Bringing True Love to Caring

I recently travelled to Australia to be in a new relationship and after 5 months, my partner and I bought a house in an area we liked and started to get to know the local community and what shops to get whatever we needed. We registered for the local doctor’s surgery and notified all the official places of our new address.

Within a month of our being in the new house, my partner, who had been living with emphysema for seventeen years, had one lung collapse (pneumothorax) and was admitted to hospital.

Back in the UK, when someone was ill, we would set up a rota of supporters to bring meals and to visit in hospital, but my partner said he didn’t want that, he didn’t want to have to deal with anyone’s sympathy, so I took on the responsibility for visiting and taking in nourishing meals and anything else he needed. I exhausted myself in the process because not only was I fetching and carrying things to the hospital, I was spending long hours there keeping him company, and my anxiousness for his well-being plus the constant activity of nurses, doctors and support staff was pretty draining. Looking back, I should have ignored his instructions and asked for support on my own account, if not for him.

After ten days he came home and was recovering well over the next few weeks, but then he had an infection flare up, which escalated into a high temperature and an ambulance was called to take him back to hospital. He had sepsis and the infection was diagnosed by the doctors as pneumonia. This time I asked for more support and some friends took in meals to supplement his diet. I learned to carry less to and fro but still felt exhausted because I didn’t realise just how stressed I was or how much I was absorbing the energy of the dramas that were unfolding around me.

My partner recovered well from the pneumonia and returned home, but a few weeks later he had another pneumothorax, so it was back to hospital. This time, being more aware of what was exhausting me, I spent less time at the hospital, had friends visit and take meals in, and was more careful not to take on the emotions and issues of everybody I saw at the hospital – and especially not to take on sympathy for my partner. By that I mean accepting that his current circumstances were the result of his own past choices in this lifetime and likely also lifetimes before. I was also concerned about leaving his dog on her own at home so much while I was at the hospital, so there was another level of underlying anxiety.

Once he was home, I was still anxious, worrying about his choices and being concerned that he wasn’t able to look after himself properly. Somehow I didn’t trust him and tried to control the situation, especially as he had been in hospital three times in three months and each time it had been the result of his over-doing things, trying to please or trying to prove he could do something.

He expressed to me that he was fed up with being treated like an invalid and I realised that my caring was in fact over-done and I was imposing.

I couldn’t not care, so how could I care without over-caring?

Supporting someone does not mean controlling: I needed to let go of control – everyone is responsible for their own choices and can learn from their consequences. By telling him what I felt he should do, I was not allowing him freedom to choose and, what is more, he wasn’t learning the lessons for himself. I realised that it was far more loving to let him take care of his own body, to make his own decisions and to support him in whatever way felt appropriate, but always to let him lead.

There may be choices he makes that I disagree with, but it is always his call. I can express what I feel, but I need to have absolutely no attachment to whether he listens or not. I also need to have no attachment to keeping him alive.

My partner had previously chosen to smoke and drink for many years but stopped getting drunk 27 years ago and drank smaller and smaller quantities until giving it up altogether because the smallest amount made him feel drunk. He also stopped smoking 8 years ago, so he had already made some great decisions for his health.

He took responsibility forty years ago for building a 46-foot yacht and sailing round the world in it with his family including two small children. He sailed into unknown waters and had to take responsibility for everyone’s health, often with no doctor available. During his travels he researched food and natural ways to support his own and his family’s health and they all survived very well. Now permanently back on land, he has access to both Western medicine and Naturopathic supplements and uses both to keep himself as healthy as he can, as well as continuing his research via the Internet.

Recently diagnosed with lung cancer and too sick for doctors to consider radiation treatment or chemotherapy, he is focusing on his daily self-care and his diet to keep the cancer at bay.

So, here am I with an uncertain future, not knowing what the prognosis is, supporting a man who is doing whatever he thinks is best to support himself. I don’t agree with all his food choices, but I can feel how important it is for him to feel in control of his own health and not be imposed upon by other people’s views.

Knowing that a healthy mind also supports our physical health, I am turning my efforts towards making sure I am always loving towards him, rather than reverting to the overbearing, constant caring and critical checking up on him. I am there beside him come what may and being lovingly supportive as much as I can, and I am working on letting go of the need to be right all the time!

