Date with a problem
9576433541_121f0fa91b_cWhat to do when you mind some of your partner’s behavior or your close one deals with personal issues? At a certain point, instead of listening, tolerating and helping, you might have to consider preserving your own mental health.Each of us is carrying a certain burden during the life. It does not necessary have to be something serious: we can grow up in a regular family where the relationships were not exactly great or face misunderstanding, incomprehension, state of uncertainty or fear during our life. Each of us deals with these situations differently. What someone overcomes easily it may bring to the edge of desperation someone else. Frustrating situations lead often to suppression of our feelings, incorrect processing of the experience or “escape patterns” of behavior. That can be, for example, alcohol abuse, drugs or aggression. But it does not have to end only with these obvious psychological problems. Incapability to establish a healthy relationship, inclination to control others, excessive jealousy, dependence on our partner, inability to effectively communicate with others and much more could derive from it. If we recognize this behavior in us, the resolution lies in our hands. But what happens when it is our partner who has these issues? How to help them? And, is it possible? Are we responsible for their issues? Should we stand by our partners in good and bad moments or should we protect ourselves first? Help or leave? Before I get to the core discussion concerning “whether to solve a partner’s problems or leave” I would like to mention something which we often forget nowadays: it is very important to get to know each other before starting a relationship. In today’s world everyone is looking for quick solutions. One or two dates and we start exploring how we fit in bed together. With this approach we often skip few steps which can warn us about possible problems. Definitely it is not advisable to overlook warning signals. We can be benevolent once we start the relationship, not before. For example if our partner does not contribute to the relationship as we would like him to from the beginning, we can excuse this as shyness, we need to evaluate signs more carefully as well as other characteristics. Because later on, we may feel abandoned. But there are much clearer signals which we tend to overlook in the beginning and expect the partner to change later. If the mentioned partner is used to spend weekends sleeping on the table in the local pub, is a compulsive substance abuser or has the reputation of irremediable Don Juan, this behavior won’t probably change overnight. It is useful to watch our partner’s behavior in our presence, but also in an interaction with their friends or parents. This approach may last long time but will be advantageous for the relationship. Of course, we can start the relationship even if some imperfections are noticed but it will be wise to carefully consider if we are able to tolerate such things. In case we won’t be able to handle partner’s unreliability it will be better to look for someone else. You will protect both of you from needless stress. I care for you but also for me We need to realize that we cannot save anyone. If we think we have to help our partner, then we are wrong. Psychotherapist Andrea Mathews describes the situation in her article “Rescuing the Rescuer” as following: “The rescuer needs to understand that he cannot really save anyone. We can help, control and influence only ourselves. We don’t “get” people to do things. They will or won’t do it based on their personal beliefs and values. We can try to help, advice or argue, but in the end people always do what is best for them at that moment basing their actions on their belief system and rationality, which can even mean another drink, financial bankruptcy or violent partner.” So what we CAN do? If you have relationship which is still beneficial even there are some flaws, you have 2 options:
  • You can tolerate partner’s behavior, not pointing out his flaws and do everything you can to make the relationship work.
Even it may not seem that obvious, sometimes it’s easier to reconcile partners behavior and respect them for the positive characteristics they own than trying to change them. There is a quite good slice of chance whilst giving them enough space they may realize that what they are doing is wrong. But if you feel hurt or frustrated with their attitude you may consider other options.
  • Second option consists of openly talking to your partner about his behavior and how we feel in the relationship.
In this case we should show our partner that we take responsibility for our own actions and do not blame them for everything. If the partner does not see any problem or we have to push them by threatening them with the breakup or ending the relationship and after the reconciliation nothing changes, there won’t be anything we can do to change the situation and it will be wiser to leave. On the opposite side, if our partner realizes there are some problems, we are on the right path, but that does not mean to be victorious yet. Many people acknowledge their vices but they don’t want to dispose of them. They often excuse their behavior or trivialize the flaws. Try to explain to your partner that you will support them through the changes but they have to do the first step. If our partner accepts our help we can try to discuss the issue with him. We can offer to go through the process supporting him. But if he feels he wants to do it on his own he has all the rights for that. Important is to set up some deadline till which we expect to see some results. Otherwise we can be trapped in a relationship full of promises which will never come true. Unsuitable for partnership Each one of us seeks different characteristics in our partner – some desire their partner to be intelligent, handsome, independent and rich, others may value reliability and loving nature. We also differ in our tolerance to partner’s behavior which also depends on other aspects such as whether we have children or not. In my opinion people can resolve almost anything if they are willing to. They can tolerate non-stop parties, cheating, jealousy or unreliability as long as it does not frustrate them too much or if they can agree with their partner and compromise. But there are some behavior patterns which I consider intolerable:
  • physical or psychological aggression,
  • humiliating or not respecting our partner,
  • reluctance to communicate or invest into the relationship,
  • lying about important things,
  • any dangerous or irresponsible behavior which put, not only partner but also children, into danger.
In my opinion, fast relationship breakups are not to endorse. If we believe our spouse has a problem but we are unsure how to act we can visit an expert alone. We can always find out whether we can contribute to the relationship on our own or how to communicate with our partner in more efficient way. But we should never assume our partner’s life is our responsibility. It is up to them, in the end, to decide what to do. There is always the possibility for both to walk away from the relationship.