How do I help support my caregiving husband and nurture our marriage at the same time?

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My husband and I recently got married and have been dating for almost a decade prior to that. He is the primary caregiver for both of his parents and we live in the neighborhood. He has been caring for them full-time since approximately 10-15 years. His siblings are not helpful or supportive and neither is able to help with caregiving duties and both make him feel guilty on a regular basis about wanting to have a life of his own while balancing helping them. The family is very resistant to having outside help come in. Partially because of the large out of pocket cost and partially because of previous bad experiences with inexperienced, inappropriate lazy and not well trained home health aides. I'm trying to figure out how to help him balance his devotion to helping his parents and having time for ourselves to create a life together. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Goodwife, I feel for you. I have the same situation. I was married for the first time about 3 years ago. I was so excited to become a wife. I did not marry until I was 53. We both had our hands full, he has a special needs son age 22 at the time and I had my mother move in with us about 2 months after we started living together. My family was no help, they actually refused to help, and left it all on us. We knew what was ahead of us when we married but to be honest I believe it was good for both of us to just be there for each other. Our situation lasted for approximately 4 years with everyone living in a small house. We both work full time, his job taking him out of town for a few weeks at a time, so I was left to deal with most of the situation. His ex wife was NO help at all, she would disappear for weeks at a time leaving all the responsibility to me. After 4 years of this I was at my witts end and starting to withdrawal. It caused me a lot of grief at work, I have a demanding job and it was very hard to try and do it all. We did have caregivers and yes you are right, mine seemed to come in with great intentions but after a few months we were back to the same old stuff, it seemed as though they would get comfortable and just stop doing anything. Its very frustrating. Being newly married, I know its very difficult but you need to hire someone for relief if its just to be able to go to dinner or to go to a hotel for a weekend or even over night. As far as the siblings they seem very unfair and unreasonable as mine was. She demanded everything and did nothing. She watched every dime and even came up with ridicules ideas wanting us to cover all costs. Mom had the money to take care of herself and we did not ask for any money for any extra expenses that we incurred. The best advice that I can give you being in your situation is to please take time to do things together. My mom now requires a nursing home, I did not want to do this but it became beyond what I could provide at home. The Step son is now in Missouri his cousin has a special needs working facility and he was able to move there with family and get a job. (his dream). I now miss them all, although I was at my witts end. I think sometimes that I want them back but its not possible at this point. You have a very hard situation and I feel for having the same situation. It takes a very understanding and caring person to be there for one another. Sometimes I felt bad thinking my husband would tire of the situation. The son was not that bad and could stay alone for short periods of time but my Mother became so bad that I could not leave the house at all when I was not at work. When I would say something to him about the situation I will never forget his kindness, he would just say honey, I know if it were my mom you would be right there by my side helping me as much as you could. What illness does his parents have? The best advice that I can give you is the advice my husbands mother gave to us, hold on tight and you will make it through this. Just take time like I said to plan a night out or to get away even for 1 day.
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I give you "newly Weds" a lot of credit. Knowing what I do now after caring for Mom, I would never enter a marriage knowing I would be expected to care for the spouses parents.
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If you can lend a hand to help and be thankful that you are not their care caretaker. I am sue they are very demanding. As for nurturing be thankful for any time you have with hubby. The sacrifices will be great. Take time for respite care away from the situation so you can create time together.
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Grammyteacher 's response was amazing. Absolutely wonderful support both ways.
It is probably needed in marriages where one is caring for his or her parents. It makes one think that the same caring would be bestowed on the other partner. Help him and he is sure to be there for you.
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Grammyteacher 's response was amazing. Absolutely wonderful support both ways.
It is probably needed in marriages where one is caring for his or her parents. It makes one think that the same caring would be bestowed on the other partner. Help him and he is sure to be there for you.
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Goodwife--
You walked into this marriage KNOWING ahead of time that hubby's parents are important to him and he is going to be the loving son---and hopefully (the signs are all there!) he will also be a loving husband. Count yourself lucky!!

A date night each week. Private time for each other that is truly private, meaning, mom & dad aren't in any way able to reach you. You're "newlyweds" & just establishing the "married" relationship, which is so very different from the "dating" one, no matter how long you dated. Make each other a priority. Mom & dad could be in the picture for a long, long time, and their health will not improve as they age.

Support hubby by truly SUPPORTING him--but also watch that his parents don't "use and abuse" him. You will find your stride over time.

My brother took my parents in 20 years ago. Daddy passed 13 years ago. Mother is still with them. Brother has a large bedroom suite for him and his wife. They retreat there a LOT. They raised 5 kids in this 20 years...along with the care of our parents. We too have only 1 other sib who helps, me, and I don't get along with mother well, so I can only do so much before she sends me packing. Brother has maintained a strong relationship with his wife partly due to the fact that house rules were set before mother moved in. She is not "allowed" (that sounds harsh, but it's not) into the upstairs of the home. That is where the family lives and is a family. Mother has her own apartment and the use of the laundry room ( 1 day is all she needs) and the huge living room and dining room adjacent to her apartment, if she has company or sit down dinners (no longer does that).

