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What is your first reaction when someone is harsh, critical, sarcastic, angry, judgmental, attacking? Do you attack back? Do you withdraw and get silent? Do you defend and explain? Today, honor the feeling in your body that says "This doesn't feel good" and either speak your truth without blame, defense or judgment and open to learning, or lovingly disengage and compassionately take care of your feelings.


Relationships: Are You A Taker Or A Caretaker – Or Both?

By Dr. Margaret Paul
July 18, 2016

If your relationships are challenging, you might want to gain awareness and understanding of the taker-caretaker relationship system.

As we all know, relationships are generally very challenging, and one of the reasons is that we bring into our Taker or Caretakeradult relationships all the controlling behavior we learned as we were growing up. And we all did learn many overt and subtle ways to control!

Our ego wounded self is the part of us that absorbed many false beliefs about control, and we unconsciously bring these beliefs and resulting behaviors into our relationships.

When we are in our wounded self, we tend to be either a taker or a caretaker – or both. While we can go back and forth between these two sides of the codependent system, most of us tend to be more one than the other.  

We are being takers when we expect others to give themselves up for us - validating us, paying attention to us, and approving of us - in order to make us happy, fill our emptiness, and make us feel safe and worthy. In short, we expect them to take responsibility for both our happiness and our pain. When we are being a taker, we are giving our inner child, which is our feeling self, away to the other person - handing responsibility for our feelings to that person. Sometimes we might appear to be giving, but along with the giving we expect the other person to take responsibility for our pain and joy.

We are being caretakers when we ignore our own feelings and instead take on responsibility for another's pain and joy. Instead of taking responsibility for our own wellbeing, we ignore our own feelings - putting our inner child in a closet, and instead taking care of another's inner child. As a caretaker, you likely believe that if you are loving enough to the other person, they will take your inner child out of the closet and be loving to you. Caretakers have a hard time spotting takers. Caretakers tend to think that others are like them and are often shocked and hurt when this is not true.

Takers and caretakers have a way of finding each other. Takers easily spot other takers and often don't like them, or are even repelled by them. They like caretakers. Caretakers often enjoy other caretakers, but since takers are often charismatic people and pursue caretakers, the chemistry between takers and caretakers can be more intense than between two caretakers.

Takers and caretakers are like two sides of the same coin - both are abandoning themselves. Neither is taking loving care of themselves around others. Caretakers generally take care of themselves when they are alone, but abandon themselves when with others who are takers. Takers abandon themselves both when alone and with others. They often have a hard time being alone, and may try to fill themselves up with work, TV, food and other substance or process addictions when alone.

Both takers and caretakers have the same challenge - learning how to take loving care of themselves. Neither has a loving adult self when they are operating as a taker or caretaker.

Takers believe that others should be their source of love, happiness and fun, and that others not doing this is the cause of their pain. They believe that others can love them better than they can love themselves. They do not believe that receiving love from Spirit - our true source of love - can ever fill them as much as another person's love. Because of this, they may have a harder time becoming a loving adult through Inner Bonding than caretakers. They don't realize that the source of their pain is their self-abandonment, and they don't want to accept that others ultimately don't want the responsibility for their wellbeing.

Caretakers generally believe that they are selfish if they take care of themselves instead of care-taking others. They believe that they do not deserve to take care of themselves - that they have to earn love. It's not that they don't know how to love themselves - it's that they don't believe that they have the RIGHT to love themselves unless they are alone and no one needs them. When caretakers realize that they are abandoning themselves by caretaking others, and realize that they not only have the right but the responsibility to take loving care of themselves, they often move fairly easily into learning to love themselves. Caretakers need to realize that takers will never take their inner child out of the closet. If their feelings and needs are ever going to get taken care of, it will only be because the caretaker starts caring about themselves.

Caretakers and takers come together because both have much to learn with each other. Relationships between takers and caretakers have the necessary juice to stimulate growth in both, provided both people see this charged arena as a great gift. Often, takers see what caretakers are doing in their wounded selves, and caretakers see what takers are doing in their wounded selves, but neither sees themselves clearly. If takers and caretakers move into a devoted intent to learn about themselves with each other, they can discover the gifts that each has to offer the other. Whether the relationship is a friendship or a partnership, takers and caretakers have so much to learn from each other.

If your relationship with a friend or partner is volatile, consider that one of you may be a taker and the other a caretaker. Open to the possibility of learning about yourselves with each other. The rewards of this commitment to learning with each other are so great! Don't miss out on this incredible opportunity that life has offered you!

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Relationships Course: "Loving Relationships: A 30-Day Experience with Dr. Margaret Paul - For people who are partnered and people who want to be partnered."

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."

Join IBVillage and receive compassionate help and support for your healing journey.

(Photo by Joao silaspg/



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