Does responsibility for well-being sit where it belongs in your relationship?
Every client who comes to see me comes in the context of relationships. Marriages, partnerships, as parents, children, siblings, friends, colleagues, relating is the theme that dominates the work of therapy. Relationship is why therapy itself is a useful intervention, client and therapist together enter into a relationship focused on acceptance, empathy, and being real with each other.
Oftentimes, a very real relationship difficulty arises when one party expects the other to be responsible for them. This may be in a very practical, care-taking way, or it may be more subtle and emotional. Don't get me wrong, of course we look after and care for those we love when they are in need, I would not have it any other way. Also, adults clearly have a responsibility to children who can not take care of themselves, this too is a given. What I am referring to is when care-taking becomes habitual, and we give away responsibility for our wellbeing to someone else, and then judge and complain when they understandably fall short and can not make us feel what we want to feel. On the other hand, it could be we take responsibility for someone else, and judge ourselves when we can not make them better, or cause them to be how we want them to be.
In a mature, balanced relationship care-taking ebbs and flows. Both people are able to be vulnerable, to show their soft spots and frailties to the other, each knowing that ultimately we are responsible for meeting our own needs, and that the most the other can do is support and facilitate when we need it most.
If you have given up responsibility for your well-being, ask yourself how you can take steps to look after yourself. What do you need right now? How can you meet that need yourself? If you are taking responsibility for someone else, ask yourself how you might step back and give them space to take up the reins.
Therapy can be a useful place to explore relatoonship dynamics and discover the patterns that are habitual for you. After all, whatever our dominant relating pattern in life, we are sure to bring it into the therapy room and play it out, how could we not?