This meme stopped me in my digital tracks. A part of me felt deep indignation while rejoicing in camaraderie and feeling seen.

Upon further self-reflection, I realized the part of me that resonated with it feels like a victim. She’s the hurt part of me that holds on to this story. Probably a younger part of me who made sense of the world through an immature lense and came to some pretty poorly thought through conclusions about love and relationships.

Although I try not to consult with her when I am making decisions these days, I know she’s there and she’s not alone. This is a very common narrative for men, women and all others. There’s a victim in most of us. For some of us, that part is loud and in control, for others, it’s a whisper in the background of our brain chatter.

I think healthy relationships make space for mutual healing. But the distinction matters: There is a difference between selfless caretaking and healing, supporting, holding space.

We all come with baggage, damage, trauma, and suffering and we are looking for ways to heal. One way to heal is to support others to heal. This doesn’t mean playing the super-hero-rescuer and pretending, ignoring, avoiding, hiding your own struggles and then wondering why it’s a one-way process.

If it does feel like a one-way process, the chances are you are showing up in your relationships in caretaking mode. You are not allowing people to see you and you are not giving them an opportunity and direction to show up and heal you also.

It may even be a little darker than this. The part of you that was activated by this meme might be in more control than you think. In fact, that part of you might be showing up in your relationships incredibly controlling. Although it might feel like you are letting people use you for healing, that part of you might be working hard to feel needed through diligent caretaking thus actively enabling this one-way process.

Caretaking in relationships is problematic but healing, supporting, considering one another are nourishment to relationships. The work is not to stop helping others to heal but to practice good boundaries and communication to make it a mutual process.

Start with the humility of knowing that you are human and to be human is to be flawed. Your partner(s) is also human thus also imperfect. Can you design a relationship that can accommodate, celebrate, commiserate, honor these imperfections and mutually heal your hurts?

-Effy Blue