Redford yum

Redford and Streep. Out of Africa.

I wasn’t sure Lorraine and others like her — ones who were so despairing of marriage, ones who were so sure their expectations could never be met — understood that it was these small moments of caretaking that meant the most, that forged the real relationship. The way one pulled the blanket over the sleeping other, the way one prepared a snack for oneself, but made enough to share. Such moments made for the team of two, which made for one’s sword and shield.

― Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

I’m quite sure I was remiss in the caretaking department with my ex-husband. I doled out most of my nurturing and self-less energy to my children (and even with them, not perfect). I didn’t have enough oomph left in me to give those extra touches, to go beyond the expected. It wasn’t like I didn’t have role models who exemplified such care. My father and step-mother are good at thinking of each other. I’ve seen my dad warm up and clean the snow off my stepmother’s car. She always leaves dinner for him if she is going to be away for the evening. These are just two of a myriad of ways they gently help each other.

Can introverts be good caretakers or are we too self-interested?

Introverts are often seen as selfish. We often choose time to ourselves over time with others.  We don’t like to be interrupted when we work. We are protective of our energy and therefore are highly selective about the causes and people we support.

I said in, Introvert Relationships: Love Me or Leave Me but Please Don’t Need Me (Too Much)that Black_and_White_love_romance_kiss1relationships,  

…Must feel effortless. So full of desire and attraction that the work naturally required in any relationship is done without thinking. Relationships with obligations and agendas forefront must be forged. Relationships with desire and passion up front must be expressed. Forging a relationship takes up much precious energy.  

But perhaps there is value and strength in the forging. Desire and attraction go out the window when you or your partner are sick, for example, but after he/she brings you nourishing soup you feel loved and relieved. You don’t have to do all of this life stuff on your own. There is someone else who wants to light you up, give your energy reserves a boost. Granted, introverts recharge from within by reveling in ideas, impressions and thoughts, but we blossom with encouragement and caring too.

How nurturing is different from gift giving and helping around the house

I still remember the time a former sweetheart, without prompting, cut up an apple and put it in a bowl with a side of peanut butter (my favorite snack ever) and delivered it to me as I relaxed on the couch. He didn’t have to do it. It felt like receiving flowers, but better. There was nurturing behind it.

  1. the process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something. “the nurture of ethics and integrity”
          synonyms: encouragementpromotion, fostering, developmentcultivation

NurturingEncouragement and the unspoken wish to see us grow, make caretaking an acceptable and appealing interaction for introverts. We love to expand and experience. Caretaking is also a form of unburdening which relieves us of one or more draws on our energy.

Receiving is awesome but reciprocating is tiring, right?

What if your significant other expects constant catering to them? Sounds like a classic set up for introvert outta here, right? Too many obligations and too much neediness … aaaaahhhh!!

Adam Grant, Wharton professor and author of Give and Take, says that givers are successful (versus being a doormat) when the giving includes an element of self-interest. Like, for example, when someone gives you a massage in bed. There is almost always an element of hope that it leads to more.

In seven years there have only been three times when someone cooked for me, and you were two of those. A sweet man recently revealed this surprising information to me. Cooking is an easy way for me to give. It’s my way of nurturing and I enjoy the whole process from menu planning to food shopping to simmering and savoring as the meal is prepared. I also love the experience of eating with someone. My dining companion appreciates the meal and feels cared for. Win – win.

The key is to keep your gestures small and doable.  Don’t promise to do the books for your boyfriend’s company. That’s over the top. Do sew that button back on his shirt sleeve. Work a shoulder massage into a time you are sitting quietly together. Make a smiley face out of his vegetables. I know it’s hard to think ahead sometimes. I often feel like I barely keep up with the barrage of daily activities that comes at me, let alone notice when my partner could use help or extra loving. Just try for a week to give your partner additional caregiving and attention. See if it enhances your team of two and gives you a feeling of protection.

What makes caretaking easier?

I have a greater desire to caretake within a relationship since my divorce.  I’ve tried to sort out why this is. It could be I have more energy because I am not round-the-clock caregiving to my children (loss and gain there) but I think a major reason is that I feel more at ease and comfortable in my own skin with the partners I’ve chosen. I never feel like I have to keep up with or compete with the men I care about now therefore I can be thoughtful and gentle without fear of being dominated or seen as weak. I can give without being overtaken.

I have primarily dated introverts since the divorce.

Whatever it is, it’s been beneficial. Nurturing and caretaking feel like a sword and shield against the dragons of a world that favors large, bold, aggressive living.

Tell me how you caretake in your relationship? How does your partner nurture you?

If Nurturing and Caretaking in a Relationship… spoke to you, you may also love:

Seductive Security: Living Without the Protective Embrace of a Committed Relationship

Introvert Relationships: Love Me or Leave Me But Please Don’t Need Me (Too Much)

What It’s Really Like to End a Marriage and Start Over Pt. 4: Being Alone, Dating and Co-Parenting

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Sensual Massage (Sundance Channel Blog)

Are Introverts Givers or Takers?: Does Managing Our Energy Limit Our Generosity?