How do you cope with the guilt of resenting the constant criticism from the person you care for?

Hi. I’m new the to the group. I’ve been caring for my spouse for about 15 years. She has a number of mental health issues, and her physical health isn’t great either. This Christmas has been especially hard to cope with. I work full time, do the housework and try my best to care for my spouse, but I know I don’t always get it right all the time. I guess I’m just feeling sorry for myself because I’m struggling to cope with the near constant criticism. I know I’m the only person she can take it out on, and she isn’t feeling well at the mo, but it still hurts. Any suggestions on how to cope with the guilt? I can’t be the only person to resent it from time to time.

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Hello @Andria and welcome to the Forum where you will find a warm welcome from everyone because we know what you are going through.

<y Dad lived with us for about three months as he started with dementia and that was a very hard time as he criticised EVERYTHING I did - preparing food he specifically asked for and then having him saying I was not giving him what he wanted and why couldn’t he have what we were eating… That was a mild comment. Eventually I couldn’t cope as I was working full time as well and we ended up having a massive row and he went to a relative - til that went sour too!! Then a Care Home and he complained about that too!

The resentment I felt still hurts me as previously we’d had such an amazingly close relationship.

I now care full time for my husband, Graham, after a stroke 2 years ago today… I had to close our business and that was so hard as well. We lost all our income and contact with people. Even now I resent the Stroke from having taken away so much of MY independence as well as that of my Dear Graham. Thankfully he has not been immobilised - even though he is very restricted - but has gone through a cascade of other medical issues so it’s been one medical appointment after another for those 24 months. Even last evening when we were talking he said that I have become more tolerant which is reassuring, but I do find myself getting frustrated. Changing bed every morning and extra washing, having to do all the cleaning, gardening, dog walks (that is my only escape). He lost his driving licence so I am chauffeur (we live in a very rural area so have next to no pubic transport links - so every GP or hospital appt NEEDS a car).

I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet, just to let you know you are not alone in your struggles.

You’ll find a lot of support on here. A good thread to check out is “Roll Call” where we tend to have a chat/gossip and exchange daily experiences and sound off when we need to vent. Have a look at it and if you feel up to it - post your thoughts. No judgement - just support.

If you’ve been supporting her for such a long time, you have nothing to feel guilty about. She probably doesn’t realise how the comments effect you. Doesn’t help YOU - I know.

Hi Andria,
I’d like to put it a different way. I’ve cared in various ways for over 40 years. My son was brain damaged at birth, not his fault at all. My mother was ill most of her life, and as dad worked away from home, I cared for her more and more, doing all the jobs she couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Then dad was ill, in laws were ill, I had cancer, then found my husband dead in bed, then 3 months after that I was in a car accident that nearly killed me, and left me unable to walk but still expected to do jobs for son and mum, as well as run our business single handed!!! On the verge of a breakdown, I was referred to counselling. It changed my life. I think you would benefit from it too, to help you decide what you can and cannot do, should and should not tolerate. So if you go to work, your partner should be pulling her weight at home. If she can’t, then she needs to accept outside help to do her side of the partnership. It is not your fault that she has health issues, if you walked away she would be forced to face them in a way that she can avoid to some extent as you are there to help. She needs to look after you too, not make things worse by being unpleasant. You do not have to stay. If you do love her enough to stay and care for you, then she should love you enough to at least be civil, and let you have the time you need to keep well, go to the gym, or out with friends. She is not your jailer. For years my mum refused to have carers, only accepted them when she realised that it was either carers or a nursing home. And guess what? She enjoyed chatting to them, having some female company! How I wish I’d been rude and had a blazing row forcing her to accept carers to ease the burden on me, especially as I also had a disabled child. There is a saying that you get the treatment that you are prepared to put up with. Food for thought?

