Note: This is the first of a two-part series.
Are you a caretaker in your intimate relationship? Take this quiz to find out. Answer each question on a 1 to 5 scale: 1=rarely 2=occasionally 3=maybe half the time 4=often 5=virtually always
- Are you aware of (or have you been told by others) that you are extremely attentive of your partner’s needs and desires?
- Are you aware that you’re a particularly nurturing person?
- Do you feel compelled to help others solve their problems?
- Do you spend a lot of time and energy taking care of other people?
- Do you agree to do too much, and then find yourself feeling pressured, overwhelmed and resentful?
- Do you often sacrifice your needs because you feel responsible for meeting the needs of others?
- Do you put your own needs aside in an attempt to meet other people’s wishes or demands?
- Do you find you have little or no energy left to take care of yourself?
- Do you find yourself saying “yes” when you want to say “no”?
- Do you have the vague sense that the person you’re doing so much for is perfectly capable of doing more him/herself?
- Do you feel used?
- Are you frustrated over the amount of time, energy, effort, money, emotional support or personal sacrifices that you’ve had to give to those who depend on you?
- Are you disappointed that those to whom you are a caretaker seem to grow more helpless and dependent on you over time?
- Do you resent the “freeloading” from others, yet enjoy helping them?
- Do you have the sense that no matter how much you do for others, it won’t be enough?
- Do you feel manipulated by other people, who hide behind the mask of helplessness in order to get what they want?
- Do you use gifts, loans, inheritance, approval or special favors hoping to gain the respect, approval, acceptance or love you need and want?
- Do you feel trapped, unable to change these patterns?
Scoring: Count up your total points. 18-40 points: You are seldom a caretaker.
41-54 points: Trouble is brewing in your relationship, because the ratio of what you give vs. the amount you receive is getting out of balance. Ask yourself if you can go indefinitely this way without feeling resentful, cheated, taken advantage of or used.
55-64 points: You are your partner’s caretaker. You’ve allowed yourself to be leaned on too heavily, and you’re very likely angry or resentful. If you don’t change these dynamics right away, you will grow more distant, withdrawn and angry with your relationship. Over 65 points: If your partner is incapacitated or handicapped, and you are picking up the slack and lovingly taking care of him or her, we all salute you for being so caring and giving. You are a true sweetheart. But if your partner isn’t incapacitated or disabled, and is just acting helpless, your resentment is in danger of consuming you and destroying your relationship. You must act to relieve yourself of some of the burden you’ve agreed to. You’ve got to be better at looking out for yourself. And yes, that means intentionally doing less and giving less—forcing your partner to do more for him/herself.
I will discuss the dynamics of takers and caretakers in next week’s column.