Redefining My Marriage Role as a Caregiver

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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Comments

View Comments (7)
  • rolly
    1 year ago

    thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings BransonJohn.
    i’m at the receiving end of caregiving, as in our case the roles are reversed from yours. judging from what you wrote, your wife’s ms seems to be more advanced than mine, although i’m also fully dependent on my wife for pretty much everything. though thankfully my ms seems to have attacked me more physically than mentally. of course i deal with brainfog and cognitive issues, but most of the time i can communicate clearly.
    i often wonder how i would deal with the situation if my wife were the one with ms. how would i cope? would i be able to cope at all? i don’t know the answer to that. and i also wonder whether she sometimes thinks it’s just getting too much for her, and that she wants out of the responsibilities. but i’m afraid to ask, in case she does, especially when i have a very bad day and let my frustration out on here.
    so reading your thoughts gives me an insight into a carer’s mind helps me appreciate more what an incredible job my wife does. it’s easy to feel sorry for myself (and believe me, there are quite a few days when i do), how i deserve to have been struck with this stupid disease and be trapped in my own body, confined to a wheelchair with only one partially functioning hand, which i’m afraid of losing to this disease too any day.
    so reading about your situation as a caregiver puts things a bit into perspective for me. i like the way you deal with it, saying to yourself that it could be so much worse. i will try to adopt that mantra for myself. indeed, it could be so much worse. i’m so lucky to be able to live in my own home and have my wife caring for me. your story has definitely shown me that.

  • BransonJohn author
    1 year ago

    Rolly,
    I’m so glad that my post has been encouraging for you. We all look for those words that will help us through another day or bad season in life. It’s been four months since I wrote this article back in September, and some things have changed for us causing more adjustments — and different outlooks on the MS situation.

    In August of last year I started my wife on high dose Biotin which has been beneficial for MS in a variety of ways. However, the clinical study said that it would take 8-12 months to see any improvement. Well, we are in the 5 month range, and it is very interesting to see how this has brought my wife’s emotions back to life. Previously she had been pretty non-functional emotionally, along with the inability to process thoughts subjectively. Now she has come back out of her shell and has a much more pronounced range of emotions, and even spars back and forth with some humor. Her frustration episodes aimed at me, has changed to anger at her disease (which can be a positive motivator). Just yesterday she was upset with me over something I did in trying to help her, and she broke down crying over it and asked me to forgive her again. She expressed some very tender emotions that I haven’t seen in years. So there is always hope, and much joy when we see little improvements that mean so much.

    We don’t use any drug therapies but do look for protocols like the Biotin. There has only been one other natural therapy that has given her real help and that is magnesium L threonate. It was developed by MIT and is a type of magnesium that can cross the blood brain barrier. This magnesium brought her out of a deep brain fog after taking it for a few months. My daughter said, “Dad, it’s like Mom is now present with us again!” On the other hand, none of this is helping her walking difficulties, or her memory issues. But who knows — one little victory at a time.

    Also, more specific to your posting, the Lord has greatly helped me with another “attitude adjustment.” In trying to cope with my own mental and emotional struggles, I’ve learned to quit seeking happiness. It turns out happiness is a very elusive butterfly to try and catch. But what is very attainable is “peace”. I’ve learned to not let my own emotions dictate the course of my day, but to just seek what brings peace. I’ve shut down a lot of the negative emotions, and quit trying to counter-balance them with a hunt for something that would make me happy, It’s really an application of what is taught in the Bible in Philippians 4:4-9, and although this scripture has been in my head for many years it certainly has taken on new life recently.

    I hope I haven’t rambled too much in my reply. May Father God fill you and your wife with renewed hope and peace.

    Blessings,
    BransonJohn

  • Devin Garlit moderator
    1 year ago

    Thanks so much for sharing BransonJohn! I’m very happy to see a caregiver sharing their perspective, I very much appreciate you taking the time to do that!

  • GeneK
    2 years ago

    Thanks John for sharing. I needed to hear that I am not alone in finding my way. I’ve been the caregiver for my wife for the past 5 years. We’ve been married for 49 years and she has had RLRM MS for about 40 years that has progressed to SPMS. At this point I don’t spend much time thinking about my marriage. I just strive to make the most of each day we have together

  • Julie
    2 years ago

    Thank you so much for your story. I was just telling someone else that my husband of 30 years left shortly after my diagnosis. I was saying I actually get jealous when I see people who’s partner have stayed by their side. It’s not a good feeling and one I shouldn’t have. I know it’s hard on the caregiver. I read stories like yours and I have to remind myself of this.
    Good luck to you and bless you for staying when so many others have left.

  • Christina Hegarty PT, DPT moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi BransonJohn,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us! You offer great inspiration! I thought I’d share our caregiver section with you that you may enjoy reading through: https://multiplesclerosis.net/caregiver/. Again, thank you so much for sharing!
    Warmly,
    Christina, MultipleSclerosis.net Team

  • BransonJohn author
    2 years ago

    Thanks. I didn’t know there was a caregiver section. I’ll be sure to check it out.

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