When one becomes a Caregiver for a loved one, life-partner, or spouse, it becomes challenging to maintain the previous relationship. After all, life has changed forever. The paradigm has shifted.
I was fortunate enough to be working at a university in the faculty computer lab for a while. During that time, I had the opportunity to speak with several of the Psychology faculty members. They told me that my relationship with my life-partner would shift because we were now in very different roles with one another. They also told me, that typically, over time, stroke survivors could become more childlike. This is dependent upon the severity of their CVA, of course. This childlike personality develops because they have lost their previous “power” in the relationship so they resort to childlike behaviors to control their Caregiver. It’s all they have left. For me, forewarned was forearmed in this arena. I expected the changes, watched for them, and this awareness helped me learn the lessons below.
In my relationship with John, our roles have shifted greatly during the past 25 years. I definitely notice some of the childlike and other negative behavior patterns mentioned by my university colleagues. They don’t happen all the time, but those behaviors do surface. Because of that, I have learned several coping strategies to help me with maintaining a relationship with John. My four tips are below.
First, accept that the paradigm has shifted and Patient/Caregiver roles are no longer the same as they were. This acceptance is the first step towards peace in one’s life as a Caregiver. There’s no going back, let go of the past and move forward.
Second, know that in any relationship, one always controls how one reacts to behaviors on the part of the other person. We all have the choice to accept negative behavior patterns, or reject those negative behavior patterns. We essentially teach others how they can treat us. Once I learned I had this choice, I realized that I could choose to dance to the tune of the childlike behaviors or put a stop to them. I learned I did not have to continue to be a “victim” of the negative behaviors of my Survivor, or of anyone for that matter. Essentially, I accepted personal responsibility for my own reaction to any negative behavior. Personal responsibility is the key – it is the tool to more healthy interactions.
Third, maintain a healthy sense of humor. You know, “Shift” happens. Let go of thinking it’s a personal attack and enjoy a good laugh. It probably had nothing to do with you and was only about how the other person felt at the moment. Laughter has the power to diffuse many negative behavior patterns.
Finally, remember to forgive. First, forgive yourself for thinking you are “bad” for having a bad day, reacting poorly to someone else’s behavior, and for judging oneself as bad. Second, forgive the other person involved in the interaction. A simple reminder to self: most people are really only doing the best they can at each moment in their lives. Forgiveness frees the burden for everyone.
Hope these tips help everyone!