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:
Developing communication in your relationships
How do you have communication without reaction?
Sounds of Soul – ‘Hold Myself’ song review

485 thoughts on “Bringing True Love to Caring

  1. Sometimes it is hard to know what the other person needs and that is where our own self care needs to deepen, letting go of the need to be needed, truly giving others space to feel for themselves.

  2. I love how you share how important expressing how you feel in any relationship is and discussing things together lovingly . This allows a harmony and flow together with true understanding and growth within.

  3. Very inspiring and a real tribute to yourself with all you share in your learning to simply be with another and not impose and what true support and love truly is if we open ourself up to all that is offered to us to learn from.

  4. Thank you Carmel such a beautiful role modelling of letting go of control and outcomes and making it about love first.

  5. This is a very important subject to raise and as I’m aware of many who are carers have had the same experience as you, the carers can end up very exhausted, drained, giving all of themselves to the one being cared for but is this actually caring? You present your personal experience which i am sure resonates for many in this position. True care is caring for ourselves and the other, allowing the other to have the space to heal and not as you have stated to try and control the other and everything around. We may think sympathy is love but it actually is dumping our sense that they are in a less than position than us, they feel that, it’s awful. Bring true care which becomes a healing in itself for the one being cared for where they have the space to be.

    1. Beautifully said Karoline. True care brings an equalness to one another. It says you and me are the same and so you are loved the same as another.

  6. We can often feel our caring is never enough, when we truly care lovingly, it is very healing for the one being cared for as they are held in a space of feeling supported and valued with the permission to be themselves.

  7. In any relationship it is important to share what we feel about everything otherwise resentment and frustration builds up and arguments can follow which were entirely preventable with a little bit of honesty and understanding.

  8. Yes.. true care has no control, need or manipulation, but is an offering of support and space for others to make their own choices, in their own time.

  9. Allowing people who are terminally ill to make their own choices allows them to live with dignity because they know their own bodies better than we ever can and they will have a sense of what they need or don’t need.

  10. It takes a lot of the stress and pressure off when we can step back and allow someone to be responsible for their own choices, as ultimately we all are (even when we decide to take no responsibility!).

    1. Yes your so right, rather than trying to control then you can allow them the respect and honour to do what they choose. So relate to this with parenting, I need a daily reminder!!!

  11. Sometimes independence can be used as a way to keep people away, so there is no vulnerability, no exposure, no sense of losing control. But this way always reveals itself for what it is, as we are more often than not left feeling the results of our choices, with isolation and exhaustion as the usual markers for the impact. So I love that you took the steps to remain open and welcoming to the love and support that is there for you, showing that you had already learnt about letting people in, and now all there is left is to live what you know to be true.

  12. The moment we are not in sympathy and trying to ‘do good’ or ‘get it right’ we are with truth and thus able to respond to its impulses in order to provide exactly what is needed in any given moment.

    1. So simple when you put it like that Liane, and so exactly what is needed is easily accessed and lived, we complicate life and then it seems complicated which confirms our need to protect and control.

  13. How many carers have made themselves ill by not looking after themselves, putting others needs before their own? It is so very important for all carers to not be afraid or too proud to ask for help because usually people are very willing to pitch in and lend a hand.

    1. I would imagine most carers make themselves ill from putting the other person first all the time and not attending to their own needs. Self care is most certainly not selfish but rather the most loving act you can give another.

    2. Yes indeed Kevin – we have got it completely upside down and it would serve well to make sure we look after ourselves before attending to others needs.

  14. ‘…and I am working on letting go of the need to be right all the time!’ I can see this in my own life and it’s actually very freeing to let go of this. There’s a great beauty in appreciating life as it is – I don’t have to make my mark and invest the enormous effort to do so. There’s a greater appreciation of people and feeling the gold that can come through us, and just observe the stuff that isn’t pleasant. And of course, there’s the humility of the grandness of what we belong to and allowing myself to feel a part of it too, integrally so.

  15. True support is when we care for the whole – everything, ourselves and others – and instead of having a picture of how that may be.. letting our body’s feelings and impulses show us the way.

  16. I have worked in the health care system all of my adult life and am only just understanding what true care is. Care for ourselves and care for others has to come from an open, honest. loving, unattached, non-imposing, non-critical way of living. I will be working on this for the rest of my life, for myself and everyone I come into contact with.

    1. This is so beautiful to feel when you describe true care. There’s the space to be without need or condemnation. Lovely, a space to breathe our own breath.

    2. Very true Gill, this is a lifetimes work to live without the impositions of ideals and beliefs as to who we are and what we ‘should’ be doing.

  17. Allowing people to be where they are and not judge is such a blessing for us all and really it can’t come from us unless we accept where we are ourselves and let go of the critical judgements that seem to control us. So much freeing when we do this.

    1. I agree, Natalie, we need to accept ourselves more and be less critical and judgemental. Once we realise how negatively we think about ourselves we can feel how dishonouring that is and make steps towards nothing but appreciation, which then expands to appreciating others in every way.

  18. Thank you, Carmel. I can feel the grace of your openness to learning. It is wonderful to hear about how you have developed a deeper relationship with your partner, by honouring his choices and thereby allowing him to process his responses to being ill without imposition.

    1. One of the gifts of accepting other people in our lives in their fullness, flaws and all, is that it dispenses with judgement and the push to control. It also offers us the opportunity to be more honest about the way we behave.

  19. Such a magnificent sharing Carmel one that many people could relate to. To bring more love is so beautiful compared to control and imposition and that awful need to be right! I will reread this time and again as there is so much this relates to like parenting for example. Pure gold thank you.

  20. ‘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.’ – It goes to show how important it is for us to speak truth to each other no matter what, as it is the only way we can become aware of where we are at and what quality our actions are actually in. We all need true reflections to be able to grow and learn.

  21. It is really important for us to care for ourselves first, before we care for another and if that means asking for help then we need to honour ourselves and ask, because as you have beautifully shared with us when we override what our own body requires we end up exhausted and unable to truly help anyone.

  22. I work in health and social care and so often observe staff being emotionally attached to those they care for and although the can see this as being caring it is actually imposing on the people who are subject to this.

    1. Being emotionally attached and being in sympathy with others was something I thought was a great thing until I actually felt the impact of this on my own health… I found it to be draining and exhausting. Then, of course as you say Michael its also very imposing on another too.

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