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Carers UK Forum • Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation
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Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 12:52 am
by Serendipity
Hi Everyone,

I have never posted on a forum before but I am slowly driving myself crazy so would really appreciate some advice/insights regarding the caring role of the well-spouse.

Over the past few months I have become increasingly close to a male friend of mine who is a well-spouse carer, and the situation has become more and more ‘complicated’ between us. I have never had a caring role for another adult and so do not feel that I can fully understand his situation or the complex range of emotions that must come with this role, even before any additional ‘complications’ between us are added to the mix.

I like him and care about him very much, but I am really struggling to understand his motivations or what seems to me to be very ‘erratic’ behaviour from him. Whilst I recognise the situation for what it is (and am certainly not wanting him to leave her), I am becoming more and more attached and so often find myself alternating between feeling angry and ‘used’ by him to feeling very guilty for not being the supportive ‘friend’ towards him that I should be.

So I would really appreciate any insights or advice from anyone who might be able to help me to better understand the complexities of this role and shed any light onto how he may be feeling. I realise that many of you may not condone the situation (and I’m not sure I would have either before I ended up in it!), but if anyone is able/willing to offer constructive advice or feedback I would really appreciate it.

Re: Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 8:27 am
by Juggler
I suggest that you take a look at the research undertaken by Carers UK (on this website) if you would like some insight into the lives of carers. For example: http://www.carersuk.org/for-professiona ... int-report

Re: Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 8:41 am
by Melly1
I would hazard a guess that he feels guilty, loyal to his wife, trapped by his caring situation, in a situation where his loyalties are split. Most carers spend their lives putting their caree's needs before their own and often there is little time for themselves.

Melly1

Re: Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 1:52 pm
by crocus
If you are a carer then there always seems to be some problem that you have to sort out or some emergency that you have to suddenly drop everything and attend to. You are constantly tired and feel guilty that you are letting everyone down. Your social life goes out of the window and friends disappear because you can't just go on social events without a great deal of organisation and the whole lot might suddenly go pear shaped anyway. Not many people can accept that you might have to suddenly let them down.
And all of this is without the added complications of divided loyalties and (probably) added guilt of a burgeoning relationship.

Re: Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 5:21 pm
by Serendipity
Hi All,

Many thanks to those of you who have taken the time to reply. I think it is very difficult (if not impossible) for an outsider to fully understand what a caring role really involves or the conflicting emotions that must come with it, especially if it's your spouse you are caring for who was once your equal. I know I have been struggling to appreciate this recently and I have often found myself questioning quite how I managed to get into this complicated mess and wondering whether I should just put an end to it for everyone's sakes (my own included).

But the problem is that I do really like him and want to be supportive, I just find his behaviour towards me very confusing (to say the least!!!) and it's hard not to feel rejected at times or like I serve only one purpose. I know how selfish that must sound though given the context, especially as if it were a girlfriend of mine I wouldn't get upset if they didn't reply to my texts for days (even weeks!) or only came round occasionally because they were so busy. I also think he struggles to admit or acknowledge the guilt he must feel so this just makes it harder for me to comprehend and sometimes leads me to doubt his motives even more.

Hearing from you all though makes me think about just how difficult it must be for him and I will try far harder to be more sensitive to his needs - please keep your advice coming! :)

Re: Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:56 pm
by jenny lucas
I hate to say this, but I would say that the very last thing a carer wants is another 'needy' person....(ie, someone wanting regular texts, etc etc...??)

Carers pour themselves out for their carees, as others here have already said. They are constantly, continually 'on call' for another human being (one they may love deeply, of course)(being a carer for someone you don't love is another circle of hell, alas!)(and another whole guilt trip!).

So, perhaps, if you think of yourself as part of his 'solution' and NOT part of his 'problem' (he's already got a massive, overwhelming problem in his caree's condition), that might help you to obtain the perspective you will need to have if you are to support him as you want to do. He simply cannot 'afford' any more 'demands'/'requests'/'needs' on his time.....

I suspect what you are hearing here is what you know already - that any kind of relationship with someone who has indelible committements elsewhere, is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term? That said, it could also be that you are his 'lifeline'.......????

It is desperately hard though...

