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?
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640 thoughts on “Bringing True Love to Caring

  1. So many of us are identified by how well we can care but we need to understand that what we think is care may not be if we are not caring for ourselves.

  2. I love the pragmatic understanding that perhaps you could have asked for support for yourself. We can find it difficult at times to ask and let in all the support that is really there for us in life, when we have been so independent.

  3. Accepting and appreciating ourselves is vital for love can grow from this, a love that can truly support and nurture not just ourselves but others too.

  4. Carmel this is a great blog exemplifying the importance of carers caring for themselves and being open to receive support from others too.

  5. Over-caring is something that we do not like to admit that we do yet so many of us do it, looking for recognition and acceptance which has nothing to do with love.

  6. This blog is an absolute gem Carmel. I love how you are exposing all that does not serve in true care and being honest enough to admit it and to make different choices to support from love rather than anxiousness or critique in thinking we know what will be ‘best’ for another.
    “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”.

  7. It is great what you have shared Carmel, learning to care without imposing, while learning to take loving care for oneself. I am thankful that I have a husband now that doesn’t need a mother, this situation has been a real healing for me, from losing myself in over caring most of my life to now learning to be responsible for me, learning now to care with no identity or attachments to outcomes, just an honouring of where the person is at on their return journey home.

  8. I love how life doesn’t always turn out how we expect, but in what occurs the richness and the depth of what’s available for us to learn is incredible.

  9. Sometimes we worry so much about a person that we can become overbearing and controlling. Is it for ourselves to make us feel better or is it for the other person, or is it we think the other person has not felt the significance of the situation they are now in and are purposely trying to ignore it. Whatever the reason we are all responsible for our own stuff and healing.

  10. I was really struck by the repetitiveness of the hospital experience giving you both another opportunity to deepen your relationship with how you supported yourself and each other. This takes a more responsible body to hospital and therefore supports the healing process – how wonderful is that?!

  11. Carmel, this is a very honest account of what life is like when a loved one is unwell and needing care. We are so used to exhausting ourselves in life generally, so the majority of people just throw an unwell family member into the daily stress that is already there and exist on caffeine and sugar to get through. What you’ve shared is a model of how we can look after ourselves so we can support others.

  12. What a great opportunity to learn and grow within yourself Carmel despite the difficult situation. It shows that even though life can be at times ugly and not what we would like, there is always the opportunity to claim ourselves and grow with it.

  13. Well the energy of drain and exhaustion is felt in this honest sharing. Knowing what true care is, is definitely not easy if we get bombarded by so many ideals and false beliefs of what care is supposed to be. What ever we do, if it wears us out, it is not true care,

  14. Taking care of ourself is a really important factor in taking care of others too and it’s something we can keep learning from our body, listening to it’s cues and communications…

  15. Carmel, you are very honest and very willing to look at every choice you make.I particularly loved this one;
    ‘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!’ That is huge, ‘letting go of the need to be right’ as we know there is no right or wrong only truth to be with bringing equality.

  16. This is such a beautiful example of how we grow through experience. We try one way, feel what the result is in the body and if its sustainable, then keep refining until we are able to fully support ourselves and stay true to ourselves. Nothing in life is about perfection, it’s all about how we respond and grow.

    1. Yes, it is a very personal relationship because what is right for one is not necessarily right for all as we are all at different stages of healing. What is Universal is the body’s relationship with Love and the way it expands when it feels nurtured by us.

  17. We ocassionally stumble across the truth of love but then let ourselves drift back to the dreams of what we might like it to be like. But no matter what elaborate ideas we come up with nothing will ever change Love from being simple – us living connected to God.

  18. It’s interesting we can see taking charge as caring but supporting someone in their own choices is very caring and this comes from being responsible for our own choices and level of self care.

  19. Judging what other people do is like pouring acid in top of open wounds. It doesn’t mean we have to bottle up what we observe – but the key first step is to hold them in Love.

  20. “In order to be loving with him, I know that I have to be loving with myself.” Indeed Carmel. For there is no true care in caring for another if there is any form of disregard or lack of true love and care for oneself first.

  21. “In order to be loving with him, I know that I have to be loving with myself…” This certainly takes away the ‘trying’ or ‘doing’ that is typically associated with caring for another

  22. What you express in this blog is very beautiful Carmel and is for all of us….an approach to apply in life in any circumstance.

    1. Agreed Jenny how often do we feel that we fix ourselves to get on with what we want to do rather than bringing in a level of love and support to the depth of care for ourselves and with every role. aspect or job that we do.

