He Expects Me To Take Care Of Him

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My boyfriend and I have been friends for 23 years and he has always been there for me. I took care of my husband until he died – and then my mom. My boyfriend wants me to do the same with his Parkinson’s but the side effects of his medication causes lower empathy.

Right after my husband died, I was trapped in a narcissist abusive relationship for three years, and I have complex PTSD from it. My boyfriend triggers it badly, and I can’t get him to stop because he can’t feel any guilt because of his side effects.

I owe him my life – and he does need someone like me, with my kind of caregiving experience. I love him but I don’t know how to make this work for both of us. He is also a stubborn Capricorn who doesn’t think that he is ever wrong. He triggers my hypersensitive flee-or-fight instinct, which causes me to lash out because I become afraid and I can’t stop seeing danger everywhere. Then he’s upset, and it’s a vicious cycle I can’t seem to get under control. I can’t put a stop to this toxic pattern. Should I just give up?

– Love and Care


Sometimes the person we help is not the best person to help us. Your boyfriend has long been there for you, but that doesn’t mean you’re the best caregiver for him.

Ask to go with him to see his health care providers, and then talk about what caregiving will look like over time. If you can’t meet his needs, find out what services are available and work with him to create a plan. That’s the best you can do for him – make sure he’s not without any resources. Honestly, it’s a loving thing to admit, “You need the best help, and I might not be it.”

Request all the help you can get from his medical team, specifically people in social work, mental health, etc.

Also ask them what you can do to help yourself. Find out if there’s therapy or support groups they might recommend for caregivers. You’ve been doing this for multiple people for a long time.

Honestly, it sounds like you’re a complicated match, even without the health stuff. You’ve spent a lot of your life as friends. That might be how you’re best for each other.

– Meredith

Readers? What’s the best way to care for someone without hurting your own health? Does the LW have to be the caregiver here? Is there some middle ground?

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