When a couple spends their entire lives together, it is natural for them to each fall into certain roles in the relationship. For example, a husband might fall into the role of “handyman” – the one that fixes everything in and around the house. The wife might fall into the role of “disciplinarian” – doling out punishments to the kids when they misbehave.
As time goes by, these roles that a couple takes on become practically set in stone.
When something happens as the couple gets older, such as an illness, that requires one person to become the caregiver for the other, it can be quite an emotional challenge. All of a sudden the person you relied on for everything – your rock – can no longer do the things they’ve done in the past.
Men in the caregiving role tend to take a different approach than women do. Men are notorious for wanting to fix things. If something is broken, if it is not working right, they face the challenge head-on and attempt to fix it.
Men are also often in the role of “protector” – they want to protect their loved ones from harm.
In the caregiving role, men may struggle with their emotions when they realize they cannot “fix” what is wrong with their loved one, much less protect their loved one from the illness. However, men are also a bit better at compartmentalizing things in their life – work, family, play, friends, etc. – so, caregiving may be one more “compartment” in their life. This allows men to have an easier time seeking time for themselves away from the caregiving role.
Women, on the other hand, are often more nurturing than men. They can easily fall into the role of caregiver because it is often something that comes naturally. They spent years taking care of their children, so taking care of their spouse would seem to come easy.
However, just because something should come easy does not mean that it does. Women often go unappreciated in their caregiving roles because it is expected of them. When they struggle with the day-to-day routines and duties, there is often little outside help – because women are expected to be capable of juggling everything at one time.
It is essential that couples discuss their possible future roles as caregivers before the need arises. Being prepared for what is expected and seeking promises of support from other family members can be beneficial when it is time for one person to take on the role of caregiver.