My husband (38) is from a European country, but we live in the US. His grandfather (82) has terrible dementia and bad health issues. He refuses to go into a nursing home. My husband has gone to help grandpa five separate times, usually two to three months at a time, over the last year and a half. When he is back in the US, he is physically but not emotionally present. He's always worrying about his grandpa, scheduling appts, talking to Grandpa's neighbors, etc. When I have gone to visit during the times my husband is gone, we fight a ton and he has literally told me, "you are not the priority." Grandpa is happy the way it is - he has someone (my husband, his grandson, technically step-grandson) to keep him company, make him food, clean up after him, etc. There is a lady who comes five times a week for three hours in the afternoon to help with cooking and bathing him (2 times a week), and there is also a cleaning lady who comes once a week. He has gotten a mental score of 7/30. He cannot buy groceries on his own, he refuses to even use a microwave, even if food is prepared. My husband left him alone this weekend to attempt to get grandpa to realize he cannot stay alone in the apt. He only ate bananas and chocolate bars, even though my husband had prepared him food. He has mega anxiety over going to doctor appts. He had to be somewhat sedated to get through an MRI (still didn't complete it, pushed the emergency button to get out)...that was the third attempt.

He can't afford 24h in home care. We found a great nursing home for him with a beautiful view that is very affordable. He refuses. We are renovating a house in husband's European country and grandpa thinks he is capable of living there with us. Doctor has said he can't do stairs. The house is built into a mountain and there are so many stairs. Living with us just isn't an option. No one in Grandpa's family wants to deal with him. They also all tell my husband he is doing too much. I tell him that. He says I don't support him. I can tell when he is stressed out before he can and I know that this situation is too much for him and he's burning out. I didn't sign up for this when we got married (almost been 11 years since we got married) - I feel like a military wife who is apart from spouse for ages. This situation is weighing on our marriage so much. I feel like I can't express myself because he just says I don't support him. I tell him that the only outcome for grandpa will be that he eventually dies. But the two of us actually could have a future together, if we nourish our relationship, which is clearly not happening.

How the heck do marriages survive taking care of aging people? Luckily we don't have kids, just two cats, but they are basically our kids. I don't want to leave them for months at a time, as they get very stressed out when we are both gone (came home after 3.5 weeks only to find that one cat had lost her chin fur and got feline acne and I've been trying to heal that for three months...the last thing I need is to go to visit husband and help grandpa and return to another round of cat acne). I totally get it, my husband is overwhelmed. Am I not allowed to be upset, though, and want to actually have a marriage at the end of this? How do people do this? I feel like I am pounding my head against a wall, going nowhere, and keep gaslighting myself into thinking that I must be a really weak person.

My dear, if your husband has said you are "not the priority" your marriage is over. He's using his grandfather's dementia and care needs as a scapegoat to blame his failing marriage on.

Now, please don't get me wrong here. I'm not saying the following to be hurtful to you. I'm saying it to be truthful to you so you'll wake up and smell the coffee as they say.

Grandfather's care needs probably isn't the only reason your husband takes off to another country without you every few months and stays for a month or more. He probably has another woman. He may even have a whole other life in the other country with the "other" woman. If you have joint bank accounts and credit card accounts together, go over the statements and see what he's spending or withdrawing. Follow the money and the truth will come out.

Can I ask you a few questions that you should really be asking yourself?

How does your husband hold down a job taking this much time off (months at a time) for the last 11 years? Where does his money come from? He claims he has to leave for long periods of time to take care of his grandfather with advanced dementia. Who takes care of grandfather when your husband isn't there? Where is your husband's parent who the grandfather is an actual father to? Why aren't they taking care of him? Or their siblings if they have them?

Sister, you should talk to a divorce attorney today for a consultation to talk and get some advice. You need to protect yourself so your husband can't clean out the bank accounts then just stay in his native country. Please talk to a lawyer, just to talk.
Helpful Answer (13)
Reply to BurntCaregiver
cover9339 Feb 21, 2024
That's kind of harsh, though maybe true in. A sense.
When a husband tells his wife she is not his priority it is time to leave.
Helpful Answer (12)
Reply to Hothouseflower
wintercat Feb 13, 2024
I was completely FLOORED when those words came out of his mouth. By far the most hurtful thing he has ever said.
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He told you that you were not his priority, please listen to him. Why does he feel grandpa should be his priority? I also have wonder how he can afford to travel and stay for extended periods of time.
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Reply to lkdrymom

We did the bouncy bounce for too long and it was a 1000 miles (1610 km) one way drive. DH doesn't fly so it was always a drive. And it almost broke us apart after DECADES of marriage. There is absolutely no way I would stick around for a long distance marriage during an international bounce. Nope, nada, forgetaboutit.

We survived but only barely. DH literately ended up choosing to prioritize me over being there for his own widowed mother. The hard decisions of GS to get her into MC and him drawing the boundary for our marriage being a priority actually saved it. If it wasn't a priority, what is there to stay together for?

What is your husband thinking? Maybe it is time to get real and draw the line as you see it.

