My Marriage Counselor Told Me I Was Being Overly-Responsible For My Husband

It was up to him to be accountable for his own bad behavior and address it.

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I went to marriage counseling because I wanted to save my marriage.

My husband had begun drinking and scaring our children and me. He had agreed to go to couples therapy until some difficult conversations were directed his way.

Now I was a wife going to marriage counseling alone.

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I was a woman running interference with my husband’s bad behavior.

I was exhausting every part of me while I tried to save my husband from himself.


I thought he was in a bad place. I thought something must be upsetting him. I even thought he might be experiencing a midlife crisis.

"Colleen," said my marriage counselor. "You are being overly responsible for another human being and under-responsible for yourself."

I have to admit I didn’t truly understand what he was attempting to tell me.

I got the overly responsible part. 

I just didn’t understand how I was being under-responsible for myself.

It seems what I was doing was unhealthy. That was pretty obvious, but the pleaser and fixer in me didn’t recognize how my behavior was responding to my husband’s poor behavior.


My husband wasn’t being responsible for himself. He was an adult. He was a husband and a father. 

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It was up to him to be accountable for his own bad behavior and address it.

Of course, intellectually I knew this. 

But when my husband refused to act maturely, I attempted to fix the situation. I was running interference and essentially acting more like a parent than a spouse because his behavior was irresponsible. 

In doing so, everything became about my husband.

His behavior was upsetting and controlling our home even though it wasn’t constant.

My husband had created an air of unpredictability in our family.


There was little time to think about Colleen. My husband was who our house revolved around.

That’s part of being under-responsible for myself. But there is another aspect too. 

Marriage is meant to be "in good times and in bad."

But it’s not intended to have to endure an individual who repeatedly behaves badly. That is an unhealthy situation and relationship.

It forces one person into the role of tolerating, enabling, and making excuses for their spouse.

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I was being under-responsible for myself because I lacked boundaries and self-protective instincts.

In my attempt to be overly responsible for my husband, I wasn’t being self-responsible.


I wasn’t protecting myself from an individual who repeatedly upset me and put me in an unhealthy situation. It wasn’t my job to parent my husband. It was my role to be his best friend, wife, and mother of his children.

He was a man used to doing whatever he wanted without consequence.

I was a pleaser and fixer who was accustomed to solving problems.


These were the roles we played in childhood and we brought them into our marriage.

The Golden Boy married the pleaser and the fixer. The more my husband acted out, the more I worked to fix everything.

It’s so clear to me now.

It wasn’t during that early marriage counseling appointment.

It’s not my job to neglect myself because someone else refuses to be responsible.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.