SIL doesn't "do" for mother. I clean, when she'll allow it. SIL has had 5 kids to raise and now works PT. She wouldn't let mother starve or be in need, but she is very good at boundaries. She is not in mother's apt., fussing her at all, ever. This is what works for them.

You don't say a whole lot about the actual situation you are in, so I do hope you come back and tell us what exactly your DH is doing for his folks. In time, he may need to hire outside help, and you will need to be supportive of that.

Nurture your marriage first. I think anyone would agree with that.
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What you need to do is set some boundaries and enforce them with consequences if they're not observed. What you need is a book titled boundaries, that will help a lot and guide you through boundary setting
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Much good advice here. All I can add is: it's easier to handle emotional stress when one is physically healthy. So take care of your health, and encourage your husband to take care of his. Eat healthy, natural (unprocessed) foods. Exercise, take walks, stretch. Pray, meditate, listen to music that uplifts and relaxes you. Look at beauty, perhaps in the form of flowers in a vase or a special potted plant.
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My thoughts: marriage requires maintenance..just like a car needs maintenance ( I tell my husband...because men understand cars) We established a "date day"...it is subject to change, but we work to plan something...a walk, movie on TV, dinner, drive to a park, ...at least for most of one day a week. I also go with him sometimes as he cares for his mother...we talk on the way. We have a dialog process we learned from "Marriage Encounter" so most days spend 10 minutes writing on a question ( they have hundreds of questions like.."How do I feel when you hug me after a rough day")...so then we sit in the evening and share what we wrote for 10 minutes and feel closer to each other. It has made a great difference for us. This is a tough balance with aging parents...also take time to nurture yourself! For men, I say "Love your neighbor as your self." For women, I say "Love yourself as you love your neighbor."
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What interesting replies. I love the model shown by grannyteacher, and it works because the parenting work is shared, the plans for future in the trailer are shared, and the expectations of making aging elders part of the family are shared. On the other hand, Farmerswife notes how her husband has always been the one who picks up the slack while others play and play.

I have found myself torn between both of those models, trying to live up. I value the one that includes the fragile as family members - yet we live in a culture which focuses mostly on the activities of younger people - so any wife trying to make changes may find herself on her own, as others are too busy to help much - and all many do is give unrealistic advice, like, "take more time for yourself". That's not what's missing, it's shared time, and long-planning time -

We rely on professionals to help with care, but more and more, professionals help with only fragments, they are experts on varied fragments. In our mobile society, we have few who live in a family of several generations over time, as used to happen.

I feel huge gaps in this model, as I struggle to support my current living situation as I age, but spent lots of my younger years traveling to care for my disabled brother, whom I placed 5 hours away from me, trying to have it both ways, preserve my independence, yet also make time to care for him. That all was my job, and I did enjoy the care times, and found it worked pretty well to set him up with community to support him in Maine (made sure he was always signed up for Adult Ed classes) and paid for taxi to take him twice a week - meanwhile he attended the special programs run by professionals - who only helped with the fragments assigned, during the hours assigned. I got good at helping, and in younger years, didn't mind - meanwhile I live in the USA while all my sibs live in Canada, so I never did find ways to share the care, they were taught by a male favoring mother, that their loyalty was to their families, and the goal was to play and play.

For our healthcare to work, we need to find ways to bring community/family involvement where all are involved, regular engagements together that is not focused on medical care - my own home now feels barren to me, as I find it difficult to figure out where to live and work, after choosing independence across distance, while valuing care and traveling to do it. I rent two rooms to renters, in order to afford it - but with no shared kitchen area, we never see each other, and I feel I have no space and no company either, and disabled brother's needs gradually grew to require nursing home care, and a specialized brain injury day program.

Growing up, I remember the contrast between my home, where mother fussed alone to organize home, while planning no regular activities other than cocktail hour and talk - or my British neighbor who had a more holistic home - mother had a woman friend who often visited in the afternoons, which gave this mother companionship, and every day the whole home had afternoon tea together - a planned 45 min break with no obligations, just cake or cookies and tea together. Certain out of location activities were planned for each summer - and also periodic travel together to a play or movie. This regular gathering of all in the home, at a time of few obligations for mother - gave a real sense of home - where my own home felt like a constant struggle to get things done and appear proper. I think it can be such a challenge to include time to relax together, and also shared enjoyment - maybe choose activities for long term plans - deliberately plan for both regular and periodic breaks of share time for all, in ways that the caretaker is not required to organize it all. Everyone can contribute something, and needs to be organized to do that.

And I hope Farmerswife will work to develop brief but goodwilling yet clear ways to deflect mother in law's demands, bring attention to how they will come better if not in the form of demands, or insist on being able to delay accommodation depending on your view of the urgency - and insist on husband support for your choice of timing - we seem to need to teach each other how to treat each other in positive ways!
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