Over Responsibility and Guilt
written by John Stibbs
One characteristic of growing up in a dysfunctional household is that we may learn to feel guilty if we fail to ensure the success and happiness of other members of the household. We may feel responsible or be made to feel responsible for the failure or unhappiness of others. Thus, in adulthood, we may come to feel or be made to feel responsible for our partner’s failures. The guilt we feel when our partner fails may drive us to keep tearing down our personal boundaries so that we are always available to the other person. When we feel the pain, the guilt, the anger of being overly responsible for another person’s behaviour or life experiences, we may seek alleviate this feeling by rescuing them from the consequences of their behaviour as we learned in our family of origin. Thereby depriving them of one of the most important features of an independent, healthy and mature life, the ability to make our own life choices, accepting the responsibility for and the consequences of our/their decisions. Or we may bear the burden of their unacceptable behaviour for many years.
A healthier response is to show our partners respect by allowing them to succeed or fail on their own terms. You, of course, may choose to support your partner’s fulfillment of life goals but it is unhealthy to rescue them from all of life’s consequences. When you do agree to help ask yourself two questions is it something they can do for themselves? and, do I resent the giving of my own resources (self, time, money, etc.)? This may be a difficult choice if we have confused love with rescue. You can be there to comfort or encourage your partner when times become difficult, and you can rejoice with them when success is the outcome. When boundaries are healthy, you are able to say, I trust and respect you to make your own life choices. As my equal partner, I will not try to control you by taking away your choices in life.
I am available to talk about any life issues that are concerning you. Private, confidential. http://clarity.fm/randi-g-fine
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