Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Taking Care or Caretaking?

First edition coverImage via Wikipedia

What is the difference between taking care and caretaking?

We can start with a definition of caretaking to make the point more understandable. Caretaking is doing for others what they can and should be doing for themselves. The key words here are can and should. Of course we want to care for those we love, but that doesn't mean that we do things for them that they are capable of doing for themselves. Caretaking is not about taking care. It's about control. We are doing these things not to make our partner feel loved, but to control an outcome.

This can become very difficult to discern when we enter into a relationship with someone we love. We want our partner to feel the depth of our love. Some of that depth is expressed in actions we take to show our devotion. How far do we go to show our love? Is it okay to make our partner's lunch that they take to work? Should we be giving them advice on how to improve their relationship with their boss? Where do we draw the line?

When we express our love for our partner through actions we tell them without words that we value them and our relationship with them. When we take actions that our partner should be doing for themselves... and that they are capable of doing, we diminish them in their eyes as well as our own. We are telling them through our actions that we want to control them and the outcome of the event.

In the beginning of relationships we might be excited to do whatever we can to please our partner. However, if over time we don't move toward balance in our actions, caretaking can occur causing resentment and unhappiness between partners.

We must ask ourselves... Is this something my partner should be doing for themselves? Is this something they are capable of doing? If we can answer yes to both of these questions then we have to wonder if we are caretaking rather than taking care. The most important question we ask ourselves is why am I doing this? Is this because I want to insure a particular outcome? Is this because I want control over this situation? We must try our best to be honest with ourselves.

Over time caretaking leads to resentment between partners. The partner doing the caretaking becomes resentful that their actions are not appreciated. The partner who has been subjected to caretaking behaviors feels they are thought of as being inept and that they are being treated like a child. Resentment that goes unresolved can turn to bitterness, undermining the relationship.
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