Marriage Interrupted -- A True Catch-22


Marriage Interrupted -- A True Catch-22

My mother Mildred moved in with us after living alone in her own apartment in an adult community.  I would go every weekend to shop for her and then we’d eat dinner together in their dining hall. During the week, she managed on her own and ate with her group of friends.

It therefore came as a bit of a surprise to me when after moving in with Marty and I, she became extremely upset if we wanted to go somewhere on the weekend for just a few hours. She would make this utterly pathetic face and ask where we were going and how long we would be out in a pained voice.

Oh - hello  -– GUILT, my old friend!

I think I understood her fears. She was afraid of falling and she lost the security of knowing others were around even if they weren’t in her apartment. Explaining that we understood and wanted to keep her safe and secure, we said that when we went out, we would arrange for her to have an aide/companion come in for those few hours.  Sounds simple, right?

Wrong -– when we suggested this, she became very angry. “Under no circumstances do I want an aide. I am fine by herself and I don’t need any help.”  So, we were caught in this Catch-22 -– she made us feel awful for wanting to go out and spend time together, but she also was refusing to have an aide come in to give her a sense of security.

Around and around we went until it was just too painful for me to tell my mother that I was going out, so I avoided it at all costs. Forget any sort of spontaneity! My husband and I ended up carefully choosing when we wanted to put ourselves in the position of going out and it was never spur of the moment.

This went on for about a 1 ½ years until finally one night when we needed to attend one of my work events in the evening.

I explained to Mildred that an aide was coming over, but she wasn’t for her, she was for ME. I needed to work and I had to give a speech to a room full of important people. I just couldn’t do what I needed to do while worrying that she was okay. I told her that this was a gift she was giving to me and I appreciated it.

Well –- it worked out just fine and both the aide and my mother survived the night. The next few times we went out, Mildred still objected, but it definitely lessened in intensity. My mother still wants me home with her 24 hours, 7 days a week, and I don’t think that will ever change. My husband and I still have no spontaneity in our lives because we have to pre-arrange for someone to stay with Mildred, but I’m not complaining. We are so lucky and I absolutely know it. Because my dad saved his whole life for just this sort of thing, we are able to have an aide come over once in a while. I know many caregivers just do not have this luxury.

So, here is my “Survival Tip for Marriage after a Parent Moves In” Tip #2 –

  • If your parent is resistant to having an outside person come in to offer you relief, try to change your approach to make the request as a favor to you instead. Honor their feelings of hanging on to independence but say that you are in need of the security and help.

  • There are a number of volunteer caregiving agencies throughout the US who offer free respite to family caregivers. You can visit or contact your local Office on Aging to see if there is help in your area.

Hope this helps.  If you have any other tips that worked for you – please share!!


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Thank you for the wonderful tips. It makes so much sense to share that this aide is for us as caregivers to support our needs. Also, being there the first few times makes the transition easier for all of us. I know I would worry about the person understanding all of my mom's needs without me there to initially support (ease my anxiety).

Lynette Whiteman

Thank you for that great tip! We do that when we assign a volunteer to help a family member out for respite. The family member stays home, just in another room for the first few times until there is a comfort level, then it's building up to more time out of the house. I truly hope you can get an aide soon - just a little bit of time away without worry helps. Good luck in caring for your boyfriend! Lynette