Years ago, when I started my career as Psychotherapist, a seasoned colleague gave me perhaps the best piece of professional advice I had ever received. She told me, “If you don’t want to burn out in this field, never work harder on solving your client’s problems than they do.”
This wonderful morsel of advice, saved me from the all too common burn out of a career, that so many mental health professionals, who don’t exercise good boundaries, often experience.
And it can save you, too.
By refusing to work harder than your partner on solving the problems in your relationship, you can weed out the manipulators, controllers, and users, and avoid being taken advantage of, and be carrying all the emotional weight in the relationship.
My colleague’s advice resonated with me, and when I found myself working harder than my clients in the therapeutic relationship, I would pull back, and save my energy for those who really wanted my help, and benefitted from it.
It was a professional boundary I set for myself, in my therapy practice, that allowed me to support others without weakening myself.
I spent my energy on the clients that most wanted my help, and were willing to work as hard as me, to improve the quality of their lives.
Sound selfish or not empathetic?
I don’t think so.
Professionally, I created healthy boundaries, which produced great results for my clients, as well as myself.
Refusing to work harder on solving my client’s problems, than my clients, weeded out the clients that really didn’t want to improve, change their ways, or were just attending therapy to appease a spouse, partner, or relative.
Of course, personal relationships, especially romantic ones, are very different from professional relationships. We are all more emotionally invested in our personal relationships, and it isn’t always as easy to take a necessary step back and resist the urge to solve an issue or repair a damaged relationship.
So often we want the relationship to work so bad, that rather than risk losing it, we would rather risk losing ourselves trying to save it.
But taking a step back is an absolute necessity.
It’s the only way to find out if your partner is carrying his/her emotional weight in the relationship. And if they aren’t, well, you shouldn’t have to do the all the emotional heavy lifting by yourself.
That’s not a relationship. That’s called being single.
If you are the only one spending the effort, by bending, and twisting, and compromising, you’re being taken for granted. Suckered. Manipulated. And if you allow it to go on long enough you will feel exhausted, depleted, and drained; burned out and bummed out.
And even worse, all your precious effort will be in vain, because it takes two people to make lasting changes in any relationship.
You won’t have any reserves left in your tank for you, much less the people in your life, who really appreciate you; because you are too busy wasting them, in a hopeless situation, with someone who is a taker, a user, and probably someone who really doesn’t give a darn about you. They really don’t want things to change, despite what they may say because frankly, the imbalance in the relationship is working just fine for them.
Changing anything is the last thing they want to do. Why would they, when they have you wrapped around their little finger, doing all the dirty work for them?
These types of people (manipulators, narcissists, and sociopaths) will blame you, and everybody else, for all the problems in their lives, and the relationship, and will be more than happy to sit back, and watch you run yourself ragged, carting all the emotional weight and blame, in the relationship.
While you’re so busy working overtime, trying to correct all the problems, you are enabling them to continue to do nothing, and maintain the status quo.
Taking a necessary step back is the only way that you will truly be able to determine your partner’s intentions, and discern the degree of your partner’s emotional investment, and commitment to you and the relationship.
So, drop the weight. Take a step back, and see what happens.
A person who truly loves you has compassion, and wants the relationship to be mutually satisfying, will want to carry their fair share of the weight, the blame, and the responsibility for fixing it. No, if’s, and’s, or but’s about it!
Copyright © 2015 Bree Bonchay. All Rights Reserved.
Bree Bonchay, LCSW, is a psychotherapist with over 18 years of experience working in the field of mental health and trauma recovery. She specializes in helping people recover from toxic relationships and shares her insights about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and psychopathy in her blog FreeFromToxic. Her articles have been featured in major online magazines, and she has appeared on radio as a guest expert. She is also a dedicated advocate, educator, and facilitates survivor support groups and workshops.
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