A caretaker in a romantic relationship will look out for their mate’s needs, feelings, and desires, who tends to be an emotional “taker” or manipulative.
The caretaker overlooks their desires to the point of neglecting their wellness and self-care needs in exchange for caretaking in relationships.
Caretaking in relationships means you concede to the manipulative partner to appease them, please them, if you will, and maintain peace in the partnership. In the caretaker’s eyes, their methods help keep the relationship progressing forward.
The caretaker’s personality is one of concern, sincere generosity, dependability, and genuine caring.
Their primary focus is to “people please.” Still, these are authentic and kind individuals with the unfortunate capacity for being easily manipulated by a mate due to a desire to avoid conflict instead of having a tendency towards “over-compliance” and “passivity.”
The caretaker desires that their partner does not feel any of the negative feelings they feel, but their secret hope is that the partnership will balance out so that their needs and wants are also met.
The secret is for them to engage in self-care first and then tend to the “taker.” Things will improve with this.
What does it mean to be a caretaker in a relationship?
In defining “what is a caretaker,” we need to recognize the individual takes no consideration for their own thoughts or feelings. Their desires, even wellness, take a backseat to their mates for whom they feel responsible for their happiness and any upset or pain.
The partner is generally a “taker” with little problem receiving what the emotional caretaker chooses to give. In many cases, the significant other manipulates situations to gain more from the one providing.
The caretaker genuinely believes if they give enough, ultimately, their mate will “save” them and start providing for them in the same capacity the caregiver offers to the “taker.”
The caretaker complex has these individuals believing everyone has their exact giving nature. When faced with a taker, they’re genuinely taken aback and hurt at finding this untrue.
Are you a caretaker or taker in a partnership?
You know you’re a caretaker in a relationship when you let go of everything and everyone that matters to you to ensure that the person you’re in a romantic partnership with is content in their life.
The taker will receive what the caretaker gives with no concern that their partner is neglecting their own well-being to ensure the taker is satisfactory.
Someone with a caretaker personality tends to be drawn to takers because of their magnetism but hopes to receive caretaker treatment. Takers are drawn to caretakers for selfish reasons. They want to be taken care of.
Follow this podcast with Dr. Roberta Shaler, who will help you see if you’re “caring, caretaking, or enabling.”
15 signs you are a caretaker in romantic relationships
A codependent caretaker and a person who takes advantage of that care results in a dysfunctional partnership. As a rule, a taker is usually insecure with a desire to be taken care of, but these individuals can be manipulative and need to be in control.
While the taker goes to extremes to receive care, including exceptionally domineering behaviors, the caretaker takes that treatment and goes to the other extreme in providing that care by giving up their comforts, satisfaction, needs, desires, and well-being.
Each of these individuals ends up depending on each other and resenting the other for that dependence. Perhaps you’ve allowed yourself to forgo your own joy and satisfaction in favor of a mate’s contentment or let go of your social circle and goals or dreams.
These are apparent signs you’re the caretaker in a relationship. Let’s look at others.
1. You assume more responsibility for your mate than you do for yourself.
While everyone wants to care for their partner, assuming more responsibility than is reasonable for your well-being is going too far. With caretaking in relationships, you will provide for your mate to the point of personal loss.
2. People in need draw you towards them
People who need some help will draw you to them and typically comprise your dating pool. You feel somehow you will be able to offer support and provide the necessary care.
Caretaking in relationships is not the same as a caregiver relationship, however. Caretaking vs. caregiving is a drastically different concept.
Being a caregiver in a relationship is not a dramatic or extreme act with personal gratification. It is a selfless act of helping a person in need of care. Dating someone who is a caregiver won’t result in the same codependency cycle as you see with a caretaker.
Learn more about the reasons for your codependency and how to overcome it with help from this video by Life Coach Stephanie Lyn:
3. You don’t get your way
With caretaking in relationships, the caretaker doesn’t get their way, nor is that their intention. The idea is that your mate is the priority and that any needs and desires you have are irrelevant.
When mutual friends comment on a mate’s ill behavior, your response is always to defend or make excuses for the behavior even though what they’re saying is true. Even if you see the flaws and imperfections, your position is not to judge.
5. You need to feel needed
While caring for people is a good thing and even doing things for others is admirable, there is a point to going too far, especially when you take care of things that a mate can do for themself.
Your partner is not a child and needs to handle their own tasks without assistance. Not doing so can create a toxic situation. Letting them take care of themselves is a part of being caretaking in relationships.