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Hi Chris.
Thanks so much for responding. It really means a lot to me. I’ve been looking for some time to find somewhere where I can talk. Sounds like you’ve been through it too and are continuing to have to deal with more than your fair share. It’s sweet that you have an escape with your dog (or is it dogs?). Animals make great listeners, don’t they? No judgement from them, as long as they get the odd treat and a warm fire to lie in front of. Unfortunately, our cat had a massive heart attack last week and we didn’t want him to suffer, so we had him put to sleep. At least it was very quick.
I hope you still have good memories of your father. Dementia appears to be the cruelest thing, gradually taking away those we love. I was sort of lucky that my parents both died very quickly, though I was still quite young when they died. I would have hated to see them as you have had to with your father, so it could have been much worse.
Sounds like you have your hands full with the housework. I guess you don’t get much ‘you time’ with all that. My wife complains about me doing housework, as she says it makes her feel guilty as I’m the one who goes out to work, but since she can’t face doing it herself, I have to, even if it annoys her.
Interesting you’re a same sex couple too. People either appear to assume we don’t have all the normal problems just like every other couple, or our problems aren’t real because it’s not a ‘real relationship’. Oh hum. But we know different. We care for our partners every bit as much as anyone can.
I’m not sure if she knows how much her comments affect me. I tell myself it’s not her saying those things, it’s her condition. When she’s not ‘down’, she can be very loving and fun to be with, but those times don’t happen often these days. Her physical health issues bring on her depression. Losing the cat hasn’t helped. Just occasionally she’ll cling to me, telling me I get her through, and I’ve tried to remember those moments.
Sorry, feeling sorry for myself tonight. It’s been a tough few months.
Anyway, thanks again. At least I don’t feel so alone now and I’ve managed to face something to eat.
Cheers!

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Hi Bowlingbun. Great online handle that! Love it!
Thanks for the reply.
While I guess most of the people here will have had a poor hand in life, you’ve had it really rough there. Everyone appears to have depended upon you and you’ve been put through some real hard times. I’m so inspired that you appear to have come through it. While some people are just better at coping, you deserve an award for that lot.
You may well be right, and I do get the treatment I’m prepared to put up with. I knew my wife had mental health issues when we married, so I guess I must be a sucker for punishment. I know I have my own ‘issues’. I guess I thought that if I can help someone else, I’ll be showing myself I’m not the basket case I thought myself to be.
I also feel I owe her quite a lot. I met her a few days before my mother died, so she helped me through a rough time.
She’s not my jailer as I do occasionally get ‘me time’ out of the house, and I don’t mind the housework. I’m one of those annoying tidy people who likes things in their place.
Thanks for the suggestion about counselling. I’m not sure where to start. You hear how hard it is to get anything on the NHS and my GP hasn’t even seen me in 3 years, they’ve been so busy. The NHS’s treatment of my wife’s depression has been pitiful, so I can’t see they’ll be any more interested in me. I might see if my workplace can provide some. They have an employee support programme, so it’s worth asking.
I’m not sure if I could be rude to her. It was ‘firm’ request tonight which has led to a huge sulk, accusations of hating her and normal ‘go away, leave me alone’ treatment. But I know it’s not her talking, it’s the depression.
Anyway, thanks for the inspiration that things can get better. Maybe hope is all I need right now.
Cheers.

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Hi Andria
It sounds as if you try really hard and that you do not feel appreciated.
How painful for you.
You are likely v tired, with all you do.
My partner and I care for our daughter with schizophrenia and she is often ungrateful and critical.
Guilt is a painful feeling but if it’s not justified, for example if you take time for you and then feel guilty, then you have to do what makes you feel guilty and keep doing things for you.
I hope this makes sense
Warmly And a warm welcome
Ula

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Hi Ula.
Ta for the warm welcome. A daughter with schizophrenia sounds tough. I was just looking through some of the recent posts on this group where I think you were describing how hard it is to get the medication. Our NHS appears great at treating critical conditions, and is staffed by people who are mostly trying their best, but the systems they work within don’t make their and our lives any easier, do they?
I think the real source of guilt is that I want back what we had for the first 7 or 8 years of our relationship. The depression was manageable and we had fun. Sure she had bad days back then, but that’s all they were. It’s the bad months and bad years that make me resentful.
But I guess I only resent it because it was so good. Maybe I should remember the good times on days like today. And she does still have flashes of the old her.
Thanks and best of luck with the meds.

Hi Andria, welcome to the forum. We all have some guilt from someone who makes us feel like it. I know mental health services are not great and sometimes you got to bend the truth to get something done. I would see your GP, ask them for some help and see what they can do. Write down in a note book or a dairy about your day and what happens as it can be used as evidence to get help you need. Always come on here and blow off some steam, try and find something you can do to take your mind off being put down, even if it a walk. I got my mum and some of the support help putting me down but I just tell them where to go, stand up to them. Most people putting you down are being bully’s but the moment you take the stand it shows you have had a enough and don’t want to be bullied anymore. Take care

Hi Andria.

See what I mean - the support on here is amazing and different points of view can help you focus your own mind.