In order to be loving with him, I know that I have to be loving with myself. That means getting a good night’s sleep, getting support from friends if I need it, eating nourishing foods and making sure I honour what I feel and express whatever is there to be expressed. I am learning to be less reactive and to always respond with love, which means being truthful, not pandering, not trying to please. I’m not perfect at it by any means – it is a huge learning for me, especially the letting go of control and attachment to outcomes. I’m also learning to be less critical of myself and to appreciate the lessons that are being presented to me every day.

Not for no reason have we constellated to being together. We are constantly reflecting and learning from each other, and the deepening of our love is what we are working on. However long we have together in the future, it is a relationship I shall always treasure because it is constantly helping me to evolve.

Published with my partner’s permission.

By Carmel Reid, Personal Development Coach and Counsellor from the UK, currently on a long term visit to Australia

Related Reading:
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How do you have communication without reaction?
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707 thoughts on “Bringing True Love to Caring

  1. I have a friend who has been ill since Christmas and has spent long periods in hospital which has put a great deal of strain on their only family member as the hospital is a good hour away, the family member has many part time jobs that need their attention so they are running around trying to fit more into their day. So the neighbour’s have rallied round and left meals for the family member so they don’t have to cook so much in the evenings when they get home after work and hospital visits. When the friend came home they said please don’t bother making suppers as … is fine we don’t need any support. This shows me that this person has never been truly been taken care of and so finds it difficult to accept that there are people around that genuinely want to support them. Is it possible that we are not used to living as a community that wants to support when necessary, as our society endorses the view that we are individuals and not part of the greater whole?

  2. “… accepting that his current circumstances were the result of his own past choices in this lifetime and likely also lifetimes before.” This is a powerful key point, we tend to see exactly what’s happening now and can assume it would be easy to change, but the person might be in lifetimes of existing this way, so they may need a lot of time and space to get a handle on resurrecting themselves. There is a big picture to consider, and not just what we see before us.

  3. Appreciation is so much of our relationship within, or with our essences, and that which we can appreciate is a platform or foundation that we can deepen our appreciative-ness, which brings even more magic to our lives and thus being appreciative becomes a confirmation and authority we live with as you have shared Carmel.

  4. It’s always such a touching read Carmel, because you have so very openly let us all into your life and shared your vulnerabilities and the wisdom gained from your everyday experiences. “I can express what I feel, but I need to have absolutely no attachment to whether he listens or not.” I feel this is so important because often we feel not being imposing is saying nothing, but to speak our truth without attachment (to the best of our ability) is honouring to both people.

    1. Imposing or not imposing is a fine line and discerning can be tricky but if we truly listen to our bodies we can feel it.

  5. Being in the care industry and reading this I curiously looked up the origin of the word ‘care’ and it’s related to ‘lament, sorrow and worry’ – The modern usage of the word wouldn’t relate to this at first but it definitely still occurs in care today. Being detached from wanting the person to be a certain way helps us support others and ourselves better, it allows more room for growth freely rather than restricting and controlling it to meet our own needs.

    1. That’s a curious and I feel incorrect definition of care. I feel care is more a quality I express within myself first, and the dictionary definition feels in part more like sympathy. I’m learning that care, as a quality, is automatically there, as it’s within me, and if I attach to others, project how I want others and their life to be, get involved, take on another’s stuff, I can still call that care in my mind in the same way the dictionary does, but the quality of care is gone, as my body is not feeling that quality of how true care feels.

  6. Every offering in life is an invitation to deepen and nowhere more so than when in the caring role. Looked at in this way, caring for another is never dull or boring but offers constant opportunities to deepen our relationship with self.

    1. It feels to me that what you are saying Kehinde2012 is that there is much more to life than what we see and feel on the surface level. That if we deepen our relationship with ourselves it reconnects us to the universe which is a constant interaction of intelligence far beyond what we think we can think.

  7. I’ve observed how beautiful it feels to be served by someone who works with love and the difference between this and someone who is just doing a job of fulfilling a duty. I have a choice when buying and tend to buy from the former, not latter.

    1. It doesn’t just make a difference in the moment but can make a difference to one’s life to be exposed to love, even for moments, if we have lived a life that has been devoid of it. The trust this can engender cannot be under estimated.

