Talking about care needs with your partner
In long-term relationships you can get into a routine with your partner, especially when you live together. The same can happen with care needs. Your partner might take on more in your relationship over time or your care needs may change.
Try not to let your care become the focus of your relationship. Support each other as equal partners and put your relationship before care needs.
When to talk about support and changes
While it’s good that you support each other, it’s important to acknowledge changes. When your partner does things for you, it should be because they choose to rather than need to.
Try to keep talking about both your needs and how you feel. You might have to start the conversation rather than wait for it to happen naturally. It can be a sensitive issue and you might be unsure how to approach the topic.
But it’s important to talk if you:
have not talked about care needs, especially if your partner starts doing things for you that they did not before
notice important care is not being done properly or your partner is struggling with things, like bathing or emotional support
feel uncomfortable with your partner doing certain care tasks
are worried your partner does not like doing some things
think your partner feels they need to support you with everything, but you’re happy to have outside support from a PA, family or friends
have not talked about your care needs for a long time
have changes to your care needs and your partner is doing more to support you
think your partner is struggling with changes to your care
have noticed signs of low mood, like irritability, stress and anxiety in your partner
Talking to your partner
Try to find some time to talk about the big things, perhaps over dinner or a coffee. Talk about any changes to your care and listen to what they have to say. Ask your partner if they’re happy with how they are supporting you. Check whether they still want to help you or feel that they have to help you.
If you’re worried, talk about the things you’d like to change. This could be asking your partner to be less involved with your care or to not do a certain thing. Try to stay positive and say that you appreciate your partner’s support. Suggest alternatives for the things you’d like to change.
If you are struggling to communicate
Your partner may not want to talk about their feelings. You could encourage them by staying supportive, avoiding blame and listening to them. You could also try talking through texting. This can give you both time to think about what the other person has said and respond.
Your partner may prefer to write their feelings down or talk to someone else. You could suggest carer support groups or someone independent to help them talk about how they feel.
Talking therapy (Mind) explains what talking therapies are, what happens during therapy, how to get the most from it, and how to find a therapist. Therapy can help people to reflect on what's going on and get support before reaching a crisis point.
Find carer support (Carers UK) from volunteers, a local directory and online support groups that connect you with people who understand what you’re going through.
Talk to someone from Relate relationship support.
Supporting each other
There are many ways to contribute to an equal relationship. You will support each other in different ways. This could be physical or emotional.
Talking openly can help you feel confident and strong in your relationship. It can also help if one of you feels that they are doing more than the other.
Spending time together
It’s important to make time for each other. Think about how you want to spend it with your partner. Make sure it’s something that you want to do with them rather than needing their support to do it.
Try to include the fun parts of your relationship in your daily routine. This could be anything from playing a game or watching a movie to going out for a meal. You could also learn something new together, like:
a new craft or hobby, like knitting or photography
an inclusive sport or exercise class, like yoga
an evening class
Learning together can help you explore what you can do, test your limits and connect with each other in new ways.
Spending time on your own
Remember that you do not always need to do everything together. You should both have some time and space to yourself.
Plan something you want to do every day, like watching your favourite TV show or listening to a podcast or audiobook.
Have something that is yours and makes you happy, ideally without your partner nearby. It’s important to make sure your partner has the same opportunity, even if it’s just half an hour.
If your care needs are complex, you could arrange for someone, like a PA, friend or family member to come round. This can help you have a break and allows your partner to do something on their own too.
Getting outside support
You both have the power to decide what you can and cannot do. You do not need to do everything yourselves. You could look for outside support to help you have the best possible time with each other.
You could look for a PA, part-time care support, social care or home help (NHS website).
You could search for a driver or ask friends or family to drive if you want to go out on your own. You could also find out if there’s a local accessible bus service or public transport you can use.
You might want help with chores, like cleaning, ironing, washing up and laundry. Most cleaning services will do a range of household tasks.
It can also help if you do not have to cook every night. You could try:
- homemade ready meal services or meals on wheels (GOV.UK)
- batch cooking and freezing
- planning a mix of meals that need different levels of preparation like oven, microwave or hob meals that last a few days
Relationship advice and mental health
Relationships are complex, and care needs are just another part of this. General relationship advice can help with wellbeing and nurturing a healthy relationship. This could be sex or couple’s therapy, help with mental health (Mind) or talking to other people.
Relate relationship help
Last reviewed by Scope on: 13/02/2019