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When I occasionally go out to a bar or restaurant, I often engage someone next to me in conversation. Often I am with my girlfriend. She claims that I am rude and it appears that I ignore her. But with such a limited social circle as a caregiver, I often feel the need to connect with new people. How can I get her to understand. Or maybe I am rude and selfish.

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Everyone has different needs. I once dated a guy who had a job where he saw no people all day. When he wasn't at work, he felt the need to start up conversations with strangers. I, on the other hand, had a job where I talked to people all day long, so at the end of the day, was in need of some down time. I found it odd that he would want to talk to strangers during our dates and he probably thought it odd that I preferred some one-on-one conversation. I think it's healthy to get the right mix of one-on-one conversation with your partner and outside conversation with others. Nothing to be gained in making either person "the bad guy", we all just have different needs and communication preferences. I recommend you talking this out with your girlfriend to see if you can reach some happy middle ground that takes both of your needs into consideration.
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It's bad enough when the person for whom you are caring tries to make you feel guilty about taking some time for yourself without other family members and so-called "friends" doing it too! As long as you have provided the best care possible for your loved one while you have some time to yourself, you can't let someone who has never walked in your shoes make you feel guilty.
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As a caregiver of almost four years. When I do get a free moment, and then get past worrying if the person staying with him can handle it or I'm going to get a call that cuts my evening short, or that because it costs my sister for me to have a free non spontaneous moment, I want to be like I was in my life before caregiving...free-spirited...yet my BF, that lives with us, is as are many men...needy, because unfortunately society has raised many of them that way...to look for their Mom in the woman they love...so as a daughter taking care of a Dad...I often feel pulled by both of them in their neediness and that's selfish...so I tell my BF that I cannot and will not be pulled between them both. And, I will take time for myself to do those things I love, that he is not interested in, and go out and socialize with others that are having adult conversations about topics I am interested in, without the smells,sounds, and stress of staying stuck in the house as a caregiver, and I don't care what anyone else thinks because they are not in my body all day dealing with this as a primary caregiver so they also don't get to dictate what type of stimulus I need in order to keep going. If your GF is there for you then she has to talk to you and you find that balance between spending time together and spending time with others....you can't get everything you need from one person....
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I so agree with hadenough! Unless you are a caregiver there is no way anyone can hold a conversation with you longer than 15 minutes. Everyone says join a support group, but who watches your loved one while you try to go the groups? I did have a bf before I began taking care of my mom and trust me he would listen for a while but after about 30 minutes he wanted to talk about something else and to get on with whatever else is going on. Being a caregiver for a period of time makes you isolate yourself in your own world when you have no relief. I would like to start a support group where singles come to meet someone and can enjoy conversation. I bet you if you get to caregivers talking about the same thing for an hour, there would be another conversation starting up soon after because you would have gotten all your frustrations out and then could talk about yourself. Caregivers don't talk about themselves much in public because if they have been doing caregiving for awhile, there is not much to say about themselves, only about their caregiving duties. I care about all of you
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Are you having real conversation with the stranger or using them as a sounding board. Maybe you have the need to say things out loud so that you get the chance to hear yourself as a way of sorting things out. Employ a psychotherapist whose job it is to listen and be non-judgmental and will help you move through this emotioanl roller-coastering caregiving process.
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Are you having real conversation with the stranger or using them as a sounding board. Maybe you have the need to say things out loud so that you get the chance to hear yourself as a way of sorting things out. Employ a psychotherapist whose job it is to listen and be non-judgmental and will he you move through this emotioanl roller-coastering caregiving process.
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Scared,

I understand what you are saying, we travel so I don't have friends around either unless it is near one of my friends. Most of my friends have been or are currently caregivers, so that gives me a network.

I do not discuss somethings with my siblings via phone either because it upsets mom. Some days she tells me she doesn't have Alzheimer's so I have to be careful around her as well.

