When Caring Feels Like Obligation

A Long Road

Fighting cancer is often a long battle. It takes a toll on everyone involved. When you have a partner who is fighting this battle, often everything in your life starts to revolve around them. This is not a bad thing, it just happens out of necessity. That is what partnership and love is, being there for the people you care for when they need you. It can be hard, but is OK because you want to be there for them.   

When Love Turns To Obligation

At some point along the way, caring for your partner can turn into an obligation. It no longer feels like something you are choosing to do, but rather something you just have to do. If your partner needs significant help physically or emotionally, taking care of them can be exhausting and overwhelming. Or your partner may simply be difficult to be around. They are always grumpy, unappreciative and uncooperative… You are trying to help them, but it seems like they don’t even want to be helped! Other times it has nothing to do with your partner per say but this feeling of obligation has appeared because it has simply been a long road. You have put a lot of things in your own life on hold. You are feeling worn out. 

If you feel that way sometimes or even most of the time about taking care of your sick partner, take a breath and know that it’s normal. It’s nothing to feel guilty about or to judge yourself harshly over. Please hear me there! Instead, before you go down that road of self criticism, I’d like to invite you to get curious. Curiosity is the first step to gaining some awareness around the cause of this feeling.

Why has taking care of them started to feel like an obligation? 

The Cause of Your Emotions

Do you know where your emotions come from? Most people believe the fact that their partner is sick is the reason why they feel the way they do. It may seem that way, but there is something that happens in between the events in your life and your emotions. What happens in between is that you interpret the events in your life, and that is what causes your emotions. 

The fact that your partner has cancer or needs care is not causing you emotions, it’s your thought or interpretation about this situation that is causing your emotion. 

Quite simply, what you think determines how you feel. 

What Are You Thinking?

The first step toward understanding where your feeling of obligation is coming from is to figure out what you are thinking. You can do this by asking yourself questions like:

Why do I feel obligated? 

What does it mean that my partner needs help?

Write down all the answers that come to your head. There will probably be a few reasons why you feel obligated. What you write will give you some insight into what is happening in your brain. 

For example, you may be thinking:

There is no one else to do this so I have to.

It feels like a burden on me.

I didn’t sign up for this.

They don’t even appreciate all I’m doing! 

I love them, but I’m just tired of not having a life.

Examine Your Thoughts

Once you understand what thoughts are creating this feeling of obligation, then it’s time to examine those thoughts. Just because our brain thinks something, doesn’t mean it’s true. We get so used to believing everything that comes to our head, we forget to think about it objectively. What we think is not the truth, it’s just a thought. And thoughts are something we have control over. Sometimes it can be helpful to ask yourself, is that true? Be honest when you answer. Think about what someone else would say. 

When Acting From Obligation…

The next step to gaining awareness is to understand that emotions are what fuel all your actions. How do you act toward your partner when you are feeling obligated? Are you short with them? Are you grumpy? Does it wear you out? Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers. It’s important to understand how our emotions impact the actions we take. 

My guess is that when you are taking care of your partner from a feeling of obligation, you will go through the motions, but there will be no joy or satisfaction from them. It will feel like a chore. You may be grumpy or irritable. You may even start to feel resentful and then guilty.

If you are not sure what happens, take notice the next time this feeling comes up and see how it affects you. What do you do? What do you avoid doing?


How we think about the circumstances in our life affects how we feel. How we feel will impact our actions. Our actions and inactions will create the results we get in our life. This is the “equation” of life. 

circumstance in your life: partner has cancer 

➤ then you have a thought about it 

➤ this thought creates a feeling 

➤ this feeling fuels your actions 

➤ your actions create your result

Understanding The Life Equation

When you understand this life “equation” you will be able to get back in control of your life. You will start to see why you are feeling the way you do and what is causing you to act certain ways. It’s incredibly powerful and it is a foundational tool for building your resiliency. 

I teach my clients a simple tool to understand how the life equation is working in their life. Is super simple, yet super powerful. If you are interested in learning how to put this equation to work, then let’s talk! Click here to schedule a consultation. 

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