We lost our dog, Roco, just before Christmas last year. He took ill and within 48 hrs we had to make the decision to let him go. He been with us for 8 years from a rescue centre and was wonderful. He saved Graham’s life one night when he collapsed so that meant he was totally special for us. We lasted ten weeks in floods of tears daily before we got Buster - a Golden Lab - who is totally different to Roco. He is calm and loving and so laid back he makes us laugh as he relaxes and lies on his back in the middle of the floor with his legs in the air! getting out on walks with him is my way of getting a break and letting off a bit of steam.

We are very fortunate that when the stroke hit we had no mortgage on our four bedroom house, but this with the business was out Pension Pot. The business went ‘south’ so now we have the house and some smallish savings. eventually we will have to down-size to release some cash but hoping that will be a while yet. It all depends on how G copes physically.

We celebrate our 13th anniversary (civil Partnership) this week but been together now for 26 years. No time off for good-behaviour so I must have been really bad!

I do get annoyed sometimes when people don’t appreciate we are a couple. Only yesterday we saw a doctor at a local hospital whom we had not met before. Her first comment to me was ‘and who are you - are you family?’ Didn’t think to say to Graham ‘who is with you today Graham’. I think she wanted to tell me to leave the room! My reply of ‘I am Chris. Graham’s husband and full time carer - Good Afternoon’ elicited no comment at all… Mind you our GO is wonderful and has told me his job is to ‘keep you well as I am not looking after Graham for you - I’ll have the dog, just not Graham full-time’… We do have a great rapport with him.

Graham often says he is a burden to me and my usual reply is ‘When I stood there and said my vows, I could not look you in the eye because they meant so much to me - I still meant them so don’t think you are getting rid of me easily - well not unless I win the Euromillions Jackpot - then I am off on a World Cruise with some Toy Boy!!’ Usually gets a laugh from him as he reminds me of the odds against me winning.

If @helena_2006 reads about you losing your cat she will be offering sympathy, as will many others, as she is the ‘cat-whisperer’. She knows what it is like to lose a loved feline.

You will find this is a great place to receive support and advice as well as being able to give back some support from your own experiences. We all have different backgrounds and the one thing you’ll find is a total lack of judgement on here as we know what it is like to be going through hell at times. There’s also a good sense of humour - as well as some ‘medical humour’ and even dare I say ‘gallows-type’ humour at times as we joke about dealing with poo-namis and as I often tell Graham ‘can I have the shallow end when we go to bed tonight’ as he had floods most nights despite padding up as well as he can. (he has prostate cancer on top of everything else and we think that is the cause, even though is treatment is working well…)

Keep your chin up - and all those other cliches we get thrown at us!!!

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Hello Andria

Welcome from me too. I am truly sorry about the loss of your cat. My felines are my family. Letting them go if their condition cannot be managed, is very hard, but the last ‘gift of love’ you can give them - freedom from pain. It will take time to come to terms with the loss though. I lost my Pennycat back in October and her sister Torri in April, and have found Xmas hard. They were both 15 but I had bred them. I am a failed breeder of Norwegian Forest Cats as I never let any of the kittens go.

I have just caught up with your posts. All I can say is to try and make time for YOU. I care for my 84 year old husband and he is mega difficult too. Medically non compliant which makes life a challenge. I think feeling resentment at times when you are doing your best, is totally normal and natural.

Please keep posting and check out ‘roll call’. We share the ups and downs of our day and if you are having a particularly difficult time, you will get support and empathy and no judgment.

I am having issues with one of my cats Machiavelli aka Aslan as he is hyperthyroid but unfortunately reacted to the medication over the Bank Holiday. So we have stopped it and will hopefully start it on Wed as the vet thought the initial dose may have been too high, so we will hopefully try again with a lower dose and maybe anti sickness medication- need to phone vet to discuss, as he was being sick. He has lost nearly a kg and is 12. Another cat Lysander aka Sunny is frankly obese so I am desperately trying to restrict his food as he was 10.4kg but is a little under 10kg but really needs to be around 7.5/8 so that is my challenge for 2024.

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Hi Helena. Thanks for the thoughts
Sounds like you’ve got your hands full with the cats alone! I could never give away a kitten either if I had any. I’ve always had rescue and re-home cats, the last was a Bengal who came without ears, who was a right character. I’ll miss him as he used to love to sit on me when I had a moment to myself.
Cheers and hope Aslan gets better soon.

Ta for the support Michael.
I’m quite good at distracting myself from the problems most of the time and do enjoy a walk, but the weather isn’t terribly conducive for that at the moment. It hasn’t stopped raining here for what feels like months!
Ta again.