I just find it amazing how people abandon each other as they age. A couple of my sisters are just in denial, but I have one that is coming into an understanding. My mom told me not to share it with her siblings because she said they still wouldn't call. So I understand what you mean by using email and texting, I count that as something in my world too. My mom does like to go out, but we have take things with us so we are prepared.

I don't even understand children at all. I have 3 stepsons and they confuse the daylights out of me as well in terms of how they interact with my husband with no health problems. So I imagine we are much older they won't talk to him either.

It just amazes me how people react that is all I can say. I don't have the answers but it does amaze and surprise me.
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We have no friends here. Our friends are all in other states. They used to call every 6 weeks or so, but since my husband had gone down hill so rapidly, they don't call. I guess they don't know how to talk to him. I don't know. I try to get him to call them, but they don't return his calls either. We don't have any family here, either, and his sons aren't interested. They hadn't called for a couple of years anyway, and even though I called and told them what is going on and they said they would call their Dad, they haven't. No surprises there. It's just a sad situation. Most of my communication is via e-mail and texting because I can't carry on a conversation when my husband is around. He listens in to everything I say so I can't discuss anything with anyone on the phone without him getting mad at me.
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Scared,

I am sorry that has to be a challenge, my husband is the opposite he will run the errands and be gone an extra 20 minutes because he is visiting. I am the one that doesn't get out much and sits with my mom while I work. I work online so my interaction is mostly my computer and my friends that live far away.

I am surprised by my sister and happy about it a the same time. I have one that calls when she feels like and one that calls everyday but it is because she is bored, but she is not really concerned with what mom is doing. It is a weird situation, but I am grateful that one is willing to call more frequently and on demand now because in the past it wasn't her behavior.

Right now my mom is napping, my husband is at a laundromat and I am enjoying the breeze and the birds. Right now that quiet is so peaceful to me, it is giving me energy.

Does any of your husband's friends ever come for a visit? That is what bothers me the most for my mom. When mom is at home, no one comes to visit it, but the moment they find out we are leaving town suddenly they want to come for a visit. It just drives me nuts. My mom went to the same church for over 40 years but no one calls or comes to see her. She has 5 living sisters and 3 brothers, yet only 1 calls regularly another one calls every once in a while otherwise she doesn't hear from them, but they get mad because she doesn't call them. Oh and my mom is the oldes of all them. So this what bugs me the most for my mom. It use to be that people would come for a visit or make a phone call but now that just doesn't happen.

So I was just curious if your husband ever spoke with his friends?
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It's great that you have a sister who will call your Mom and try to brighten her day, too. Yes, we certainly all need communication with more that just our care giver or receiver. I wish I could get my husband into some kind of group where he could interact with other people, but he is and always has been very selective how his friends. He won't go to any of the functions in our development or within our local community because he doesn't want to socialize with just anyone. It's hard to believe he was a very successful on-the-road salesman nearly all of his working life and made his living by talking to anyone and everyone with whom he came in contact. He made his livelihood "cold calling" in people, but somehow he has lost that interest. He used to talk to everyone we met at a restaurant or in a store, but now he doesn't say much to anyone except to complain to the server about the food. It really is such a dramatic change for him...but one he doesn't or won't recognize.
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I have been thinking about this discussion quite a bit this morning and talking to some of my friends via Instant messaging and email. We are actually discussing my mom in terms of her behaviors.

Like yesterday, my mom was not having an awful day, but it was not what I would say is a good day. Anyway, my youngest sister has realized that I have a full plate with mom and that she lives far away. But she has agreed that if mom has a good day I am to text her and she will give mom a short phone call to see if that helps.

Yesterday had some rough moments in it, so I text my sister and she called last night. It was only a 5 minute conversation, but it brightened the rest of mom's night.

