While I was waiting for Alex during his procedure at the pain management clinic a few days ago, another couple came into the waiting room. The woman was soft-spoken and only said kind things, but everything about her actions screamed, “I despise you!” to her husband.

Granted, he was a little loud and his behavior bordered on obnoxious. The initial impression he made was not favorable, but I was amazed at how his wife’s non-verbal behavior filled the room with tension. As they sat side by side, she focused so intently on her iPad, that I got the impression she would have liked to crawl inside of it. When her husband spoke or asked her a question, she answered in a kind tone, but she also sighed, rolled her eyes or shook her head (in a small, almost imperceptible disapproving manner.)

When the nurse called the man’s name and he left the waiting room, I felt relieved for both he and his wife.

This encounter made me think about the messages our non-verbal behavior sends to our care receivers. If we don’t like our care receiver, if we resent the time, effort and energy we are spending taking care of them, and if we are feeling bitter about the burden they are putting on us, it’s probably going to show.

If you are caring for a family member who isn’t always a “loved one”, try to be aware of what’s going on in your body and your mind. Pay attention to what you are feeling. What do you need? Rest? Food? Cooperation from your care receiver or a little help from other family members? Some time to yourself? How about a little recognition and praise?

It’s important to pay attention to your own needs. You may think you are suffering in silence, but it’s hard to hide our true feelings. If you can learn to take care of yourself, you will probably do a much better job of taking care of someone else.