Learn in the process-Couple illness: how to avoid caregiver burnout

Learn in the process - Couple illness how to avoid caregiver burnout

Caring for a partner who is ill is an emotional drain that is often not taken into account. Caregiver and sick person can reduce the emotional cost of the process.

Learn in the process - Couple illness how to avoid caregiver burnout

Not all diseases are the same or involve the same care from others. Fortunately, in our western societies there are measures to take good care of the sick. There is also a high life expectancy and there is a health system that, unlike other countries, does not lead to ruin.

However, what cannot be avoided is the emotional cost generated by this reality, the effort at different levels that the caregiver spouse must make, a high price that sometimes goes unnoticed, since the patient is the center of all concerns. How should the partner of a sick person take care of themselves?


If your partner had a long-term illness: how would you react? Would it cost you to put yourself in the role of caregiver or caregiver? How do you imagine you would feel as time goes by?

Doing this reflection will help to evaluate the level of commitment you have with respect to your current relationship, what you feel capable of giving. Bert Hellinger says that for a relationship to be maintained and last, there must always be a balance between what each member gives and what each member receives.

The balance must remain in the middle.

With the appearance of the disease, this balance is broken and it is easy for the relationship to suffer in one way or another since a relationship of more dependence is usually established by one of the members with respect to the other.

Paradoxically, it may happen that, after having been accompanied, cared for and healed, the member of the couple who had become ill feels the need to leave. This is the case of a woman who after overcoming lung cancer wanted to separate. Her husband had been by her side throughout the healing period, but the inner transformation that the illness had brought had made her want to experience what she had not been able to do before.

Her children had grown up and the confrontation with death had led her to need to build a new life. According to Bert Hellinger, the rupture could also be interpreted as the result of an imbalance between what is given and what is received because when one receives too much from the other and cannot return it, he needs to leave. And everything deserves to be viewed with respect and without judgment.


The management of the frustration that the disease can generate in the person who suffers it will also determine the relationship. The member of the couple who is ill mourns for what is lost on a personal level that will plunge him into ups and downs that will affect his relationship with others and in particular with the most trusted people, that is, his partner.

It is a process of acceptance of the limits that the disease imposes that is not easy, especially if you have not been very independent and invulnerable before.

  • Often the stronger this person has been, the worse they will assume this new role of dependent by rebelling and expressing their frustration in the form of anger against those who are close.
  • In some cases, people who become ill become despotic and arouse rejection of the caregiver, which puts the partner in danger during the disease process or once this person has been cured.
  • The patient sometimes takes refuge in the feeling of guilt that awakens in the other to exercise his will and power in a constant way. Guilt can also arise from being responsible for getting sick or putting a burden on others. This feeling can be expressed directly – which would be advisable – or covered with expressions of anger.
  • It is clear that in such a special situation all those involved live an adaptation that will require a lot of communication, maturity to express what they feel at the moment and in the appropriate way and the capacity for sufficient introspection to self- regulate according to what is possible. On every occasion.
  • If the grief and illness can be overcome, all this can enrich the couple as each one has learned more about himself, about the other, having developed a greater degree of intimacy and trust and having found each other even on a more spiritual plane.


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