The reason I bring this into this discussion is because my mom is stuck with just my husband and myself all the time as well. Just as we caregivers need socialization it seems my mom does too. I cannot speak for those you are caring for, but the fact is we all need people to talk with. My mom won't remember much of it tomorrow, but by being able to tell my sister what she did yesterday bright a different attitude to my mom.

So we all need the socializing a bit in some manner, we just have to keep a positive attitude and look for a way to make that happen. I know personally, I consider all of us on this site like friends to talk and chat with. We all need someone, so if anyone needs to talk I am happy to listen, we are all here for each other.
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I wuvsicecream....My cats take whatever they can get. If you leave a glass of water or milk unattended around my house...it's usually claimed by a cat. Did I mention I had 6 cats? I just love reading your posts..they make me giggle.
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I understand. Caregiving is so lonely at times that I get hungry for conversation from adults who are actually living in the world. I have tried to find support groups in my area with no luck. I guess we are busy taking care of our loved ones so who has time to attend a support group. There are some suggestions here but I am going to start a new thread regarding support groups. May not be the adult conversation that I am longing for but it would be great to have a cup of coffee and vent with others in similar situations. Hang in there...
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dkjellander really made a very important point when she wrote "No person can take care of everyone and not themselves and survive. Your loved ones, spouse, significant other, and children will be better off if you take care of yourself."
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Good comment, dkjelander. I can relate to what you say, as my husband is gone a lot of the time interracting w/ others on a daily basis. He even admits that, and tells me he wishes I could get more free time. I almost never get a break, because wherever I go, Mom usually goes w/ me. It's not his fault, of course, and I'm glad he gets the escapes that he does. (and I'm working on getting some relief so I get a few more breaks as well.) But I have to say, in support of Dunwoody, it may be as dkj suggested, that the girlfriend is with you much of the time. Same conversations, same experiences, (and this is good, just like being w/ hubby all of time) BUT, when I get out infrequently, I just become immersed in the joy of being with other people. Conversing with new people about all kinds of subjects, listening to music, dancing a bit, is all great for the soul and makes one feel renewed. Husband is with me, but he, too, enjoys chatting with others. Usually it's with people we know who go out with us, but sometimes we get to talking to strangers in those situations, and it's fun and feels so free and such a getaway. So, I agree w/ dkj, you should just talk to girlfriend about it, and as some of the others suggested, just make sure to not turn your back on her during a conversation, and make sure that she is included....asking her questions or making comments directly to her, so that she isn't left out. Maybe she's not as out going as you are, so be careful that she doesn't become a "nobody." That would be unfair to her. She sticks with you with all of your caregiving duties and requirements, I assume. So she shouldn't be treated like a nobody, right? :)
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Dunwoody101,

I do not see what you are doing as rude at all. I understand completely how you feel and I realize that my viewpoint might be different as a woman. I am married, my husband is a full-time college student and we care for my mom. We are together all the time and just once in awhile I want to interact with other people. My husband walks our dog and runs errands so he is always meeting new people. It drives him crazy that I want to talk with my friends or just interact with others. He feels like it takes away from his time.

Personally, I see your girlfriend as being a bit selfish and uncaring. I am not trying to be mean, but if she cares about you, she too can interact in the conversation. If she cares she would be respectful of your needs as well, this is one thing my husband does not do well either. He gets paranoid if I talk to another woman or man, which drives me nuts.

I am sorry that others might disagree with me, but I believe as human beings we have become more about ourselves than caring about others. I spend all of my time caring about others and taking care of others, but then I have to take care of me.

As caregivers we have to remember we are no good to those we are caring for and about if we do not take some time for ourselves. If that means interacting with a stranger for 5 or 10 minutes for human contact, then I see nothing wrong with it. In fact, I have done it myself.

For those of you that are mother's your children always want your attention, but if you want to be the best mom possible you will remember to take a moment to take care of yourself.

No caregiver is good to anyone if they do not have a healthy mind, body and spirit so when you have that time for a few minutes you need to take it. For me it could be going to the grocery store on my own, it means quiet time or time to talk with an old friend.

