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Feeling like I’m falling short

Dear Annie: I am the sole caregiver of my partner of 30 years who started suffering from dementia five years ago. I am at a point where I do nothing all day if I can avoid it. I read compulsively. I start stressing days ahead of when I know I’ll have to make a trip to town — 40 miles roundtrip for groceries, etc.

My partner doesn’t require me to be on my feet all day. He just lays in his chair and listens to audiobooks. He can still make his way to the bathroom and back with his walker. I just make sure he has his meals and meds at certain times. Right now, he is dealing with a back injury due to a fall. When his back is better, it’ll be either his teeth or his stomach we are dealing with. I don’t have enough energy to clean the house, cook good meals, do laundry or take care of the truck.

I dread having to do anything or think about anything. I have become an absolutely worthless human being. It takes everything I have in the way of energy to just feed him, take care of the animals, the bills and groceries, etc. How can I be so tired when I am doing less and less every day? I am so ashamed of myself. — Caregiver Not Good Enough

Dear Caregiver: Consider what local resources and support groups are at your disposal. Socialization and time out of the house will no doubt improve your mental health and provide you an outlet beyond just caring for your sick partner. Lean on your family and friends for support and allow them to help you if they can. Don’t be a hero.

Being the sole provider for another human being is a challenging, exhausting role to hold. Don’t belittle this; show yourself some compassion and remember that your productivity is not an indication of your value.

Dear Annie: A few years ago, I responded to a letter in your column from a widower, “Missing Love,” who wanted to date again but felt it was a “problem” that he still loved his late wife. I said it was not a problem, but a blessing, and if he ever did find love again, it would exist alongside his love for his wife, not replace it. That was my theory, anyway. I was a widow of four years who was NOT looking for love! But here is my update.

I decided to join an online dating site six years after my husband died, when my life was finally happy and fulfilling as it was. I wasn’t looking to be rescued or taken care of, so I could date lightheartedly: I had no expectations but nothing to lose, either, so it was easy.

I met a few men who didn’t click, and then, three months in, I met a wonderful man who instantly did! His wife had also died six years before. We married six months later. We found “The Princess Bride” style true love, much to our continuing amazement.

I can say from experience now that indeed, the new love lives happily beside the old, which is not at all diminished or set aside. We speak easily and with great fondness of our first spouses, and our families and longtime friends are most happy for us. I hope “Missing Love” has the same great good fortune. — Buttercup

Dear Buttercup: Thank you for sharing your sweet story. It’s truly a testament to the fact that we can experience and celebrate new relationships while still treasuring ones that have come before. When it comes to love, there’s always room for a second chance.

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“How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?” is out now! Annie Lane’s second anthology — featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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