You and your spouse have always planned to grow old together--and now, those plans are becoming reality. You've made it through many difficult milestones in your relationship, but in some ways, your golden years can be the most challenging, especially if one partner is still enjoying good health while the other one is watching their health deteriorate quickly. If you're struggling with a gap in health in your relationship, try some of these tips to smooth out potential problems.
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Tip #1: Create Plans for the Future
Sooner or later, it's possible that one of you will need to move into long-term care. What does that look like for your relationship? Will you make the move together, or will one of you stay in your home for as long as possible, even if the other one needs long-term care? There are two key things you must discuss in your plans for the future:
What are your desires as a couple? Do you want to stay together for as long as possible, or do you want to do what's in the best interests of each individual? Making these decisions now, before it's a real issue, can make the process less emotional later.
How will you handle the need to be flexible? Sooner or later, life is going to throw a curveball your way. Perhaps acting as a caregiver becomes more of a burden than the healthy spouse can realistically handle. Maybe one of you ends up with health problems you couldn't have anticipated. Give one another permission to be flexible with regards to any long-term plans you make now.
Tip #2: Be Realistic
If your spouse has been a homebody who prefers a good book to a jog around the park all your married life, chances are, their outlook isn't going to change as your senior years set in. Unfortunately, this may mean that one of you is significantly healthier than the other--and it's not for "lack of trying." Be realistic about your expectations for your spouse. You can encourage them to be more active, to eat healthier, or to take other steps to take care of their health, but you can't do those things for them--and you don't want it to become a source of conflict in your marriage.
Tip #3: Compromise
What things do you and your spouse enjoy doing together? You don't have to be glued together at the hip, but you do need to find activities that you can still enjoy doing together. You might find that you have a deep love for checking out new restaurants and types of food together, or you might discover that both of you love heading out on adventures or playing tourist in new areas together. It might take some compromise and some effort to find your happy medium, but with time, you'll be able to find new things that you enjoy doing together.
Tip #4: Keep the Conversation Open
Don't assume that because you've discussed the health gap between you once, you'll never need to discuss it again. Keep the topic on the table, and be willing to revisit it as needed. You'll discover that as you age, your needs change. The healthy spouse may undergo injury or illness that lead to more problems than anticipated, or the unhealthy spouse's health may deteriorate faster than you expected. Keep talking about your needs and desires. In many ways, this is the most effective way to be sure that your marriage will stay strong throughout these years.
Dealing with a big health gap between you and your spouse can be a challenge, but you'll take it on together, just like you have many of the other challenges in your lives. By integrating these key tips, you'll discover just how fulfilling these years can be.