Objective How does caregivers' life satisfaction shift upon the recovery of an ill spouse? Paradoxically, there is a greater increase in life satisfaction upon death than recovery of a spouse. Our analysis explores this paradox. Method We follow the two groups of exiting caregivers longitudinally for 4 years from when the partner is still in need of care until the death (N = 152) or recovery (N = 112) of a previously ill partner, comparing their trajectory of life satisfaction. We use the years 2001–2016 of the German-Socio-Economic Panel Study and a growth curve analysis. Results Contrary to our expectations, bereaved caregivers experience a significantly stronger increase in life satisfaction than spouses whose partners recover from a serious illness, even when we stratify by age, gender and initial life satisfaction to account for significantly different subsample composition. Surprisingly, life satisfaction remains unchanged when the partner recovers. Only if a heavy burden in terms of unpaid care and housework hours or prior care need is lifted, do we observe an increase in life satisfaction among spouses with recovering partners, which is like the one experienced by bereaved caregivers. Discussion More support for caregivers with high caregiving burdens may alleviate some of the strain associated with spousal caregiving, as—even if the partner dies—a decrease in spousal caregiving hours results in an uplift in life satisfaction.