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When caring for your partner’s ageing parents is hurting your relationship

Caring for your parents as they get older can put pressure on your relationship with your partner. It becomes especially difficult if it’s your partner’s parents who need caring, particularly if you are struggling to maintain your relationship while your partner is otherwise occupied. There are a number of ways you and your partner can work through the issues, and handle this difficult time together.

One helpful step is to try maintaining a positive attitude towards the problem. Getting defensive or blaming your partner can make the situation even more difficult.

Your partner may find it hard to accept that supporting their parents could be detrimental to their relationship with you. Focus on your partner’s actions as a good thing, and try to come up with solutions together that can help to meet both your needs.

Talking to your partner


  • Pick your moment. Choosing the right time to raise the issue will make it easier your partner to be open to discussion. Don’t bring up the issue when your partner gets home from visiting their parents, particularly if they seem tired or stressed. Stay calm, and state your issue clearly and concisely.
  • Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘you’ statements. For example: ‘I feel upset when all of our weekends are spent at the nursing home’, can be more effective than ‘You never spend any time with me anymore’. The ‘I’ statement focuses on how you feel, without putting blame on your partner.
  • Listen to your partner. Reflect their ideas and concerns back to them so they know you are truly listening to their side of the story. Only start to think about what you want to say after they have finished speaking. This can help keep tensions down, while you work towards solutions.

If you find that things are becoming heated when trying to discuss the problem, take a break. Step away from the conversation for a few minutes to cool off, so that you don’t perpetuate negative behaviours or say something you might regret.

Even after taking the above steps, you may still find it hard to work through the problem together. Lots of couples find it useful to seek professional help. Couples and family counselling can help you work through the problems, and provides a supportive and non-judgemental environment where a qualified practitioner can guide you.

Practical solutions

Consider the kind of care and the level of dependence that your partner’s parents need. Speak with your partner about other possible care options that might not be so demanding on your partner’s time and energy.

If you have children, see if you can get some help taking care of them from a friend or family member. This can help take some of the pressure off your relationship while you work through care options for your partner’s parents.

Remember that your partner is just trying to do their best for their parents. If you can pitch in and help, it may save time for your partner and free up space for you to spend more time together. It also shows that you care about them and want to rebuild the relationship in a positive way.

If your partner is taking care of their parents in your home, you may want to discuss hiring professional caregivers, either inside the home, or in a place where they can be more fully supported.

If your partner’s parents are already in a care facility and your partner is unhappy with it, choosing a new, more suitable facility can take a huge weight off and help them to focus on the relationship with you. Your partner may also wish to seek legal advice or file a complaint with the Care Quality Commission.

Whatever steps you take, ensure that rebuilding the relationship with your partner is always a priority, even if it means making some compromises or sacrifices in the short term.

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