Some people dedicate themselves to the task of fixing their relationship problems only to “wake up” years later to the realization that the relationship hasn’t changed – and isn’t going to. It’s easy to blame their inattentive or uncaring partners, but the problem is a bit more complicated.
The willingness of “hyper-responsible” people to acknowledge and try to change relationship problems is often admirable – even courageous. Asking for what they want. Asking their partner to express their wants and needs. Finding ways to communicate in a calmer, more empathic manner. All of these are essential parts of putting a relationship back on track.
But there’s a downside. With all of their abilities, effort, and determination, these people tend to see their role as keeping their relationships harmonious. Unconsciously, they view themselves as being ultimately responsible for the serious problems in the relationship.
They are blind to their partner’s “fatal flaws.” When their partner’s substance abuse, infidelity, or other serious issue undermines their relationship, they search desperately for ways to fix the problem. They don’t just try to help their partner or their relationship; they view their partner’s continued struggles as their own failure to provide the necessary assistance. Or they simply feel that they don’t deserve better. They sense that they are unworthy or unlovable.
If this pattern seems to describe you, then pause from the daily flow of activities to reflect on it. Do you feel you can never do enough to improve your relationship? Are you often questioning yourself even when you know that your partner is acting in a problematic way? Does the thought of breaking up prompt you to accept the unacceptable, or to continue making the same unsuccessful efforts to improve things?
Challenge your “super committed” self to stop trying to force your partner to act differently in your relationship. You can ask for what you want, but then listen to your partner’s response – both verbal and nonverbal. If they don’t make an effort to work on the relationship, consider what that’s telling you. Rather than continuing to single-handedly try to fix things, you might try couples therapy. But in the end, your relationship won’t flourish unless you are both working to improve it.
If the thought of easing up on your efforts gives rise to guilt or insecurity about yourself, focus on these thoughts and feelings instead of just redoubling your efforts. Journal. Talk with a trustworthy friend. Seek out a therapist. Work on consciously recognizing your value – with or without your partner. Consider the possibility that it is not your responsibility to forever be there for your partner when they are not making sincere efforts to fulfill their role as a caring and committed partner to you.