The intimacy of a relationship being challenged by caring requirements for those we love can be sad. And being unsure of outcomes or of the future regarding our or other’s independence can really affect the relationship we have with those we love.
Stress can arise when these situations change your role and how you interact with your spouse or partner. It has been shown by studies that for caregivers in high quality partnership relationships, greater disability in the recipient of care predicted greater feelings of caregiver overload.
The loss of intimacy in a relationship can be very challenging – we all crave closeness, especially during periods of stress. The emotional connection that once sparked our intimacy and sense of romance may suffer as new demands as a caregiver take over. We need to take steps to remain positive when caregiving changes our role with our partner or spouse.
We may start to notice how the extra burdens can affect us. Being overburdened or exhausted, it’s difficult to feel attractive. Or maybe your partner takes medication or has an illness that affects their sexual function?
Illnesses such as dementia may mean you wonder if a partner can’t properly consent to a sexual relationship. And personal contact becomes more about performing chores, and makes us feel emotionally detached—and with little left for hugging, holding hands and sitting together.
As caregivers, we may experience feelings of wishful thinking, or blaming ourselves when put in the role of increased caring. But while we could let our role as caregiver affect our relationship, there are good ways for couples to maintain close connections and physical intimacy.
As well as considering coping strategies when dealing with the challenges of caring, we can go further and remain in touch with the feelings and emotions that encourage relationships to remain warm and strong.
And taking time for intimacy can be an invaluable source of comfort for both partners when they’re facing a health crisis or managing a chronic illness. Physical intimacy is a way for a couple to affirm their feelings, strengthen their bond, and enjoy the time they have together.
Here are a few ways you can ways you can maintain or increase your closeness and intimacy:
- Talk openly with your spouse/partner. You may naturally want to avoid awkward or difficult subjects, but try to keep the openness going regarding you needs and desires.Be honest with your partner about needs and desires, and how caregiving can affect both. This kind of sharing can preserve intimacy.
- Understand that you can call on the patience and open communication you have used throughout your relationship. And remember to manage your expectations – if your partner wasn’t into sex before the new situation then perhaps that may still be the same.
- Talk with a specialist healthcare worker – such as a psychologist or social worker.If you want to work through your feelings without fearing judgment or are not sure how to broach the subject of sex or intimacy with your loved one, this can be especially helpful. Caregiver support groups can also be a good place to feel less alone. You’re fairly likely to find plenty of others who share your concerns.
- Maybe an old-fashioned date is a good way to rekindle the flame of passion? Seeing a show or going to a restaurant can get the memories going of past dates, maybe, and set the mood for some romance and intimacy.
- Using Home Care packages or respite is a good way to relieve the pressure from your own caregiving and allow some of the stress of caring to be lifted. Use the time to pursue some uplifting pursuits that feel like you’ve had a break from the responsibility for a while.
- Or use the time of respite to do something for the one you love, shop for new clothes or a book, or head to the library for some books or magazines they might enjoy. Many libraries stock a large range of DVD films these days to borrow. What better way to rekindle the fire of love than to watch a good-ole romantic comedy or musical?
It’s best to remember that there are many ways for couples to share intimacy and closeness. Intimacy can be much more than just sexual – try some tender gestures, and remember these intimacies will work both ways, making you both feel more involved with each other emotionally.
Gestures such as hugging, closeness or holding hands are but one way. Being kind, understanding and sensitive to each other’s needs can be a great way of remembering the fun and good times you have had together.
Your goal is to find what works best for you and your spouse or partner. Don’t feel pressured to maintain intimacy in ways that don’t work for you.