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Don't Really Know or Love My Spouse
Bob in Nashville
Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2020 11:20 PM
Joined: 12/22/2018
Posts: 12

My wife Beth, 69, is declining at an accelerating pace with Alzheimer's. Challenges are overwhelming - financial, legal & emotional. Most troubling is what I'm learning through therapy. Beth & I go back to 1st grade; in 4th grade she & her mother moved out of town, triggering a lifetime of idealizing her in absentia until we were finally wed in 1984. Much of our relationship is based on my loving the image I had placed on a pedestal, which created problems over time in our marriage. Through work with a psychiatrist to deal with my doubts over whether I can provide the care she needs, I've come to realize that I never really loved this person or for that matter came to know her. Yet I am obligated to do what I pledged to do in our vows 35 years ago. I sense already that these insights into our marriage will create additional, severe burdens for me, in terms of resentment, anger at being deprived of real understanding & intimacy despite decades together, etc. I would never harm her but can easily imagine harming myself when this becomes unbearable. All comments are welcome, especially from those who also have to reckon with a lack of real connection to those they are caring for.
Posted: Friday, February 7, 2020 4:41 PM
Joined: 11/22/2019
Posts: 399

I was at a face to face Alz.org caretaker support meeting this week and there were three people who attended who were deeply compassionate caretakers who did not love their people with dementia for various reasons.

People have complex relationships and dementia makes them more complex. 

Posted: Sunday, February 9, 2020 10:43 PM
Joined: 9/8/2017
Posts: 2338

Maybe not so much not loving her, but you not feeling you were ever loved.  Just guessing.  

People commit to obligations, and that is not necessarily love.  A mother may feel an obligation to care for a child, without really loving that child.  And there it goes, we learn how to commit to an obligation. But not really feel love.

Many of us do that.  Like, we were taught that is the right thing to do.  Or maybe, somehow, we're trying to earn being loved.  Who knows.  

Whether you loved her or not, many have loved and some no longer once they enter this dementia journey.  It's a long road and very tiring.  No one understands what it's like being a caregiver unless they do it themselves.  

Anita W
Posted: Monday, February 10, 2020 12:34 AM
Joined: 2/15/2016
Posts: 1

I can understand you situation. I am caring for my husband, retired last year to spend more quality time with him. I spent my career teaching high school students who would learn new things, become critical thinkers and communicate through reading, writing, listening and speaking. Now, I am watching my husband decline in every way. Sometimes I think my caregiving role has replace my relationship with my husband as his wife. I also think I am guarding myself from my attachment to him to lesson the blow when he no longer recognizes me. 

Your comments moved me to respond. You're not alone, thank you for your honesty. 


seeking sanity
Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2020 10:43 PM
Joined: 2/11/2020
Posts: 6

Hi Bob.  I am taking care of my mom who has severe Alzheimer's which is why I'm discovering this site.  But my husband died three years ago of heart and renal failure.  Came home from work and found him dead on the floor.  The point is that he was so angry and mean the last years of his life that several times I considered leaving him.  Wondered if he ever loved me or if I ever really loved him.  The answer is that I still don't know.  And you probably won't have a concrete answer for years if ever either.  Providing the intense care needed for the well being of our loved ones doesn't clarify the situation either.  I was in therapy for years after my husbands death.  One of the things I've learned is that sometimes the most solid answer you can hope for is "I don't know".  The other thing I'm realizing is that it is possible and probably necessary to try to appreciate the good things that occurred during your time together.  The good stuff may not represent the biggest slice of your relationship.  In fact, it may be really hard to remember any at all.  But if you can come up with just one or two good things it can help you to get through.  I helped me with my husband and it is helping me with my mom.  Remember that after the darkness comes the light.  And not to sound cliché, but you are in fact stronger that you can even imagine.
Posted: Sunday, February 23, 2020 10:30 AM
Joined: 2/23/2020
Posts: 4

I relate to this conflict quite a bit from the perspective of a son in law.  My father in law has Vascular Dementia, and over the last few years, our family has watched him devolve into a completely different person.  He is constantly agitated, and prone to horrific temper tantrums.  His wife is doing the best she can, but the person she is caring for is no longer the man she married. We are in the early phases of truly appreciating the gravity of the situation, but luckily we have an awesome family that supports each other.  I'm glad to connect with this even larger support group we have here.
Posted: Friday, June 19, 2020 4:23 PM
Joined: 1/25/2018
Posts: 757

Bob, I'm not sure if I envy you or not. My beloved of 35 years was recently placed in what is likely forever long term care. Throughout our marriage she occasionally, disappointed me, sometimes infuriated me, and more often than not loved me as much as I loved her. Now that she's gone I feel myself descending into madness far more quickly that I thought a person could. I can't make plans for the future because at this point it's possible she will outlive me. I don't seem to be getting any better. The one that I loved more than life itself is gone, and so life itself has no pleasure for me. Perhaps your road will be easier to walk than mine. You've had company and companionship. You may never had the depth of love I and my DW have shared, but until she was gone from my life I never realized how deep my love for her went. Now my pain is far sharper than that love I took for granted. You may be a lucky man.
Posted: Thursday, April 14, 2022 7:51 PM
Joined: 3/21/2022
Posts: 14

I so love this post.  Yes we often commit to obligations.  

I love my LO.  I find myself wanting to run away...not deal with this thing called dementia.  

I wonder if he wants to run away also.  Or does he even know he is not there anymore?  

Jo C.
Posted: Friday, April 15, 2022 9:18 AM
Joined: 12/9/2011
Posts: 13681

Hello LauraPaul, this is a very old Thread from two years ago.  It is not easy to answer your question with specifics as each person with dementia is so different from another.

Also, there is not much input here on the Musings Forum, it may be helpful to Post this question on the Spousal/Partners Forum which is very well attended and there will be more responses based on experience.

Hope to see you there.


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