Objectives Previous literature has suggested that negative and positive aspects of spousal caregiving co-exist. However, positive and negative experiences were often examined independently. This study aimed to empirically test a parallel process model of spousal caregiving. Methods This cross-sectional survey of family caregiving involved 269 frail older adults living in Shanghai, China, in 2016. Quota sampling was conducted to find community-dwelling frail older adults with a primary caregiver. Path analysis was used to identify the relationship between negative and positive caregiving experiences and life satisfaction. Results We found two independent paths towards life satisfaction: (i) activities of daily living were negatively associated with burden, and burden was associated with lower life satisfaction; and (ii) spousal caregivers' self-reported health and financial state were positively associated with positive appraisal, and positive appraisal was associated with higher life satisfaction. Caregiving time contributed to both aspects of caregiving experiences. The covariance between caregiving burden and positive appraisals was not statistically significant. Conclusion Spousal caregiving involves a parallel process. Negative and positive experiences are separate constructs and their associations with life satisfaction vary. We advocate for policy and interventions that promote positive views of caregiving that encourage caregivers to develop a high level of overall life satisfaction despite the hardships of their caregiving tasks.