Responsibility and Boundaries

I’ve been working with a particularly troubled couple. She is a college graduate and works in the social services field. Her salary is not quite enough to support them and their toddler. He did not graduate from high school, has a severe mental disorder, and has lost the rights to be with his first family, including two children, due to his erratic behavior and former drug use. He is lucky to find part-time work at minimum wage.

Her severe anxiety has rendered her unable to tolerate the uncertainty about what’s around the next corner. They argue daily, and she admits to being a yeller. He has repeatedly shown himself unable to follow through on simple tasks. She scolds him, complains that she has to remind him to do everything, and he accuses her of trying to control him.

In one session I wondered whether part of her problem is that she resents having to be the ‘grown-up’ in the relationship, while he continues to act like a rebellious child. When she emphatically agreed, I suggested she could relieve some of her stress by stepping back and letting him take responsibility for his duties – no lecturing, no more reminding him to do this or that. The duties he’s agreed to fulfill include attending GED classes, making his court dates – he lost his driver’s license after a DUI involving a car accident – and looking for a second job. 

She said the idea of letting him take responsibility scares her, because she doesn’t trust him to do anything on his own. However, after some coaxing, she agreed to risk it, despite the possibility that he’d mess up. Her challenge was to manage the anxiety she expected to experience. She said would take it on.

In the next session I learned that things did not go quite as planned, although there was remarkable improvement in their mood and ability to get along. Even while he didn’t do everything he he said he would, it seems this couple has found a potential path to improving their relationship. This is the path of clearly defined boundaries, which make it easy for all to understand who is responsible in any given situation.

If this kind of problem sounds familiar and you’d like to know more about setting and respecting boundaries, please call for a free consultation. The phone number is 219-309-3928.

Thanks for reading!