"Am I not allowed to be upset,..."

Yes, yes you are!
Helpful Answer (8)
Reply to MyNameIsTrouble

You ask "how the heck do marriages survive taking care of aging people?" and the simple answer is that the marriage survives when each partner continues to make the other their top priority.
And your husband has made it more than clear to you that you will never be his number one priority, and that his grandfather is. And when he dies there will be someone or something else that will be.
You must believe your husband when he tells you that "you are not the priority." I can only guess that you never have been and that is really sad.

And you say that even though meals are prepared for his grandfather and all he needs to do is microwave them lets me know that your husband and perhaps even you don't realize the extent of the grandfathers dementia, as he no longer knows how to use a microwave, simple as it is for the rest of us.
That was one of many signs of dementia with my late husband when he no longer could figure out how to use the microwave.

Grandpa needs to placed. You know that and I know that. However your husband(even though he knows it deep down too)will continue to prop up his grandfather until either your husband has a massive heart attack or stroke from the stress or grandpa dies.
40% of caregivers caring for someone with dementia will die before the one they're caring for from stress related issues.

I don't like to recommend divorce lightly, but I honestly don't see this getting any better. So you will have to decide if you can live the rest of your life with a man who will never put you first. And that makes my heart break for you, just typing the previous sentence out. I know that I could never tolerate that.
I hope you're wise enough and strong enough to make the right decision.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to funkygrandma59
wintercat Feb 13, 2024
Thank you so much for your thoughtful, caring response - really appreciate you.

The frustrating thing is that where grandpa is located, there was a law passed a few years ago that made it impossible to force someone into a nursing home if they don't want to. My husband has taken him to several doctors and a few docs have even come to his apartment. They all say that he can't be forced and that unfortunately, you just have to wait for him to have an accident.

He did have an accident in November, literally 2 weeks after we came back. He fell and couldn't get up, so was yelling (this was at midnight), so his downstairs neighbor heard him and called the fire dept. They went through neighbor's apt with their ladder and up to grandpa's apt, broke a window, hauled him to the ER. He hadn't broken anything and basically they called the gal who comes five days a week, so she went to get him out of the ER and take him home. (My husband had just had a small surgery a couple days before this, which required a few follow-up appts - if he hadn't had this surgery, he would have been on the next flight back.)

And thank you for putting it so clearly and simply - that marriages survive when partners make each other their priority. I'm not going to go over there and put myself in a situation where I know I'm not prioritized. Why would I do that?! I have a cozy apartment with two beautiful felines who prioritize me!!!

Thank you again. :D
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Marriages don’t survive this, and it looks like yours isn’t going to survive either; see a divorce lawyer for a consult and start detaching.
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Reply to Southernwaver

My husband and I had a part time marriage for 8 years because he did not want to relocate with me to be near his only child and grandchildren on the West Coast. He preferred to stay in NYC and live near his developmentally disabled sister so he could care for her.

I was always very clear that I was not taking on the responsibility of his sister's care when his parents were gone, and his parents needed to figure it out. But they never did. And he felt he had to honor his parents wishes to take care of her after his mother died.

The part time arrangement wasn't working and we came close to divorcing after 45 years of marriage. Even though I had my daughter and family nearby, I was lonely living in a new area not knowing anyone. But I worked full time and I managed to build a life. I found some really wonderful friends.

My husband visited for 3-4 weeks at a time every 6-8 weeks or so. It was very hard time for me. I missed him when he left and I was angry and resentful that I was not his priority. It was clear his sister was.

I was angry (and still am) that his parents felt they had a right to exploit me and their other daughter in law expecting us to take care of their daughters needs for the rest of her life (or mine) and that they felt entitled to ruin my marriage. Other DIL got sucked into doing it because her husband refused consider any other options for her care aside from living with family. I dug my heels in and refused to have her live with us.

Eventually things changed when BIL moved his family and took sister with them because they had to sell the family home and she lived downstairs and had nowhere else to go. It is not a good situation, now they demand that we either take her part of the year or pay them money to supplement her care. I chose that we pay the money. Some people receive an inheritance when family members die that make their lives better. I instead have a reverse inheritance. I pay this family to just not be in my life anymore.

My husband finally chose to prioritize his marriage over his sister. We live full time together now. But if my husband ever has a change of heart, he can move to be near these people. I refuse to ever see any one of them again. The situation that arose over this woman's care destroyed any family ties that are left. There are only hard feelings. I refuse to see them ever again.

I am not sure how I ever got through this.
Helpful Answer (6)
Reply to Hothouseflower
Tiredniece23 Feb 14, 2024
I completely understand. I am still angry at my cousins who completely tried to arrange my life and expect me to be my aunt with dementia caregiver. I live in another state and they live closer. They got offended when I mentioned putting her in a facility, but expected me to move in with aunt, give up my job and life to care for aunt. They barely know me. I don't care if I ever see or hear from any of them again. It's destroyed our relationship. I don't call any of them anymore. Disgusted and done.
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Suggestion: see a lawyer and find out what your rights and options are. The first consultation is usually free. It might be that if you filed for a legal separation, it would jolt husband into reality. If it doesn’t, and if he continues to think you’re not his priority, it will tell you all you need to know about the prospects of saving your marriage.

