Redefining My Marriage Role as a Caregiver

Devin Garlit's last article, "Did MS Ruin My Marriage?" certainly has given me pause to think and process a few things. Day by day I'm trying to bring balance to my marriage as it is changing rapidly with MS being a major factor. I followed some links in Devin's article and picked up a phrase that said MS is the third partner in the marriage. How true that seems!

My wife and I have been married for 47 years so we've got a life-time of experience we have already worked through. But the more my wife deteriorates, and the more the MS symptoms increase, the more I have to adjust how I view our marriage.

I find myself constantly redefining my marriage role, as opposed to redefining my marriage commitment. These are two distinct things. The marriage commitment included a vow before God "for better or for worse." I remember listening to a radio program years ago by "Dr. Laura." She was a psychologist or something that took phone calls over the air and most of them concerned marriage and relationship difficulties. She would often excoriate a caller who tried to wimp out of their marriage vows and she would say something like, "What part of WORSE didn't you understand in the vows! You've got worse -- now deal with it!"

So for me it's a matter of redefining my marriage role vs. my marriage commitment. The role is changing drastically! The commitment never changes. Of course, it's not easy to hang in there. Some days I want to scream, or I occasionally will throw things in anger and frustration. I fight to keep a "poor me" attitude out of my head. All these things are the mind game that has to be played out to stay in the commitment. It's so difficult sometimes to hug, kiss, and try to love on your spouse when there is so little coming back. But isn't that what love does? Isn't that the working out of 1 Corinthians 13 in action and real life? Isn't that what Father God does to us -- He loves us anyway? Yes to all these things.

My role has changed from being a provider (and finding great fulfillment in that) to one of being a caregiver. I literally run a one person nursing home and I'm the CNA in charge. I don't like the new role. I don't like the anger I and frustration I receive from my wife. I don't like having to deal with all the confusing and irritating comments that come from a spouse who communicates like a person who has Alzheimer's. I don't like what sometimes seems to be a waste of my time and talents --- I could be doing so much more with my life! But I signed up for a "til death do us part" arrangement and so now I attempt to deal with it.

One of the ways I deal with it is to remember that it could be so much worse. This really works for me. I read some of the stories and realize I've got it pretty good compared to others. I often think of other life situations that I see or read in the news of how awful many people have it, and suddenly I'm thankful for what I do have. We are secure and well provided for. I've got supportive family close by. I can get away for a day when I need to. Then I think about this being one of those life situations that expose my real character. What will come out of this for my children and grandchildren to see? Will it help them with their marriage commitments? Suddenly I'm stirred on to persevere!

Life is a journey and none of us does it perfectly. I certainly don't point fingers at others -- I've got plenty of my own faults. But just as I receive so much encouragement from those of you who write articles, I do hope this article may offer a bit of encouragement for you, especially if you're a caregiver. Life is hard! Jesus said it would be. He also said this life is not all there is. There's more to come, and I find it very encouraging to remember I'm living for something more than just today. It keeps me going!

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