When indulging in caretaking in relationships, you likely have only a few social relationships remaining. Still, you jeopardize these by solely talking about your mate and what’s happening in their life instead of about yourself.
That’s likely because your world revolves around them. Caretakers usually give up almost everything important, including friends and family.
7. You are out of touch with your thoughts and emotions
Sadly you’re so focused on your partner’s feelings and emotions you’ve lost focus on how you feel. It’s to the point that you genuinely need to seek your mate’s thought process to recognize how a situation should react to you.
While couples can often be on the same page, this extremeness is unhealthy and opposite to caretaking in relationships.
8. You don’t do anything until you communicate with your mate
In that same vein, you won’t make personal choices without communicating with your mate. It makes sense if these are vital life decisions, but specific choices that affect you personally should be made by you alone.
For instance, a promotion decision, maybe how you should fix your hair, is a significant personal decision.
9. Caretaker psychology dictates the size of your “world”
As a rule, caretaking in a relationship means that your world becomes about your mate.
That eliminates many of the people who were once a part of your life, close friends, often even relatives who you might have at one point spent substantial amounts of time with. Now your days are monopolized by your partner.
10. Boundaries are neglected
In healthy partnerships, boundaries are set and maintained for the respect of each individual. A caretaker has minimal, if any, regard for themself, meaning it’s unlikely this person would fathom the notion of boundaries.
Each person in this relationship, but especially the caretaker, will assume themself into the other’s personal space regardless if either is capable of a boundary.
Caretaking in relationships means that you are relatively numb to emotion. You experience no personal satisfaction with needs not being met and won’t realize contentment, security, or feel comfortable in your partnership.
You sacrificed these things to give as much as possible to your mate.
12. Self-worth and self-esteem are lacking
Signs you’re a caretaker include a lack of seeing value in yourself and having diminished self-esteem.
When you associate your worth with how well you manage and care for another person and how happy that individual is, that’s how you achieve fulfillment; you’re “compromising your sense of self.”
A caretaker will not use their voice to communicate needs, point out flaws, or engage in a conflict for fear of abandonment. You might lose your purpose.
Partners don’t need to be self-reliant because you handle everything they need. If a mate were to become independent, you would no longer be necessary.
14. Sacrifice, to say the very least
Caretaking in relationships means that you not only look after needs and sacrifice at the literal cost of your life but gain the position of “martyr.”
You receive complete fulfillment from the position, but the loss is extreme whether you let go of a significant person in your life or a career. Still, the sacrifice is entirely your choice based on “selfless” emotion.
15. Running its course
The caretaker can’t continue on their path with caring for a mate’s whole responsibilities and ignoring their own for their lifespan.
Eventually, there will be burnout, and the mate will want to find a less suffocating partnership. Ideally, you’ll break up, and each will get into individual therapy to learn self-worth and gain confidence.
Why does being a caretaker cause issues with a partnership?
A caretaker chooses to let go of their own health and happiness to give all they have to ensure their mate has contentment and satisfaction and is free of pain or need.
The caretaker will ensure the taker’s wellness needs are met and engage in sexual caretaking for full gratification.
These relationships will always be lopsided because, with this sort of caretaking psychology, the person will never genuinely have personal needs, desires, or wants to be met. They’ll also neglect self-care with 100 percent nurturing in their mate.
It can only be an unhealthy partnership, eventually unsatisfying for both individuals. Even a taker at some point will prefer a confident person who values themself enough to engage in caring for their well-being.
How do I stop caretaking in relationships
It’s vital to recognize your self-worth and begin to value who you are. That’s especially important to set healthy boundaries so no one can manipulate your kindness to their advantage.
When you begin to respect your own desires, wants, and needs, the people you choose to bring into your life will stop invalidating you, neglecting what’s important to you, and building you up, encouraging and motivating instead of putting you down.
That’s what supportive partners do and how healthy relationships work. Learn how to stop caretaking with Marjorie Fjelstad’s book detailing how to end the drama and move on with life.
Caretaking in relationships is not only unhealthy for the partnership; it can mean poor wellness for you since caretakers choose to neglect their own self-care in favor of their mates.
The individual avoids anything that has to do with personal well-being or health. Their entire focus is central to their partner. That alone is scary. If you find yourself in that position, you must reach out to a counselor to work through that mindset.
The expert will provide tools to help you recognize your value and understand the need for wellness and self-care as essential for general health.
It’s great to care for people and give to others but not to the point of self-deprivation. It’s then that you need to seek help.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.