This paper investigates how meaning, motivation and relationship dynamics influence the caregivers’ subjective experience of caregiving. We interviewed 12 family caregivers of relatives with dementia. We analysed transcripts of these interviews using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Six key themes emerged from the analysis, which were encompassed under an overarching theme of ‘balancing needs’. This describes the caregivers’ constant struggle to balance their own needs against those of their relative, which created a series of dilemmas. These dilemmas emerged from the desire to try to preserve the caregivers’ relationship with their relative, while recognising that this relationship was changing. The caregivers’ relationship with their relative influenced the caregivers’ motivations to provide care and gave caregiving meaning. Although caregivers were motivated to provide care the battle to balance needs meant that the caregivers recognised there might come a time when they may need to cease caregiving.