In last week’s blog I discussed factors that contribute to people being demanding and controlling. This week I will explore how to cope with a high-maintenance spouse. I work with this issue all the time in my practice, where one or both individuals require a lot of attention, care, love, and control. The three questions you need to ask yourself are: “Am I in a codependent relationship and am I enabling my partner? Why?” The answers to these questions may give you insight into your best approach. In many situations it helps to acquire assertiveness skills, be secure with oneself, and learn healthy ways to confront conflict. Being assertive means: using the pronoun “I” instead of “you” to express your needs, communicating the emotional impact of your spouse’s behaviors on you, and not telling the other person what to do. The single most important skill to incorporate is boundary setting. This entails being able to say no without guilt and setting limitations on what you will do for the other person. The harder you try to make everything right and keep the peace, the less effort will be made by your partner much of the time. A special note for the people pleaser, we can’t make everyone happy and are not responsible for another person’s joy. Certainly we can take away someone’s happiness or joy by making a hurtful comment, but in general we are each responsible for our own emotional well-being. In some cases we have to be able to walk away, let go, and accept that this person may have no desire to change. This may be the time for professional counseling for one or both parties. In healthy relationships each partner takes responsibility for (and only for) their own feelings, thoughts, and actions. Change has to start in you.
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