Emotional Caretakers: The Pitfalls of Overly Caring for Others

Emotional Caretakers: The Pitfalls of Overly Caring for Others emotional caretakers: the pitfalls of overly caring for others
Photo by Daniele D’Andreti on Unsplash

One thing we may struggle with in our relationships is the separation between where you end and where the other begins, or knowing our boundaries. You may be confused and conflicted about what your limits are, especially when it comes to caring for that loved one. That loved one can be your grandparents, your parents, your partner, your sibling, or just someone to whom you’ve become accustomed.

When they are having a hard time, you really want to jump in, and you’re even willing to offer your life for them as the greatest form of care and kindness you have towards them. While it may look like that’s the greatest loving gesture towards your significant other, it mostly turns out to be the greatest disservice to the first and foremost significant other, which is yourself. It’s okay to take care of others and even go an extra mile, but when you are doing it because you have to, then you’re becoming an emotional caretaker.

Who Is an Emotional Caretaker?

When you’re an emotional caretaker, you feel overly responsible for managing the emotional life of the other, ensuring that no harmful feelings befall them. You also don’t want your actions to hurt their feelings. Essentially, you don’t want to become a ‘burden’ to them, and you’d prefer them being your burden instead. When you adopt this role or this deceptive identity, it can be really hard to see beyond it, especially since your acts towards those you’re caretaking are very caring. For example, taking care of them when they’re sick or comforting them when they’re bereaved.

What Are Some of The Signs of Emotional Caretaking in Your Relationships?

· Foregoing what matters to you to take care of others, e.g., giving up your career or hobbies.

· Focusing all your time and energy on the needs of others, aside from yourself.

· Feeling burdened or angered by your caretaking acts on the inside but feeling like you have no choice.

· Feeling angered and defensive when someone challenges or questions your caretaking roles.

· Feeling drained and fatigued due to the constant effort of caring for others emotionally.

· Absorbing and internalizing the emotions of those around you, to the point where their emotional state becomes your own.

· Condoning behaviors that go against your values.

· Lack of reciprocity — giving a lot and barely getting anything in return, and when you get something in return, you tend to over-glorify it.

· Feeling a fear of rejection and disapproval if you don’t care for them.

Why Do People Become Caretakers?

The caretaker role is a learned behavior, mostly developed in childhood, especially when raised in a household where you had to take care of your siblings or meet your parents’ needs. You were conditioned to believe that they needed you to act or take care of them so that they could lead happy lives. You might have taken care of your ill or alcoholic parents when you were young, and when you did that, you were approved and constantly validated for your efforts.


As a result, you became hardwired to believe that you must sacrifice your emotions and yourself to be loved or approved by others. When wired to be overly responsible, you will view being overly responsible as the best way to survive or lead a ‘good’ life. You learn to value others more than you value yourself.

Can You Logically Talk Someone Out of a Caretaker Role?

When this deep belief is ingrained in you, it can be really hard to see beyond it. That’s why there is often a huge resistance or pushback when trying to advise or talk to a friend or family member about being overly caring towards someone else. When an identity or the ego is so firm and solid, it gets angered when the status quo is challenged because that’s what’s familiar, and that’s how it has been surviving for most of their life.

Constantly trying to logically talk a caretaker out of their role may even make them engage in it more and more. This can create more distance between you and them as they may feel that you simply do not understand them.

Sometimes, the best advice is to just keep quiet and listen to them, a concept we can call ‘do nothing.’ It’s one of the hardest things to do because we often believe we know what’s best for them. We might know they’re hurting and we really want to help but if we keep trying and trying, we may end up also becoming the caretakers of the caretakers. It’s more like the case of lowering your boundaries so that you can help someone understand that they’re lowering their boundaries.

Someone might be going through pain or stretching their inner reserves, but they might not stop caretaking easily because, to them, the pain of not caretaking is far deeper than the pain of their boundaries being overstepped. An emotional caretaker may sacrifice a lot in their current life just for the sake of helping or caretaking others.

Caretake Yourself First

The process of dissolving the identity of being a caretaker can be uncomfortable, but the first step you can take is to understand that you can take care of others and be compassionate once you work on releasing feelings of anger, resentment, and the heavy load you’re carrying deep inside. You can take care of others lovingly, without feeling like you have to do it.

Resolving the pain you’re carrying deep inside will open you up to caring about them more, allowing you to explore better ways of helping or caretaking, such as referring them to specialists. When deeply entrenched in one identity, you limit yourself to infinite solutions to your problems.

An identity is like a donkey tethered to a post; it can only graze within the confines of the rope. But when you work on breaking free from the identity, you’re like a donkey that has been set free or untethered from the past, able to graze freely and seek better and greener pastures and solutions.


In conclusion, taking care of others is a grand gesture, and we need more of this on this planet. However, when it comes at your own expense, you’re not making things better; you’re making it worse. While you may think your acts are kind and compassionate, upon deeper reflection, they may still be ‘selfish’ acts, driven by a desire to be seen as a ‘good’ human being. When you care for others with a kind and pure heart, you will feel a sense of lightness deep inside during these caretaking acts.

You won’t be a ticking time bomb or feel defensive when your caretaking is challenged; in fact, you will welcome it and be more understanding. Caretaking is not who you are; it is just a learned behavior that you can still unlearn or deprogram yourself from. Peel away that hard-wired mask, and you will realize that all along, you need to fill your cup first before filling someone else’s cup.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.


1. https://www.businessinsider.com/what-it-means-to-be-a-caretaker-in-romantic-relationships-and-why-it-could-be-a-problem-2017-10?r=US&IR=T

2. https://medium.com/@ItisOK/being-an-emotional-caretaker-sabotages-your-relationships-and-happiness-here-is-how-you-can-stop-bc00f5315c00#:~:text=Know%20your%20limits%20and%20set%20boundaries%20while%20caring%20for%20people.&text=One%20of%20the%20major%20steps,when%20you%20need%20to%20stop.

3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/stop-caretaking-the-borderline-or-narcissist/201510/red-flags-emotional-caretakers-part-two#:~:text=Often%20we%20get%20into%20caretaking,you%20want%20it%20to%20be.

4. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/why-do-i-take-care-of-everyones-emotional-needs-except-my-own-0925175#:~:text=They%20are%20often%20in%20relationships,and%20unwanted%20feelings%20are%20experienced.

Share your love
Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

Articles: 831

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *