a personal attendant, responsible for meeting our every single need. And it is often difficult for both individuals to recall that their relationship is foremost a partnership. My suggestion is to set aside “couples” time every week when you and your partner can interact as a couple, not as a patient and caregiver.

Give back. When ill or injured, you may need a little extra help and care from your partner. One of the ways to ease this situation for both partners, though, is to remain mindful that it is both possible and necessary to give back to your partner, even if you are injured. Think about ways you can take care of them. This might include providing companionship like playing games or doing social activities together. Emotional support such as listening to your partner or expressing gratitude for their care and empathy for all their experiences. Honestly, the best way to find out what your partner-caregiver needs is to ask and listen! 🙂

Love your partner as your caregiver, and love your caregiver as your partner!

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