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The Pros and Cons of Caring...A Lot

I wanted to write (and by write I mean lightly and kind of philosophically rant) about what it means to be a very naturally caring person, especially in the context of relationships. Disclaimer: I am very bad at talking about serious, sometimes sad things. So, there might be humor scattered in here inappropriately. Bear with me. 

You might be thinking, well, the act of caring is a pretty universal thing that every functioning human does. And I agree. But by caring, I mean a deep, emotionally-invested, gut-wrenching, all-encompassing kind of caring. The kind of caring where if your friend is upset, you have a genuine pit in your stomach for the rest of the day. The kind of caring where you constantly are thinking of ways to improve your relationship with your sister, where you reword a text to your brother five different times so that you can tell him you’re here for him without sounding overbearing. And sometimes (unfortunately), the kind of caring where you’d drop anything to spend time with the guy you like, even if he doesn’t deserve it—and let’s be real, most times, these guys just simply do not. If these situations ring a bell for you, then congrats, you care a lot. And if they very much hit a nerve, you’ve cared to the point of getting hurt before. Not to fully expose you out of nowhere, but I’m just saying. I’ve been there, too, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now. 

Being a caring person, as I’ve learned over the years, is a gift and a curse. The ability to care a lot is not one that everyone has, which can be a difficult idea for me to accept sometimes. Some people, even the best kinds of people, aren’t wired to spend their time and emotional energy focusing on others. And that’s completely and utterly okay. However, and here’s the ‘however’ that you’ve probably been expecting, that can often mean that relationships fall short, especially the romantic ones, in my experience. Here’s the cold-hard truth: some people simply are not able to care as much as you do. Which can hurt, a lot. It can mean that you give a lot to the people you care about and become incredibly disappointed when you don’t get that same care and attention back. Even if the person toward whom you’re directing all that energy may not even know that you’re expecting that from them, considering that you are a bit of an anomaly in terms of the whole caring-about-others-thing. Because let’s be real, you take it to a whole new level. As do I. 

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The funny thing (funny as in ironic, not as in “haha,” because, like, I’m not over the moon about these developments that have occurred for me) is that caring people often choose the least caring types of people to care about (sorry for my excessive use of the word “care” here, but I gotta prove a point, don’t I?). The twisted logic of it is that the people least likely to reciprocate in sharing love are often the ones most likely to get it, simply because a caring person can spot a ~damaged~ person from a mile away. Caring people, let’s unite on this one, we sure know how to choose ‘em. The more incapable of giving love a person is, the more emotionally wounded they likely are, and the more a caring person feels as though they need to direct attention toward them. And when you direct that attention consistently toward someone, more times than not, a relationship starts, platonic or otherwise. And we’ve all had—or at a minimum considered—a problematic “otherwise” in our lives.  

Long story short, when a caring person puts their heart on the line, it means that a whole lot of love is going to be directed toward that lucky person, whether or not they’ve truly earned it or are willing to give that attention back. This can lead to optimistic and mostly unrealistic expectations that your partner is going to learn to be able to return all that love and affection (after all, relationships aren’t one-sided), when in reality, many times they simply don’t have it in them. Then, Caring Person feels a void in the relationship where their needs aren’t being met, Uncaring Person (which I realize sounds so mean, but I promise I’m just trying to do a Person-A, Person-B type thing here) initially doesn’t realize they’re not meeting a need, and when/if they do—oftentimes prompted by a tearful conversation led by Caring Person—feel helpless and sometimes resentful. Then either Caring Person ends things with Uncaring Person in order to actually direct all that good fun caring stuff to themselves, or, more commonly, Uncaring Person breaks things off, realizing that they aren’t able to truly be there for and/or not feeling good enough for Caring Person. From the wise and learned perspective of a caring person… ouch. 

Kelly Marcelo-Girl Serious SunglassesThe problem with being a certifiably, capital-C Caring Person is that, oftentimes, it feels like you’re being punished for being one. The people you end up in relationships with get to benefit from the love that you have to give, and oftentimes these same people are the ones who break your heart when they realize they don’t have it in them to reciprocate. Which, and I’m not gonna mince words here, sucks. It’s the worst. However, and yes, there’s another however coming into play here, I wouldn’t change being caring, often excessively so, for anything. Here’s why: being caring can be a beautiful thing. You get to spread love to people, true unconditional love, to people who need it. The world would be dull and colorless and honestly loveless if it weren’t for all of the people who have a deep instinct to care for others. Being in a relationship as someone who cares a lot means seeing the person you’re with get that cute smile on their face when you remember their favorite sports player or tell them you’ll help them draft that stupid email they’ve been putting off just so you can still hang out with them that afternoon. It means listening to them talk about all the bad stuff that’s happened in their past and making them feel safe enough to do so. It means knowing when they’re sad by the way they say your name and giving them a hug when they need it the most. Being caring means knowing you’re making the person you love happy, a lot. And that’s a really amazing thing. 

Basically, I wouldn’t trade how I am for anything. Even if it almost always inevitably leads to heartbreak. There’s something so beautifully vulnerable about being ready to share your love with your favorite people, even if it means you could get hurt over and over. And if there’s one lesson that I’ve taken away from the various things that have gone wrong for me over the past few years (which, let’s be real, have not been a cakewalk, if you can’t tell by my frequent usage of the words “heartbreak” and “ouch”), it’s that it’s always worth it to be vulnerable. Because you can be, and not everyone has that gift. Because you can show people how much they matter to you. Because the world is a better place for it. So go, care for someone today. Just not in, like, a creepy, overbearing way. Keep it cute, and watch your favorite people smile.