But How Do I Continue to Be a Loving Wife?

A friend of mine who has a husband with dementia asked me a question yesterday….

How do I continue to be a loving wife?

Her husband can no longer hold a conversation. Sometimes he thinks she is his daughter. He’s living in a facility.

She’s backing off a bit on her visits–only going once a day. She’s in great physical shape and even plays pickleball. She has kids and grandkids to visit.

But life is changing.

I have a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies, and I even teach a course titled Family Services. But I am not a counselor. And I’m not an expert on marriage. I struggled to respond to her question.

How do I continue to be a loving wife?

After a bit of thought, I realized that maybe what it means to be a loving wife changes.

Or, more generally, what it means to be a loving partner isn’t always the same throughout the lifespan.

I’ve been married 15 years. I have a wonderful husband. How he loves me has changed over the last two or three years. I used to run a few half marathons a year. Now, due to chronic nerve pain in my back, I can’t walk more than about 1/8 of a mile without pain. (I can ride a bike–but this summer I crashed my bike and am still recovering from a fracture and torn up shoulder.)

My back limits how much stuff I can do around the house. He has to do more. He does it without complaint.

I had three back surgeries in 2021. I now have a permanent spinal cord stimulator in my back. I have no idea how many times my husband has driven me to Mayo Clinic. In fact, he canceled his own knee surgery (yes, we are a hot mess, aren’t we?) so that I could get in to have one of my back surgeries. My pain and limitations have changed our relationship.

If you had asked me when I got married about love….I’m not sure I would have said that love means compensating for your partner when she can’t do chores and driving her to Mayo over a dozen times in a year.

So…being a loving partner might mean something different as you progress through life.

If your partner has dementia—

Your relationship changes. It’s futile to fight this. You will be more successful if you accept those changes. Perhaps you will adjust to these changes and be a loving partner in ways you never would have pictured.

Being a loving partner may mean placing your partner in a nursing home or memory care facility. (This is important; please remember this one.)

Being a loving partner may mean not arguing if your partner thinks you are someone else.

Being a loving partner may mean leaving family gatherings early so they don’t get overwhelmed.

Being a loving partner may mean keeping your conversations shorter because you understand that their brain tires quickly.

Being a loving partner may mean letting them eat cookies for dinner because that’s all that sounds good.

Maybe being a loving partner to someone with dementia means meeting your loved one where they are. And perhaps that’s true for all of us.

When we love people, we meet them where they are.

2 thoughts on “But How Do I Continue to Be a Loving Wife?

  1. I whole-heartedly agree with your entire post. I too have back pain (from two crushed vertebra in my spine), and other health problems. My dear husband of 58 (soon to be 59) years has Alzheimer’s. He has chronic kidney disease (only has one kidney now), is diabetic and now his appetite has decreased and he’s lost so much weight he can’t wear his wedding ring. But I still love him. He eats candy and cookies because he now has a sweet tooth and I feed it by keeping things in the house that he likes to eat. Life can be incredibly short and I figure he should be able to have anything he likes for as long as he’s here on earth. I will never love him any less than I do today. His body and mind are changing, but I know inside that physical body is the soul of the man I love.

    Like

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