Advice on how to cope. How do I support my partner while I'm feeling so neglected?

Started by

My wonderful partner is caring for his terminal elderly uncle, alongside his uncle's wife and son. Other relatives are also involved in caring for uncle's needs as he wants to be at home.

It was over six months ago that they got the diagnosis and almost straight away around the clock care started for uncle.

We go days without seeing each other, or even speaking, because my partner stays there totally involved in it all.

I am struggling to understand his dedication to someone he wasn't very close to. I was supportive (I still am but I'm so shut out of his life I'm starting to fall apart) but it's been so long, and even when he's gone my partner thinks he'll stay there with aunty to keep her company.

His cousin lives in the cottage next door so is always there and does most of the personal care and medications.

How do I support my partner while I'm feeling so neglected? How do I put my feelings aside so I can be the for him? Is it normal to feel so hurt that he's so totally engrossed with his family?

And yes, I do feel totally selfish asking these questions. I'm trying to find ways to cope with the loneliness of not being around my partner for so long. We see each other every three or four days for lunch, or a quick hug in passing, or a quick phone call. And I miss him so much and feel so selfish that I need him when I'm not the person who's dying.


Of course you need him. And since there are so many family members to share the load, it seems very odd that he can't/won't make more time for you. And staying on after his uncle dies, to keep his auntie company? Who does he think is going to keep you company?

There is something very off in this picture. Lots of red flags, I'm afraid.

Do you ever have enough time together for serious talks about your future?
He's neglecting his relationship with you. Those are the facts. I think its reasonable for you to be asking these questions. I think he's suffering with a case of "all or nothing" and not being able to balance his life. Has he always been like this? He is at risk of damaging the relationship with you - if he hasn't already. There are others around helping, so he actually doesn't need to be there 24/7. For some reason, he doesn't know how to find the balance. Can you speak to your doctor about this? Do you share a doctor? Perhaps the doctor can gently help to guide your husband back to a balanced life pointing out his neglect of you. He has more than one committment right now. You are part of that.
I felt like it would be really selfish to tell him I need him when his uncle is dying. I didn't expect it to be as long as it has been - nearly nine months not the six I said before as it started in March. And now it is actually drawing near the end I have said to him I need to at least hear from him throughout the day. That I don't hear from him for such long periods of time that I get afraid he has changed his mind about us. We've been together for two and a quarter years and it doesn't seem long enough to withstand something as big as this separation.

He is a very all or nothing kind of person. It's comforting to read that I'm not pure selfish that I miss him so much. My pop died from the same thing in August, days after we found out, so I didn't realise how differently it would affect his uncle who has been bedridden for so long.

We don't share the same doctor and I don't know how to put it to him but I will consider your words and maybe I'll find a way to have this discussion.
i don't think you're selfish. It sounds as if he's abandoned your relationship for his uncle (not his mom or dad but an uncle??). It's very strange. And regardless of how over-burdened he may be or how torn apart he is over the impending death of his uncle if he wanted to talk to you he would call. But he doesn't. And you're right to wonder why.
I'm going out on a limb here---my DH is a "hands off" kind of guy....but when his uncle, with whom he was NOT close, was placed in a NH and we were told he had a few months to live--DH was up there (45 minute drive) all the time! And he'd stay for hours!!

It was guilt, in his case, pure and simple. He had neglected his own father when he was dying by just ignoring the situation and letting me do all the caring--and his dad passed, and DH fell apart. He was not ready.

Perhaps your partner is feeling similar anxiety? If my DH had given the care to his own father, I doubt he would have made more than a couple of visits to uncle (who BTW, was totally "gone" mentally and didn't recognize anyone when he was moved to the NH. This was all my DH's way to atone for not being around when his dad was dying.

You say he is an all or nothing kind of guy? Well, this shows that he is. That could be YOU he's caring for---I know when/if I get "to the end" my DH will not do a single thing towards my care. He is just not made that way.

At some point you will have to talk to him about this. Your relationship is not 'new and fresh'-- I'd cut him some slack.