  8. New models of care now being offered are not dependent on social and health care services, but drawn from communities of friends and family. When we set up our own care plans and care teams, it reduces pressure and strain on family members and close friends ‘going it alone’. As client/patient or carer, accepting we need support and asking for it, is a required first step.

    1. Agreed, as His illness worsened we had a team of 24 hour care from friends who were able to be there for a few hours each time, it felt very supportive for both of us and enabled him to stay at home until the last 3 days of his life before going into Palliative Care.

      1. What you are sharing with us all Carmel is to me what is missing from our current way of living. I work as a volunteer at my local hospital and I have noticed how many elderly people are left to die on their own with no one around them. I wonder how this affects them in their next life when they reincarnate?

  9. There is a clear line between doing for someone and being there fully for them. In the latter you never lose or leave yourself but bring all of you lovingly in a way that supports, consults and reads what is needed. The call is to be self-assured, yet sensitive.

  10. The beautiful thing about caring for another is that is as much a learning for carer as person being cared for. When a caring responsibility is offered, how we respond is the true reflection of how we are with ourselves.

  11. Caring for another is less about what we do for another, more about the quality we hold within ourselves.

  12. Without true love as it’s impulsing energy then caring is as vacuous as not caring. And yet if a task such as taking the bins out is impulsed by love then it becomes a deeply caring thing to do and many more people will be touched by the action of taking the bins out than just the owners of the bins.

    1. When impulsed by Love, caring is never mundane or dull, every activity is carried out in the same quality.

    2. What a powerful comment, thank you Alexis, “ Without true love as it’s impulsing energy then caring is as vacuous as not caring.“ It is a stop moment to consider that what looks like we are giving care on the surface is not caring at all. The example of the bins moved with love versus the traditional pictures of helping others, but with no loving quality, is a great one.

      1. Absolutely Melinda and we can feel the difference between the two even if we don’t openly acknowledge it.

  13. ‘I realised that it was far more loving to let him take care of his own body, to make his own decisions and to support him in whatever way felt appropriate, but always to let him lead.’ I was talking with a friend last night about what giving space to someone really means and this is surely it. With my own children I feel it is important they make their own choices and not interfere with them too much as they need to learn the empowerment that comes from sometimes making the less loving ones. This can be hard sometimes, to watch them make choices that don’t serve them, but at those times I question myself and try to work out what my own investments are as there is surely an attachment there or a need to see things play out in a certain way.

  14. This is a brilliant exposure of how we feel that caring for others should come before caring for ourselves. It trips us up every time.

  15. Great to hear you ended up taking care of yourself in order to be there and care for your partner and it just goes to show when we drop the care for ourselves it does not feel good or is supportive in any way. This is something I feel as a society/humanity we tend to do, in stressful situations we forget about us and drop the level of love and self care for ourselves when really what we need to do is up it! ❤️

  16. “Not for no reason have we constellated to being together. We are constantly reflecting and learning from each other, and the deepening of our love is what we are working on. However long we have together in the future, it is a relationship I shall always treasure because it is constantly helping me to evolve.” True relationships ask us to grow and evolve. What a blessing.

  17. Carmel this is a gorgeous way of asking when true care is abandoned for smothering which essentially comes from us not being comfortable with what we are feeling. This is something for us all to watch out for at all times, as partners, as parents, even as friends – and is an opportunity for us to learn about true support and grow in the process by being willing to look at how we are really feeling.

  18. “feel how important it is for him to feel in control of his own health and not be imposed upon by other people’s views.” This is so vital in my role as a support worker or in any relationship really. When unimposed there’s more space for trial and error with our body giving us feedback. It’s the body’s feedback that has us change our lives in truth rather than changing our choices because someone else said x,y,z.

  19. This is amazing. When it comes to being loving, we tend to come up with a list of things to do and how we should do them, but really, it is about being what we already are, and sure we are not being that all the time, but that is ok too. Sometimes, to not get caught in being right, we have to let our movement take its own course and it may end up being ‘wrong’ or a ‘mistake’, but when we just stop and be, we are back to being simply love.

  20. “I realised that it was far more loving to let him take care of his own body, to make his own decisions and to support him in whatever way felt appropriate, but always to let him lead.” This is so important for anyone in the situation of looking after others and being the one who is sick because so often we think the person who is sick incapable of making decisions for themselves.

  21. Love your sharing Carmel, you show what it is to truly care for someone, by making sure you care for yourself first. When we do we have a clear understanding of what is needed for the other person.

    1. Beautifully said Alison and the simplicity of this rings so true there is no need to do anything other than to simply put this into action – deep care for self first before there is true care for another.

  22. When I’m in fear or reaction about someone’s choices that’s when I begin to start making unhelpful choices for myself and the person. It’s such a huge event having someone who is unwell in some way in our lives and seeing their own contribution to their health condition. I know for me attachment to wanting the situation to be different or needing the person really impacts on my ability to be truly loving or not.

    1. Melinda I can so relate to being attached to a situation which comes back to wanting to control an outcome, which does impact our ability to be truly loving or not.

  23. To respond with love is to respond with truth, to express what we feel, in full, leaving no remnants unexpressed in the body until ‘next time’ when we think/hope it might feel or be easier (and usually it isn’t, so what is left unexpressed gets buried).

  24. A person’s selfish choice can bring a lot of drain on us. It is not our responsibility to be the servant of another but lovingly stand by them and support them to the best of our ability. It may seem harsh because of our socially accepted norms, but when taking a bigger picture approach we can realise the importance of taking care of ourselves first before taking care of another.

  25. How often do we think caring for someone or loving them is adjusting ourselves to their wishes and needs? It is a gross misinterpretation of love to think it is ok to not care for ourselves in order to care for others. I am seeing more and more in any situation how I still adjust myself to another at the expense of my own quality. This does not mean we cannot be there for another or that we cannot care for another, it means that in each moment it is for us to discern what is truly love.

  26. What I love reading most in your sharing Carmel is how you learnt and deepened each time you were placed in the situation of caring for your partner. Indeed this is all life is about. Continuously evolving and learning to bring more of our love to expression in life.

  27. I love that you decided to be loving with yourself and him, it’s such a gorgeous focus rather than trying to fix things.

  28. Caring for ourselves is paramount to being able to offer true care to others and to truly support them to make their own choices without being attached to or wanting to control an outcome. It is a great opportunity to appreciate how we learn from each other and evolve together.

  29. It is amazing to read how back in your local community in the UK people would set up a rota to support someone when they were in hospital. This is the kind of news worth reading about.

  30. A great learning Carmel and what is important is the open communication and expressing what was felt so that we can reflect to another what didn’t feel true. We can learn from these ingrained patterns we have chosen to align to and cut them one by one and free ourselves of the controlling ways that are not from our innate true essence.

  31. I am still learning more and more: to let go of control, to let go of judgement, and to refine what I eat so that I can read what is going on and not take too much personally. It is a constant balancing act of working out how much to do, how much he can do for himself and what I can do that is truly supportive. I have to be careful not to overdo it myself in my keenness to support, otherwise I will be like all the other carers who burnout and can no longer offer true care.

    1. Letting go of control is a big one and when we take on a caring responsibility, this trait is guaranteed to be exposed. But also beautiful, for when it rears it’s ugly head and we see it, we know it’s there for a purpose: to let it go and respond to the person being cared for without expectation or judgement.

    2. The desire to control is more about us than another and reflects insecurities as yet unresolved. When we lovingly accept who we are, there is no need to control another, we simply offer them love and stay true to ourselves.

  32. “I realised that it was far more loving to let him take care of his own body, to make his own decisions and to support him in whatever way felt appropriate, but always to let him lead.” This is beautiful advice for anyone who is supporting or caring for someone. Because when we say what they have to do it can feel controlling but also they won’t learn the consequences of their choices.

    1. So often I have observed that the way we tend to care for others can be out of a sense of duty or obligation rather than simply from love. When it comes from anything other than love, a resentment can build and no one feels cared for, neither the carer nor the one who is in need of the support. Quite often too, whilst I am not suggesting for one moment this was in Carmel and her partner’s case, the person who has the condition can manipulate the carer without considering their needs at all because they are the one with the condition and feel entitled. The loveless model of life we have all subscribed to is going to take some undoing…

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