No person can take care of everyone and not themselves and survive. Your loved ones, spouse, significant other, and children will be better off if you take care of yourself.
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jeannegibbs nailed it on the head. My ex-husband and I had little time to go out and it be just the two of us. He is very type A personality and thinks everyone enjoys talking to him. Believe it or not, not everyone wants to engage in a conversation with a stranger. I believe it is rude to intrude on what may be someone elses valued private escape, not to mention ignoring your girlfriend. She could easily interpret your action as "he would rather be with strangers than with me."
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Interaction with others is very important, but maybe the time to do that isn't when you are with your girlfriend unless she is completely in tune with what you are going through. I completely understand your need to communicate with others when you are in the situation we are in. Maybe you could find another outlet...as suggested a support group or a church group or a singles group or something. "outsiders" might be sympathetic, but unless someone is living through or has lived through what we are dealing with, they cannot fully understand the need for reasonable, intelligent, adult interaction. Oh, by the way wuvsicecream, I have a bird who wants my constant attention, too, and finds any number of ways to be sure I give it to him! It's the comic relief in my busy, stressful day! Don't you know that Mom's water tastes better? It's the same way with little kids. Even if they have their own whatever it is you are both having, they want yours.
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wusicecream
arent cats SUPPOSED to have their own glass of water?
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Have you considered joining a Caregivers Support Group? I'm a volunteer facilitator for the Alzheimer's Assoc 's Support Group and I can tell you from experience how helpful it is to know you are not alone - that others are experiencing a lot of the same feelings you are. The group is all about listening, sharing, getting information, offering advice. You can check the Alzheimer's Website for support groups in your area, or check with your Local Area on Aging for information. Sometimes the websites for specific diseases will also list support groups in your area ... i.e. cancer.org. Take care and good luck,
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Dunwoody101 I just looked at your profile because in your question it wasn't mentioned about your care issues.
Perhaps you are expecting your GF to understand what you are in need of when you are out with her. Most of us here know exactly what it means to have "free time" even if it is a peaceful shower, or a phone conversation without worrying about what's happening in the next room with your Mom during your "peace time", LOL never at peace is more like it. Possibly your GF thinks...good, now he's got time for me, and he's talking to strangers???? I get on this site and see those in need and so many thoughts running through my head and want to help everyone. My BF is a quiet guy, a loner, but on weekends he wants my attention and I SsssuuuussssHH him and say "wait".... "I am in the middle of a thought, helping someone" . I think that he must think I have a boyfriend online......I'd rather spend my time helping other's???? I don't even like that this takes my attention away from him. My cat's even act up when I am not focusing on them. As I was typing that my cat put his head in my glass of water... I give them their own glass, it is full of fresh water, but no they want mine.... ATTENTION!!!! Just a thought for you.
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Well, let's say you are rude. She loves you anyway, right? Or is this a more casual relationship, where your apparent rudeness might keep it from being more than casual?

At a bar or a social occasion where people mingle, I think engaging in conversations with strangers is suitable. But in a restaurant? What do you do, lean your chair over to the next table? Wave someone over? That seems over the line to me.

How about this? When you are sitting across the table from your girlfriend, pay attention to her. This is your chance to have a nice adult conversation with someone who knows and appreciates you. Good change of pace from home, huh? And when you are sitting at a lunch counter or bar with your sweetie next to you, include her in the conversation you strike up with the guy on your other side.

Why even bring the girlfriend if you are more interested in chatting with strangers?

Can you get in your quota of conversations with strangers when GF is not with you? In the produce aisle while you are shopping, maybe? In the checkout line? Selecting a book in the library or bookstore?

I can relate to the urge to talk to someone -- almost anyone -- after being cooped up in a caregiving situation. But if you want to continue the relationship with this woman (or any woman) I suggest you either restrain yourself or include her in the conversations when you are with her.
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