Good Luck.
It wouldn't be selfish for you to say something (and your aren't selfish), but it sounds to me that it could be abit dangerous for you to say something at this point in time, because its coming to the very end of his caring role it seems, and emotions could be raw. Instead of actually saying something about the situation right now (and pointing out the obvious); how about taking a different tack and saying something like "I think you need a break from caring - its not good for you to go so long without a break - let's go out for dinner or lunch, or whatever, or a drive".   Maybe he needs some guidance from you - that he needs a break.  If he agrees, go out and enjoy yourself.  Don't say anything about missing him (putting pressure on... just be with him).  If he says he can't, leave it at that... and perhaps after the dust has settled; after his uncle has passed away - some time down the track, perhaps bring up at that point (after emotions aren't so raw) your perceptions of how he handled the situation, aka, that he hasn't been balanced in sharing himself around - but do it carefully as it sounds like he's heavily invested in the care of his uncle.  Who knows why... but he obviously felt he had to be there.  Maybe down the track, you'll find out why.  Its also worth considering that you are also grieving, and no wonder you feel like you could use some support yourself - and he isn't around - so this feeling of not being supported is amplified.  Sending hugs.
How about offering to go with and provide support? That is how I would handle it.
I work 40+ hours per week and still have two children at home, and there is the aunty, the son, the other son here and there, another aunty, an other uncle just left to go back to his home country, and my partner's father about to arrive, nurses, plus my partner, so they're quite crowded out with carers.

I did have a bit of a talk - okay it was two and a half hours worth of talking and after reading the pp's post it's rather lucky it didn't end in a mess - and I did tell him I miss him and that I can't go on living like this: not hearing from him for days on end and not knowing if he's okay or what's happening. I said I'm not asking him to leave his uncle, just to call me or text me and let me know what's happening. He has started texting regular updates and surprised me by coming home last night and the night before. He's opened up and talking about what's happening and his thoughts around each member's involvement and how he's feeling.

I have given much thought to the post about living out past regrets; I'm not sure if it's a 'regret' but his wonderful grandfather, who raised him, died suddenly when he was 14. He loved him and looked up to him and still does very much. Maybe he's finding his way through that.

He decided to step back a bit yesterday and see how things went for his family but one of the cousins doesn't take care of uncle the way the rest of them do - he has him walking with a walker rather than wheeling him in his chair, and sits him on regular chairs he could fall off, so the others are very stressed. They're all exhausted too and he was hoping the other cousin would be more helpful to relieve him and other family a bit. Cousin is going back to his hometown to work today but it was a wonderful little moment we could spend together and it's helped me.

I'll be a constant source of woe when the warm glow wears off - get ready!

Seriously though, it's very good to hear your thoughts. I can't really talk to friends because they see the outside, the obvious that he's neglecting his most significant person, and I'm too upset to try to explain that it's more than that. I don't think he has lost our love, just that he can't manage the two situations and his head is going at a million miles with whatever thoughts he needs to have to process himself with this situation.

Thank you (:
Great news :) it sounds like he responded to your concerns appropriately. That's great :)
Thank you each of you for your amazing advice.

His family have been quite needy of his help and support, with him doing everything they ask, from the gardening/lawns/cleaning/washing, helping with the family business and running countless errands such as aunty asks him to go get cut meat for lunch, then when he gets back asks him to go get a certain type of bread for lunch...on and on. And she's very opinionated and demanding. I've been so disappointed with cooking him a magic dinner, to help show him he's special, only for him to not even come home that night because she told him he had to stay for dinner and gets really cross if he says he has plans already.

He asked them if it'd be alright for him to go to his own work today (he hasn't worked in months with this situation) and they all said yes. He popped in between jobs, and she asked him to fix the car, and after that to mow the lawn. He asked could he do it tomorrow and she got cranky so he mowed the lawn. She told him to have lunch and he said he was really late to his next appointment and couldn't. So she got cranky. And finally he is showing some frustration towards things - I'm obviously quite frustrated with that they demand him 24/7 but he's been okay with that. He won't turn his back on things, he's not like that, but perhaps he might get some perspective that he is there to help them but his aunty is demanding too much. She's 80 and he feels he has to treat her with the utmost respect but I think she's quite unreasonable a lot of the time. I know she's grieving but she was like this before, and now she's become such a force that can't be reckoned with.

His kids are coming from miles away for his birthday and his special day with them looks like it will not happen. I look on in absolute frustration. But rather than be critical, the things you've all brought you my attention gives me the ability to find something encouraging to say - instead of saying nothing like I've been doing up into today. Thank you!

Keep the conversation going (or start a new one)

Please enter your Comment

Ask a Question

Reach thousands of elder care experts and family caregivers
Get answers in 10 minutes or less
Receive personalized caregiving advice and support