When I was growing up, I was taught that I couldn't be all that I am and be attractive to boys. I was taught that girls had to give themselves up and become caretakers to boys for the boys to like us. I was taught not to appear too smart because then I would make the boys feel bad about themselves. I learned my lessons well. Very well.
And, for me, the warnings were true. When I finally stop giving myself up and stopped taking care of my husband, my 30-year marriage fell apart.
But that was over 20 years ago and, fortunately, things are changing. For example, I recently received this email from a member of our website community:
"I am a giver and my partner is a taker. However, as I've started to care for myself, my relationship is shifting for the better. Is it possible that a taker finds it more attractive when his or her partner actually stops being a caretaker? I've noticed my partner is actually starting to give me more in the relationship than he ever did because I'm learning to give to myself first."
This seems to be occurring more and more. In the past (I've been working with individuals and couples for 49 years), when one partner started to take loving care of themselves and stopped trying to control their partner with their caretaking, the relationship often went into turmoil. Today, I see relationships healing when the caretaker starts to take loving care of him- or herself.
Even as it seems that narcissism is on the rise, so is the desire for true connection and intimacy—which can't occur in the taker-caretaker relationship. So when one partner in this codependent system decides to do their inner work and learns to love themselves, now, more often than not the relationship greatly improves.