The Fallible Caregiver Series: How to Connect When You Feel Alone

My biggest, number one struggle as a caregiver and spouse is feeling alone. This feeling is hard for me to articulate in words. I don't feel the kind of lonely a single person does. I don't feel alone with no friends or little human contact. And I don't feel alone, as if no one understands what I'm going through.

No, I feel alone because I don't feel a deep mutual connection to my spouse like I did when we were first married.

Feeling alone in our relationship

I do nearly everything with my wife. As her (almost) full-time caregiver, I am with her most of the time. We are great friends and gel together super well. Yet I still feel alone much of the time.

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It's difficult to put my finger on exactly why, but I think the main reason is that breast cancer continues to steal more and more of her away. By "her," I mean the "original" woman I met, fell in love with, and married. Just writing that breaks my heart, mainly for her, because she is such a lovely person, and I hate seeing her suffer.

A discovery during marriage counseling

I talked about all this in one of our recent marriage counseling sessions. These are not angry sessions like many fighting couples. These are tender sessions often populated with tears, broken hearts, and a lot of "I'm sorry" iterated by us both.

Unconsciously blocking love and appreciation

Our therapist shared an interesting point about how often we actually put up blocks to keep from receiving love. He drew a picture of a person and showed arrows of love and appreciation coming in, yet hitting a wall protecting the heart—barriers we put up and may not even realize. I thought about this. I'm still thinking about this.

Questions to consider if you feel alone

I devised 4 questions and thoughts to explore whether you are putting up those barriers around your heart. If you are struggling with feeling alone in your relationship, ask yourself these questions, too.

Question 1

Am I the one erecting walls and blocking my spouse's attempts to connect and show love?

It's possible that I've convinced myself that my spouse can't effectively love me, so whenever they try, I interpret their efforts as not trying.

Question 2

Am I honestly and actively communicating my feelings and desires, or am I expecting her to be a mind-reader?

Ouch. This one gets me because I know I'm guilty of it. This is also a root culprit of allowing bitterness to get a foot in the door of my heart and grow. I'm guilty of often expecting my wife to know what I'm feeling and wanting without me having to tell her. Then, when she doesn't act the way I want, I feel disappointed in her and angry. I stuff that anger down, and it just festers into the poison of bitterness–yet it's often my fault and doing!

Question 3

Am I expecting too much from her, and do I need to learn to accept this new reality?

This level of effort may be all she's emotionally and physically capable of right now. I may need to grow up and come to terms with the fact that the world is not all roses and rainbows. I can't always have life the way I want it. Maybe I must learn to live with reality and stop kicking against it.

Question 4

Am I doing everything I can to improve the situation? Or do I expect my spouse to make the first move and do everything?

I wonder if I am love-lazy yet expecting her to be a loving superwoman. Have I taken the first steps forward, taking risks, working, and making a genuine effort?

Addressing loneliness in our relationship

These questions are like walking over broken glass barefoot. But equally, these questions offer potential for healing and togetherness if we tackle them honestly and courageously. If we do, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose, well, except feeling so alone.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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