When two people are in love they naturally want the best for each other. At the same time each of the partners has certain strengths in managing life that the other does not have. This is where couples often develop a very destructive pattern.
In wanting the best for each other and having complementary strengths, one or both partners may try to take over for each other the areas of their strength. This will often be done without the request or even the permission from the other partner. The areas being taken over may include doing things, giving advice, managing life tasks, the giving of financial and other support, etc.
The person taking over typically thinks he or she is doing a good thing, a favor for the partner, and expects gratitude and love in return. The person whose life is being taken over feels none of these. Instead he or she feels trapped by the good will and actions of his or her partner.
After all, life is easier when things are being taken care of by someone else. Yet, when things a person should do for him or herself are taken over of by the partner, there is an automatic loss of self-esteem and feelings of self-efficacy. In other words, if you do for me what I should do for myself, I will feel bad about myself and start to doubt my abilities.
The person whose life tasks are taken over does not feel grateful nor more love towards his or her partner. Instead he or she feels anger, resentment and a sense of being less capable, or somehow inferior. What’s worse, it’s the relationship partner who gets blamed for these feelings.
This is not the kind of feelings you want to feel – or have your partner feel – in your romantic relationship or marriage. You want to feel better about yourself as a result of being in a relationship, not worst.
People do not feel more capable when things are done for them. They feel more capable when they are viewed as capable and left free to act accordingly.
Here’s what this means for your relationship:
If you are better at something than your partner, do not take this area of life over for him or her. Do not talk to him or her about it, except when it has a direct impact on you. Only talk about this area of life in terms of how it impacts you and what you want for yourself instead.
For example, if your partner chronically runs late, do not give advice on how to manage time or try to manage your partner’s time. Instead, share how you are impacted by him or her being late. If you need to, set boundaries to reduce the impact it has on you.
Here is another, more serious example. If your partner is struggling financially, do not take on financial responsibilities for him or her. Instead, offer support and the belief that your partner is capable of managing his or her life as a fully functioning adult.
If and when your partner asks for your advice or help, do not give too much of either, or you run the danger of creating the bad feelings I described above. Offer minimum guidance your partner will accept, while affirming that you know he or she is fully capable and can do this.
This does not mean that you and your partner cannot split tasks equitably or trade responsibilities. But the key will be in creating equitable and fair trades in order to avoiding resentment and the feelings of low self-esteem described above.
Be an asset to your partner and not a crutch. You can be a collaborator, a cheerleader, a visionary, a supporter and an adviser, if asked.
If you are interested in learning how to create a mutually empowering relationship with your partner, set up a 30-minute Get Clarity Coaching Session or the 40-minute Couples Get Clarity Coaching Session. Let me help you create a happier, healthier relationship!