Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

The Weird Imbalance of Relationships

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | May 21, 2015 1:35 PM

There's an old standard therapy book called "The Dance of Anger," by Harriet Lerner. It discusses the nature of imbalance/balance in relationships. For example, if someone is pursuing the partner or spouse avidly, to the point of smoothering or stalking, thae pursuee distances himself as much as warranted to feel safe. If the pursuer learns her lesson and backs off, chances are that he will balance the seesaw by becoming less distant, if it's not too late. Likewise, if one partner is the cheapskate in the relationship, saving and guarding money, the other is more likely to spend and vice versa. I f the cheaper one starts spending, the other will conserve better. Same with talking-the big talker may overwhelm the listener, who then doesn't talk much. If the big talker gets quiet, the other may fill the gap, rather than always sit in silence. The arguer  meets avoidance. The avoidee meets anger.Someone changes positions and the other one adapts.  In other words, there seems to be only so much of a way of being which a relationship can handle.

Unfortunately, many a partner does not recognize this pattern, until the relationship is distored and out of whack. The handyman husband resents taking care of all the household details without realizing that be being so efficient, he has enabled his wife to become dependent and helpless at household stuff. The great billpayer and accountant in the family has enabled the others to rely on her resources without learning to be responsible financially. The big sister manages social life for her little brother and he doesn't learn to make friends on his own. The more they stay in these positions, the more glued to them they get. Rather than end up in a position of difficulty, one person needs to back off, so the other can grow into the gap.

The anger will dissipate as the balance improves. The wife who learns some household chores and fix-it maneuvers beomes more self-sufficient and there's a certain modicum of respect she gains from the husband, who feels grateful, as long as he does not feel displaced. The spender pares down his purchases and the cheapskate eases up. The avoider is a little more friendly and the pursuer backs off or vice versa. Balance is important. Maintaining it is a dance with constant adjustments, as needed. Each person has to be aware of the pattern and his/her own contribution in order for the it not to be a dance of anger.

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