by Marianne Vernacchia on 05/26/20

It’s normal to care about others with a healthy sense of empathy, but some of us get caught in perpetually taking care of others.  “Caretakers” and “fixers” automatically go into advice-giving, problem-solving and may take on other people’s problems as if they are their own. They set themselves up in relationships to focus mostly on others, often to the point of losing their own interests, friends, opinions, and responsibilities…eventually losing themselves all together.  

How does this happen?  “Fixers” learn their well-honed skills at a young age.  As children, they take on the role of making sure others are okay out of survival and necessity. They may be really “good” kids who, not only do as asked, but become excellent at anticipating what’s expected, and make sure that the boat doesn’t get rocked. They take care of other family members emotionally, physically, or may even become a “favorite” who serves as a friend, counselor, or sounding board for a parent. These children do this, ingeniously and instinctually to keep peace and maintain calm in the household. As a result, they never learn that they can set healthy boundaries. Furthermore, they attract those who also don’t understand about boundaries. Caretakers and fixers often find themselves with someone who cannot, or does not, take care of themselves in appropriate ways. They spend enormous amounts of energy focusing on others, then losing sight of themselves, feeling unsatisfied, resentful, unsafe, or depressed. Some may eventually decide relationships are unsafe and avoid them altogether, facing relationship burnout.  

Psychotherapy, Codependency Anonymous and Al-Anon, all focus on helping people who struggle with caretaking and fixing behaviors to examine where this comes from, whether it’s working, and how to take responsibility and better care for one’s self in relationship with others.  If this rings true for you, it is not too late to make positive changes to take care of yourself.

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