This seems like a drastic step, but you shouldn’t waste years of your life with this husband when there are a lot of guys who would appreciate you and build a life together.
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Reply to Fawnby

If you'll never be your husband's priority, then why did he marry you, for crying out loud? There comes a time when a man has to stand up and be a man, recognizing the fact that a score of SEVEN on a cognitive exam is very bad, meaning step-grandpa needs 24/7 care in skilled nursing. Your husband is actually doing him a DISSERVICE by pandering to his wishes and ignoring his needs.

There is a pretty easy fix here, the way I see it. Hubby grows a spine, saves his marriage and places step-grandpa, or he moves in with him full time and devotes his entire life to caring for the man, and then his parents later on, and divorces you. Pays you for your half of the home that's being renovated in his country also, of course. He can't keep one half of a foot in your home and 1-1/2 feet in grandpa's home because guess what? Both of you lose out.

Best of luck getting through to a man who doesn't 'get it'. This marriage will not only cause your cats to get acne, but YOU to get ulcers!
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to lealonnie1
wintercat Feb 13, 2024
Thank you so much for you response and for making me feel that I'm feeling the way a sane person should be feeling in this situation!

I just asked him if he has told his grandfather how difficult it is for us to be apart for so long. Yes, he has asked grandpa that, but then he said that grandpa isn't grandpa anymore and it's like asking a toddler to feel bad.

I have told him that this is the last time I will do this. He is scheduled to come home towards the end of March (so this trip is scheduled to be three months...he left on Christmas Eve). I want to be with someone who wants to be with me! I know my worth and also have good friends who remind me of it! I know he isn't seeing clearly - you can't see the forest for the trees. I also know that his grandparents were more like parents to him (his parents are real pieces of work), so I think grandpa feels more like a father to him.

I have told him that he can stay there until the day grandpa dies, but I won't be around. His mind is gone, but physically I think he's maybe kind of ok? This is not a marriage!!!

Again, thank you! I had never heard of this site before and appreciate the responses I've gotten so quickly!!!
You are not weak.

You are strong--it takes strength like we cannot fathom to deal with the CG of difficult elders.

My DH is currently VERY involved with his mother's care, they moved her to an ALF and she is doing terribly. They are talking about moving her to the Memory Care area of the facility. That's probably worse. He spends more time with he now than he did when she was in home Hospice. He says he will spend every single day with her for a few hours.

All 3 sibs spend too much time there with her. She doesn't KNOW WHO THEY ARE--yet they go daily and do the CG. Why the heck they put her in a NH when they're still so very enmeshed in her daily needs? It's making me crazy.

And this has gone on for a year+.

Yesterday Dh told me that his first priority is his mother (same as your DH) and even when he is home, he is fielding phone calls and texts between his sibs and the ALF. I am getting exactly nothing from him.

I KNOW I am not a priority with him. It's hurtful on a daily basis.

I have no advice. I am riding this out, b/c we have been married forever and I know his mother won't live forever (tho it feels like it!). After she goes, I am not giving him a choice: marriage counseling. Period.

When you get hip deep in caring for another person, you lose focus of your 'real life'. Sadly, this is a complete deal breaker for a lot of people.

I have a LOT of outside activities and interests and I go to kids and grandkids for the love that I am not getting from my DH (and won't until his mom dies.) I would suggest therapy for you, maybe he'd go with you, but that's doubtful.

I try to talk to DH but he shuts =me down, hard. Knowing he's not being very kind to me--he feels guilty, but all his emotions get channeled into anger. (That's very common among men, Sorry, guys, it's just true,)

I can only hope and pray for you to be able to see hope in the future. I honestly am just getting by day to day with the hope that MIL will not last much longer--and I pray a LOT.

Listen to Alva--she has a LOT of great advice!!
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to Midkid58
wintercat Feb 13, 2024
Thank you for your kind words and understanding. I wish we were neighbors and could hang out!

Yes, I feel like DH feels like he needs to prove something, to show that he is this great person and is the one who cared for grandpa when no one else would. And I get it, no one wants to see their parent/grandparent/spouse end up like this, but it's like, come on, you also have to put on your oxygen mask first.

I completely understand where you are coming from with your MIL. I have asked friends and my therapist if it's bad that I just look forward to the day he is gone. My therapist asked me if I had a magic wand, what would I wish for - that grandpa would just pass. He's not grandpa anymore. He's a ghost. The grandpa we loved is gone, but he doesn't have to take us down with him! We actually have a future!!! But we have to be each other's priority!!!

I recently started running again (used to run a ton in high school and college, even did a marathon and half marathon) and I swear it's the only thing keeping me relatively sane. I just can't believe how you could tell your spouse so bluntly, hey you aren't my priority. Like whaaaaat the f***?!?!

Thank you again!
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