Assumptions informing expectations of caring may not reflect the diversity of circumstances in which informal care is provided, and scant attention has been given to the experiences of men providing care to family members. This study reports on qualitative findings from a study that explored these issues among rural men caring for partners or children with a range of mental illnesses. The findings suggest that the primary relationship between carers and care recipients influences the ways in which the men understand and practice their caring roles. Fathers consistently described proactive approaches to caring and were strongly focused on managing the illness condition. There was some complementarity between parenting and caring roles that is likely to explain why they reported a high use of, and satisfaction with, mental health services. Husbands tended to take reactive approaches to caring in which they were more concerned with managing situations that were associated with their partners' illnesses. Husbands reported limited contact with treatment and support services and perceived them as inappropriate to their circumstances. All of the men were presented with complex tensions in their caring roles, and the men's accounts of caring that are presented offer useful insight into the contexts in which men are increasingly taking on caring roles in families and inform efforts to support men in this capacity.