Being a caretaker doesn’t mean staying home and tending to the household chores — emotional caretaking exists as well.
Sometimes emotional caretaking falls on a woman’s shoulders. However, it’s a shoe that fits men to a tee. Men may find it easier to please others than to ruffle anyone’s feathers.
But while taking care of others is usually a good thing, one partner engaging in emotional caretaking isn’t ideal.
It sets the stage for trust issues.
Yep, you heard it here first: you don’t need to spend money behind her back or find a mistress to break trust. If you act as the emotional caretaker, that can destroy her trust too.
The emotional caretaker often worries that their actions will hurt their partner. They go to great lengths to ensure that they’re sailing on smooth waters.
But they don’t do this because they want to — they do this because they feel as though they have to. Their love, devotion, and connection isn’t enough. They have to up their game.
From an outsider’s perspective, it’s easy to look at this and jump to the “I” word — we label the party in need of the caretaking as insecure. But the word “insecure” exonerates the person willingly being a caretaker.
They might not be doing anything wrong, per se, but they’re playing into the dynamic just the same.
When one partner feels as though they can’t trust the other, even though they haven’t done anything wrong, this is what might be going on.
You might feel an obligation to take care of your partner’s emotional needs or be a people pleaser. You might want to go out on Friday night with your friends but feel like you have to hang out at home instead. And you might want to get off the phone — but feel bad about being the first to hang up.
Emotional caretaking might not sound “bad” on the surface, but in the long run, it compromises your values and boundaries. It makes you go along with things that you don’t want to do. This doesn’t just hurt you, though — it hurts your partner too.
Over time, your partner will begin to sense that you don’t want to be with them or stay on the phone with them or meet them for brunch every Sunday. They’ll realize you’re being insincere, and that will break their trust in you.
But that’s not all — your significant other might start to resent you too. Emotional caretaking appeals to another person’s fragility, and when your partner realizes that you see them as “fragile,” they’ll resent you.
Of course, emotional caretaking is mired in inauthenticity too, which brings about a slew of other problems. Your partner wants to be with you, not with the person you’re pretending to be.
Now that you know that emotional caretaking can harbor mistrust in your relationship, how can you solve it?
The solution is to unearth the fear of what’ll happen if you set boundaries.
More than likely, you’re afraid that setting boundaries will shatter your relationship. That’s mentality just shows that you’re too “nice” to others — and not nice enough to yourself.
Don’t worry, though — setting boundaries gets easier with practice.
You’ve probably already set boundaries in other parts of your life. Your boss knows not to call you in the middle of the night. Your mom knows to call you before she comes over. And your roommate knows to close the door when they use the bathroom. You know how to set boundaries, so set them in your relationship.
Know that if you don’t set boundaries, you’ll create an environment that will require setting even more boundaries. You may also witness disconnection, resentment, and the eventual dissolution of your relationship.
If your relationship can’t withstand the word “no,” then it’s not much of a relationship at all. But if you set healthy boundaries and communicate your expectations to your partner, you’ll see your relationship thrive.