Good morning Andria
Welcome to the forum.
Guilt is such a dreadful feeling isn’t it. A few years ago we used to say on the forum kick the guilt of the shoulder. I often used to think those words. Sometimes they helped.
I had dreadful feelings of guilt about my lovely late husband who suffered strokes vascular dementia and other health issues. He eventually needed a nursing home ( his consultant wouldn’t allow him home for his safety and mine). That guilt still returns to me at times. I tried to be patient with him and was for most of the time. Odd times I was cross which turned into guilt. Or the feeling of did I do enough etc etc .
You are doing your very best. You both are probably feeling ambiguous grief, mourning for what you no longer have and what you were for in the future. It’s a natural feeling. Try to put an imaginary barrier up when your partner is being critical. It’s the loss she is feeling too.
Keep posting

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Hi Pet.
Your words are very wise, thank you. I know she greaves for the loss of what we shared together when we were well and how much she could achieve. Also, I know it’s hard to be bright and cheerful when you’ve not been physically well for a long time. I guess everyone experiences this to some extent, those on this forum more than most.
It sounds from your experience the guilt never quite goes away, but I guess I can live with it. Most of the time I can manage. I guess a whole bunch of things came together last night to get me down, but talking helped.
Thanks again.

Hello @Andria, welcome.
Caring for a spouse over a long period of time is always challenging, 36 years here, so I do get it. Working full time plus taking care of the home and your spouse, is a lot for anyone to deal with. It’s not surprising that you’re having difficulty coping with her criticism as well.

As you mentioned your work has an Employee Support Programme it is definitely work looking into this, if only because it won’t cost you anything! You might also consider finding a private counsellor (but do ensure you go with someone registered with either the BACP, UKCP or other professional body), you can either find someone by going direct to those websites or using the Counselling Directory, which only lists members registered with professional bodies. Many offer a sliding scale if you ask, and if you can’t find the time for face-to-face, many offer online or telephone counselling too.

If your spouse has mental health issues, I wonder if she has been referred to your local Community Mental Health Team? Some areas accept self-referral, others need one from a GP. The waiting list will be long, so it’s not a quick-fix solution, but it might be worth investigating this avenue if you haven’t already done so.

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Hello, Andria. You are not alone. Most of us on this forum experience criticism from those we care for, and you can certainly include me among them. Christmas can be a difficult time to receive criticism. We feel we want to retaliate, but this goes against the idea the we should be extending goodwill during this season.

Really you need to be metaphorically thick-skinned. Don’t feel guilty; you have nothing to be guilty about. Avoid being drawn into a prolonged discussion about a criticism, or bouncing it back to your caree. This will just inflame matters.

A ploy I sometimes used when I receive criticism is to say, “Did you never make a mistake?” The most common reply is, “Yes - marrying you.” This is the point where I leave the room and let her dwell on the broader implications of the comment she has just made.

Strangely enough, even when we have had an episode like this, I still sense a kindly caring feeling over me when I am doing something special for her, such as preparing a nice meal.

You will not stop the criticisms coming; that is her nature. You can and should adjust the way you react. Don’t feel guilty; you are doing all you can. If you indicate that you react to these accusations she will try to use your reaction to manipulate you. Carry on caring and accept that there will always be the occasional friction in your relationship. You may even decide that some criticisms are valid, but sort out solutions to these cases on your own, and not in an argument with your caree.

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Some days want to leave so fed up of doing everything how do I go about arranging a break.can pip pay for break

You need to have a Carers Assessment first. Has your partner had a Needs Assessment from Social Services? I expect she will say she doesn’t WANT one, but she NEEDS one, to keep you well and able to care for her! Disabled people can become vey self focussed, but if you get ill she would have no option in an emergency but to move into residential care! She would want that even less, so it’s the lesser of the two evils. If she can’t do things in the home she should accept someone else in to do them as her contribution to the partnership. It’s unfair for you to work and do the jobs she could do I’d well, and actually care for her as well. When is any time left for you?

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Sometimes a set response helps. Maybe along the lines of “I’ve been at work all day so I’m tired but I’m doing my best?”

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Thanks so much for everyone who’s replied.
Today has been a better day.
Bowlingbun is correct that she always resists getting any assessment. We have made a little progress with the NHS, though the system appears to drop you off the list if you don’t keep fighting.
Denis, you appear to have been through similar experiences. Yes, I do experience happiness when I’m doing something nice for her, and joy if she responds.
So thanks all and Happy New Year for tomorrow!