One thing, please do remember - carers may 'hate' (insert alternative term here if that's too strong!) the situation they find themselves in - but they don't 'hate' their caree. What they hate is that their caree is so afflicted, and that they, the carer, have to be the one pouring themselves out for them. I would suspect that 'ideally' your friend would love a magic wand to take away the problem that their caree has - not, alas, to 'take away' their caree.

I wish all of you the best possible....KR, Jenny

Re: Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:05 am
by Serendipity
Hi Jenny

Thanks so much for your post, you made some really useful points which I have been thinking about a lot…

I think you are right about not needing someone who is too ‘needy’ because of all the other demands in his life. Intellectually I do know this, but I suppose I find it hard when everything is always on his terms because it doesn’t feel terribly ‘equal’ between us, and that’s not really how I would want a ‘relationship’ to be.

I think you are also right about me being a ‘lifeline’ for him and he has said similar to me before. But although it is nice to feel like he does value me and whatever I give to him (aside from the obvious) I also worry in the back of my mind what will happen when his caring role ends (which it will) and he no longer needs this ‘lifeline’… I’m not sure if that’s a very selfish concern or a perfectly natural worry???

You also talk about the specific difficulties of caring for someone who you don’t truly love, and that interests me because I don’t think things were very good before she became ill… although of course that may just be the ‘spin’ he puts on it for me. He also rarely talks about feeling guilty (although I’m sure he must do!) and I wish that he could acknowledge this with me as it would help me to understand his behaviour far more… but I guess it’s not an easy thing to talk about.

I suppose all of this though is just part and parcel of the situation I have gotten into, and so I either need to walk away or find a way of ‘reframing’ it in a positive light - for my own sanity and his! I think in reality I like and care far too much about him to end things (it’s already been very nearly a year) so I should instead focus on working harder to try and understand his situation and be more supportive.

Thanks for again for your thoughts, they did really help… any further insights are much appreciated! :)

Re: Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:53 am
by jenny lucas
Oh, Serendipity - I fear that you are wading into very dangerous waters!

Going only by what you are saying here (and I apprecite the full situation may be far more complex and nuanced in reality), it sounds like you are saying (please, I'm sorry if I'm intepreting this wrongly) that in a way (and this sounds dreadful!), this man is nursing a wife/partner who may not be that long for this world (???)

I hate to say this, but I don't think that makes your situation any more tenable than if that were not so! The 'emotional complications' will be IMMENSE.

I speak as I write - I was very happily married, but being a widow (as I am) even after a happy marriage does NOT put your head in a good place!

And if I have misinterpreted what you said, then things don't get any easier either!

Look, may I say this openly? However much of a 'lifeline' you are to this man, he simply is not 'free' to return any kind of relationship with you......

I know I would not be the only person in the world to say that the only advice anyone should ever give to someone having a relationship with an 'unfree' person is 'DON'T!'

Don't, for his sake, for the sake of his wife/partner, and for your sake. ......

This is only my personal feeling, but as I say, whichever way you look at your situation, the waters you are wading into seem incredibly murky and dangerous and difficult.

I wish you well, but if I were your mother or your sister, then I would want a far, far less dangerous relationship for you.....

All the best possible, Jenny.

Re: Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 11:47 am
by Serendipity
Hi Jenny,

Not really sure how to respond to that…

Admittedly it may not be a desirable situation for anyone concerned – sometimes these things happen despite your best intentions though! I think the problem is that I have already waded in up to my neck, and so what I’m trying to do now is figure out the best and most positive way of managing this… sometimes you go so far that retracing your steps is no longer an option.

Serendipity x

Re: Well Spouse Carer… A ‘complicated’ situation

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 2:02 pm
by Anne001
Hi Serendipity,

I'm afraid I would side with Jenny here, although of course we do not know the full circumstances so it is easy to misjudge. Do you not deserve a man, a relationship where he puts YOU first, and is free to do so? Yes, caring conjures up many complicated emotions but it may also be a useful out.

I have several friends who have had relationships with married men (not carers) where, ultimately, they were on their own on all important occasions in their lives - Christmas, birthdays etc etc. I really am not judging the ethics of this; it is simply that the relationships did not make them happy. Can this relationship make you happy where, frankly speaking, you will never be his main priority and his caring responsibilities mean that he will be even less available. Only you can decide this of course so I wish you luck. Anne