Staying Out Of The Ditch


Sometimes a partner can try to pull you down into the ditch with them. Don't go!

Having a great relationship when everyone is happy and life is going well is the easy part. Things get a little messier when one of you is going through a 'rough period'. This can last from one day to....who knows.

So what do most people do when their partner is struggling? They get right down in there in the ditch with them! One client said, "I feel so bad when he is hurting and I know he feels better if I'm right there with him".

So she feels obligated. She feels that it is her responsibility to adjust her happiness based on his mood. (see boundaries 1 & 2)

How does that help?

Are two people in the ditch better off than one? Is it easier to push someone up when you are down there with them? My experience has been NO. My experience has taught me that it just creates more unhappiness. And trying to push your partner up can lead to even more resentment on their part.

So what should you do?

My recommendation is to sit on the edge of the ditch, but keep yourself on stable ground. This way you can be there to listen. You can even be there to offer a hand up (if asked for). But you don't ever get in the ditch with him/her!

Because it doesn't do any good.

If you can keep your mood and thoughts stable, you will be in a better position to help. But more importantly, you will be in a better position! Sometimes a partner will try to pull you down into the ditch with them. Misery loves company according to some (I never agreed with that). But your job is to be responsible for your feelings. A client recently asked me, "How can I be happy when she is miserable all the time?"

By staying out of the ditch! Here are some ways that might help:

  •  When your partner is angry and raising their voice, don't engage with them. Wait until they can calm down to talk.
  • When your partner is hurting, don't feel bad. Feel compassion instead (sitting on the edge and listening).
  • Don't take responsibility for someone else's feelings.  Guilt can push you right into that ditch!

You can be more effective when you stay on firm ground. And you will feel so much better. What are some ways you have found yourself going down into the ditch with someone else?


This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.