  23. Thank You Carmel Reid for openly and honestly sharing what is going on in your life.
    Rare is it we see this quality on the Internet of such a transparency that it gets us to stop and feel everything that is being expressed.

    I myself 10 years ago had a tumour and life was awefull. With the support of Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine I got a great understanding and I no longer see any illness as a bad thing.
    I know it is my body telling me time to release whatever the behaviour and pattern was that created that ill.

    Back to this super blog – it is heartfelt and everything you have said Carmel has deeply touched me.

  24. To truly love someone we have to be free of attachments so to recognise where these are in all parts of our lives and in all relationships we have to love ourselves enough to let them go.

  25. The same goes for ourselves I feel, when we turn our life upside down, when we make all sorts of choices that suck, we still deserve to be held, honoured and respected as precious beings we truly are. There’s no need for bashing or fixing, just observe, support and cherish.

  26. It’s great that you clocked trying to control and fix the situation Carmel, and in that, you have learnt so much. In fact, it would have given you both the opportunity to grow and evolve, especially as there are so many ideals and beliefs about caring for another.

  27. What you are sharing is huge, it is one thing to live and know you are going to die in the near future but it is another thing to be the one who is going to be with that person and will live longer. It is easy to go into control and over-caring as you described, to not feel what is going on, and then actually miss out on enjoying being with the other person. You are very inspiring in finding out how to really live in this period of life.

  28. “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.” Isn’t it interesting how we feel keeping someone alive, keeping them happy and so much more is all down to us.

  29. Your honesty and willingness to learn is very refreshing Carmel and you show how bringing it back to simplicity is the key in the midst of all that is happening.

  30. This is a very reflective sharing and great learning to be seen and appreciated for all it offers in the much needed understanding of true caring and the amazing effects it has on all concerned. Looking after and honouring oneself first is a big learning in the caring world of each other and all relationships and something to bring more of into the world and the opportunities this allows for all concerned.

  31. As you ask in your blog Carmel, “how do we care without overcaring?” This is something to definitely think about as it can be so easy to want to go into controlling and overcaring when we are supporting someone close who is unwell, but thinking on this made me realise we are often in positions of caring throughout the day on many levels where perhaps we take on too much or want to control another’s choices, it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone close with a significant illness.

  32. What an amazing healing for you Carmel!! When someone is ill the illness is for everyone to learn from as nothing just happens for one. And you sharing your experience and your learning reaches even more people.

  33. Thank you Carmel, this is a really supportive blog to return to, as I know from firsthand experience how challenging it is to care for someone and to find the balance between caring for ourselves and another, and allowing the person space without imposition as they find their own way through life and their health challenges.

  34. I often find in my relationship it is the giving of space to each other that allows the closeness to deepen. It is the freedom to leave if it doesn’t feel right that enables us to choose to be together each day.

  35. Bringing true love to life in all it’s aspects is where we all need to be at, with no one area being more or less important than another. With connection, word, thought and action, learning all the way.

  36. It is so good that you managed to see the trap you were falling into and do something about it before you were as sick as each other and both needed care. I have seen this before where the carer ages overnight because they thought it was up to them to do it on their own and not seek support, or even support themselves with all the things that support us, like good food and quality sleep.

    1. Kev that would be common in caring professions too with medical professionals, nursing home staff, etc.

  37. What you have shared here Carmel, is Gold – so many times our caring of another can be imposing as we see things a certain way and think that this is how it must be done. This comes from our own expectations or pictures of how we want to see things. And in this we try to fit the picture, impose and smother instead of offering open and un-imposing true care. But through these situations we really get to learn, we get to feel what we think ‘should work’ does not always work even though it so called ‘fits the picture’. Because when it comes to life and living, there are few things that actually fit the picture, and the biggest challenge is often to let go of this and simply allow things to unfold. This can only happen when we stop trying to control the outcome, which can be a very scary thing to do if we have always been in the habit of controlling things.

  38. ‘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.’ – this is very important that in sickness we are given the grace and dignity to choose what feels right for us and our health.

    1. I agree, for within those choices also lie the opportunities to heal on a deep level, no matter what the medical outcome might be.

      1. I agree – to learn self responsibility and self care is a huge step in our journey to heal because it is not just about physically getting better although that is very important, it is about growing as a person and being able to walk away from any situation wiser, so we don’t perpetuate the same patterns that got us to that point again.

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