When caregiving duties seem to take first priority in a romantic relationship, who comes first? Your care-recipient? Your beloved? Yourself? What do you do when your client or aging parent must come first?
And most importantly, how do you keep the love and passion alive when both partners are caregivers?
As caregivers we sometimes find ourselves lost in the midst of errands, bed baths, cooking, cleaning, maintaining the house and endless tasks. It is easy to lose hope that there will ever be time for ourselves and our relationships.
This hopelessness that we feel sometimes does not mean that we are without ways to express our love for that special someone in our lives. We just have to get really creative about how to honor our needs in the midst of tending to the needs of others.
The second most difficult task in the realm of providing care is maintaining a romantic relationship in the midst of that care.
“80% of caregivers report strain on their marriages” -caring.com
So, how do you keep love alive in challenging times?
Remember the simple things.
Showing up for your relationship is a dynamic process that involves your heart, mind and soul. It is not limited to date nights, long walks on the beach, vacations and walking into the room with rose petals on the floor. Try to be creative with your gift giving by writing your beloved a letter, an email or a short poem. Try to recognize that your sincere presence is enough sustain the connection of your relationship.
Dedicate prayer and meditation to your loved one.
You do not have to be religious to enjoy the powerful healing and uplifting benefits of prayer and meditation.
“Studies have shown prayer can prevent people from getting sick — and when they do get sick, prayer can help them get better faster,” Duke University’s Harold G. Koenig, M.D.
Sit in a quiet place. In your bathroom, in your backyard, in your car, anywhere that you can sit or stand for 5 minutes without being disturbed.
Say to yourself, “This prayer is dedicated to Jane Smith, my loved one”. Imagine your partner as the healthiest and happiest version of themselves. Simplify the image as much as possible and hold that image in your mind and continuously say to yourself, “I am love. She/he is love. I am love…” You can perform this exercise in a variety of ways. The goal is to exercise loving thoughts that feel good to you. The idea is to build a subtle connection with your partner by engaging in something called “Energy medicine”. Subtle energy fields have long been recognized by Eastern cultures. You do not even need to tell them that you have dedicated a loving prayer to them. It is truly the thought that counts.
Spend time in the kitchen together.
The process of grocery shopping, prepping ingredients, cooking and eating together can serve as a unique outlet for intimacy. Moving around in the kitchen together can support creative energy to flow between both partners. The more interaction and engagement you can have with that special person around the meals you eat, the more practice you will have with different forms of communication. Food is, after all, an intimate part of sustaining overall well-being.
Get out in nature.
There is nothing like breathing the same fresh air with the one you love. Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature can increase longevity, happiness and motivation. If you do not live in an area where you can access a hiking trail, a public beach or a spacious park, go for a walk in your neighborhood and try to focus on surrounding plants and trees. Notice the sky, the clouds and the sun. Walk side by side your partner and be conscious of your breathing and the way you are moving. Keep your energy alive by maintaining good posture.
Many people the world over have said that you cannot love someone else unless you first love yourself. What exactly does this mean? We have heard of the ol’ “Fill your cup first” metaphor. How can we put loving ourselves into practice? We can start by saying kind words to ourselves. Too often we get caught up in a toxic inner-dialogue that stifles our ability to express ourselves clearly and lovingly. Say things like, “I love myself”. “I am enough just as I am”. “My heart is perfect”. “I am love”. And see how you feel.