I was reading an article recently about the worst relationship mistakes you can make. I must say that it offered me a new perspective.
“The point of being in a relationship is not being your partner’s happy juice.”
I was of the thinking that it was my responsibility to be my partner’s happy juice. Not to fix them but to work at making things better for them. What this article brought out was that doing so allowed room for your partner to be enabled in not working at their own emotional maturity. If I am there every time something feels bad when are they required to figure out how to feel better for themselves?
“If you always come to the rescue when your partner is unhappy, you will weaken your partner’s capacity for high frustration tolerance, an essential attribute of emotional maturity and determinant of success.”
I know that I am responsible for being supportive but my mistake was thinking that being supportive meant helping them fix whatever hurt. Instead I must learn how to be supportive along their journey of fixing the boo-boos themselves. In other words, be actively inactive.
“As a positive term, enabling references patterns of interaction which allow individuals to develop and grow …. In a negative sense, enabling is also used to describe dysfunctional behavior approaches that are intended to help resolve a specific problem but in fact may perpetuate or exacerbate the problem.” —Wikipedia
This article was really enlightening. It also helped me to see that I am guilty of shutting down when I am hurting. My mind set is that no one can fix it but me (ironic, I know) so I shut down in an attempt to not seek solutions from my partner. What it seems I am actually doing is alienating them. All the while demanding they allow me into their moments of pain.
“To practice high frustration tolerance, you put reason between an impulse to escape discomfort, and discomfort dodging actions. That step can make a big difference. Once you delay reacting, you are in a position to start choosing.
Part of this imposing reasoning process involves accepting—not liking—that it is important to live through the discomfort if you expect to overcome barriers. This acceptance is like building emotional muscle. The more you work at it, the stronger you get.
By working at building high frustration tolerance, you are likely to solve more of your immediate problems and reach more of your longer-term goals.” —Dr. Bill Knaus, Ed. D, Psychology Today
This new perspective has helped me to adopt a separate but together outlook on relationships. There is a huge difference between cheering someone up and taking responsibility for their emotional well-being. I have routinely done the latter. Not that it was asked of me, that’s just what I thought was supposed to happen. That explains why I always felt so taxed and worn. There was no emotional boundary. I was beyond empathetic and absorbed their pain.
Breaking this habit will require work. When I hear a problem I want to solve it. I want it to be done and removed. I have to learn how to step back, let them process and trust them to tell me what they need. Be available. That’s my responsibility.
Here are some critical behaviors to learn if you desire a strong partner and a strong, healthy relationship:
Learn to accept your partner’s feelings—both happy and sad.
Learn that you can’t change those feelings, and that trying to change them is not your responsibility.
Learn to allow your partner to experience discomfort and work through it with his or her own tools.
Learn to trust your partner’s emotional capabilities, resources, and resilience.
Learn to allow your partner to do the necessary work of self-soothing and restoring emotional equilibrium.
Learn not to immediately apologize when your partner’s mood may have nothing to do with you.
Learn to distinguish between kindness and empathy, which strengthen a relationship, and catering and coddling, which weaken it.
And learn not to substitute managing your partner’s emotions for the all-important work of managing your own.
My level of guilty is epic for this last one. I have a history of throwing myself into whatever is going on with my partner in a subconscious attempt to validate myself. Earning my keep, so to speak. If I’m helping, I have a reason to be loved.
This article really pushed me along my current journey of self discovery. I appreciate the perspective it offered and the result of furthering my growth. I encourage you to read it and see what it has to offer you.