Why Do We Stay So Long – Part 9 (Feeling Responsible for the other Partner)

Here is part 8 of my 10-part series ‘Why do we Stay So Long?’  This question has been asked several times by readers of my book ‘Poetry for the Newly Single 40 Something.’  (www.stairwellbooks.co.uk)

In response, I made a list of ten reasons addressing the reasons we remain in toxic, troubled relationships instead of getting out.  I am publishing each reason as a blog post, every fortnight on my blog.

This fortnight I will address the situation of feeling somehow ‘responsible’ for the other ‘partner’ and what might become of them after separating or divorcing.

What does this responsibility look like?

In an ideal relationship, we look after each other.  We take pleasure out of doing things for one another like arranging a surprise or cooking a meal.  Even smaller things mean a lot like the bringing of a cup of tea in bed or the running of a bubble bath.

In a relationship where toxicity, domestic abuse or co-dependency* is involved, relational responsibility can take on a form where we literally ‘parent’ our partner.  This may involve extended financial support as well as assuming all responsibilities in the home.  Perhaps we are trying to keep the peace or there is substance misuse involved which prevents them from functioning in a normal adult way.  We may waste lots of time and energy trying to ‘micro-manage’ them, doing things like fishing them out of pubs or arranging medical support.

*for more information on co-dependency, see https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/codependency

We can end up worrying that our partner won’t be able to manage without us after the end of our relationship.  This may mean we stay for all the wrong reasons.  We think that they somehow won’t survive or be able to look after themselves and decide to remain, infused with guilt, in our caretaking role instead of being single again.

This, in itself, emasculates them and strips them of their ‘entitlement’ to operate as an adult in the world.  The longer it goes on, the harder it is to end and the more the ‘dependent’ adult will lean in.

It is a sad fact that after the end of a relationship, one ‘party’ will have to leave the home and start again but in the end, to find an independent, autonomous way of being and living is far more rewarding and happy than remaining entrenched in an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship.

For many,  that period of living alone and being single again, whilst initially difficult, is one of the most rewarding and empowering periods of life, enabling us to discover who we really are and what we want out of life.   This will form a solid and healthy basis for those people wanting to find love again and live as part of how it should be, an equal, taking and giving partnership.



Maria Stephenson

The issues contained within this blog post are those of the writer and not intended to replace any professional therapy or advice.

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