I’ ve been told that being a family caregiver and dating just don’t go together. “I’m too tired and overwhelmed to date”, “who would want to date me with all this baggage?” and “who has time for dating?” are a few of things that I have heard from some adults who are caring for their frail parents at home.
I get it. You live a busy and hectic life, not to mention one that’s a little bit crazy at times. But you know what? These are just the reasons that you need to give yourself permission to start to date again. You work hard and put your all into providing care. You work hard and put your all into providing care and you deserve to do something for yourself
Being a family caregiver family caregiver is an important role in your life; one that takes a lot of your time and energy. But we all should have multiple roles in life; not just one. Everyone has to learn to balance their various life roles. You may also have the role of employee, mother/father, friend, patient and none of these can be ignored. Tending to all of your roles and needs enhances your ability to be a great caregiver in the long run. This includes the role of being a social being and maybe a significant other.
Are you Ready to Date?
You might not see dating in your stars at the moment and that’s okay. You will know when the time feels right. Don’t feel pressured by family and friends who tell you that you need to focus on something else besides giving care and want you to give dating a try. They mean well, but only you know when you are ready.
If you have been experiencing high levels of stress, find that you are already having a hard time juggling your multiple roles, or have been feeling increased depression, then I’d say this was probably not the best time to seek out a new relationship. However, if you feel that life has been a little unbalanced, or you are feeling isolated or you just feel like you need to do something outside of the house with someone else beside your senior, then now just might be the time to consider getting back into the dating scene!
Benefits of Dating
Starting to date usually means a brief focus on yourself while you get ready for an outing. What to wear? Is my hair okay? Where to go? This brief focus on you may be more time than you’ve spent focusing on yourself in a long time. It’s okay to pay attention to yourself. This doesn’t make you a selfish caregiver . It makes you a caregiver who acknowledges that you are important too.
While you are out on your date and getting to know the other person, you are (hopefully) not focused on how your senior is doing back at home. You are giving your mind a break from the routine stress. You’ve got to give your mind, heart and spirit a break from being a caregiver once in awhile. Getting to know a new person can be a good distraction, just to help you get your mind on things other than caregiving for a family member.
If dating turns into a relationship, then good for you! Now you have someone to turn to for support when you are upset, overwhelmed, or when you could use a little help with something.
How to Start Dating When you are a Family Caregiver
Take it slow. Dates don’t have to be 3 hour long dinners followed by a movie. A long date that makes you feel like you are taking too much time away from your senior will make you less likely to follow through. In the beginning, just a cup of coffee at the coffee shop around the corner could be great. Or you could meet at the local park for a walk. Since we are in the technology age, you could get to know each other over Skype or FaceTime.
As you feel comfortable, educate your date about your home situation. If they are interested, educate them about relevant issues such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you are not feeling it with this person, then you can probably skip this step!
In the beginning, expect that this new person will not have a clue about what it takes to be a caregiver. They will smile and nod a lot as you talk about it. Don’t hold it against them. As this new person gains an understanding of your priorities and the level of time and energy that you have available, you will be able to sense their comfort and willingness to be part of your picture.
Don’t Feel Guilty
The senior may try to make you feel bad about going out and “having fun”, feigning that they need you. They may become angry, cry or give you the silent treatment. Please, don’t let it get to you. Simply say “I’m sorry that you feel this way, but I’m going out because I deserve to have a social life. I love you and I will be back when I’m finished.” Try not to say “it’s just this one time”, or “I’ll cut it short and will be home as soon as possible”. These statements give your control to the senior, and this is a time when you need to get some control back into your life. If your senior can’t be alone, make sure you have a reliable person to relieve you. Then GO! Have fun meeting someone new and I hope that they are a good support to you, or at least a good break!