Are You The Rescuer in Your Relationship?
Rescuing can be exhausting.
If you’re The Rescuer in your relationship you’ll be the one who is always ‘working at it’, finding it constantly drawing your time, energy and attention. You’ll also have the feeling your efforts are not recognized or validated by your significant other. The problem in playing the role of The Rescuer, as with any role, is that it traps you into being one dimensional and inauthentic as you’re not free to be really ‘you’. It means you’re avoiding something in yourself you don’t want to see or own, but this keeps you disempowered. It also means you’re putting your attention on one end of the see saw, keeping your relationship out of balance.
Take a few moments to check out whether you might be in ‘Rescuer mode’ in your relationship.
Do you recognize yourself in any of the following:
- Your relationship is constantly on your mind, you’re always identifying problems (real or imagined) and looking for solutions.
- You’ll frequently ‘give in’ rather than ruffle your partner’s feathers.
- You tolerate your partner’s unhealthy behaviours for the ‘good’ of the relationship, saying things like “It’s ok for you to regularly bring your mates home at the last minute without letting me know, expecting me to provide a meal for them.”
- You find excuses for your partner’s perceived inability to contribute to the relationship, to be there for you, or in fact be there for themselves. You hear yourself saying “It’s OK, She hasn’t been well (when really she’s been lazy), or He’s been working too hard (when really he’s being emotionally unavailable).”
- It may extend to you becoming their enabler, doing for them what they refuse to do for themselves, from looking after their health, taking responsibility for their sexual pleasure to paying all their bills and sorting out arguments with the children.
- You find yourself not doing things for yourself like taking up yoga or having a night out for yourself because it might challenge the relationship.
- You feel resentful, guilty or fearful much of time when not helping.
- Or you don’t feel at all, as helping your partner in their suffering allows you to avoid your own.
- You have an over active sense of responsibility, a need to do the ‘right’ thing, that feels like you being in your integrity, but unconsciously slides into self righteousness. Self righteousness where you believe you’re the only one with the answers, leading you to treat your partner’s needs and ideas with disdain.
- In your Rescuer’s tunnel vision you may not see what your partner actually does put in to benefit the relationship.
- Rescuing may be the only way you can feel connected to an otherwise self absorbed partner ie. Providing them with a cup of tea, a sensual massage or bathing the kids just to get their attention.
- You find it difficult to let go of the power rescuing gives you and be vulnerable in yourself.
- You find receiving difficult and put emotional walls up to block the possibility, as receiving leaves you feeling out of control.
- You might even feel deep down you don’t have the right to be who you are or ask for what you want in the relationship.
- You avoid any discussions of where you are at in your relationship thinking you are protecting your partner.
- You may begin to resent, or even hate yourself as your efforts are unseen, unappreciated or resisted by your partner. Over time this self hatred becomes too much to bear and spills over onto your partner…
Why causes The Rescuer to show up?
Becoming The Rescuer could have developed over the course of your relationship simply as a result of you trying to address the genuine challenges within it and it became a habit. You may rescue your partner from a fear of losing the relationship, from your belief that if you don’t do it, it won’t happen. Rescuing can develop from guilt at your past behaviour ie. The night you got drunk and slept with your partner’s best friend.
At its deepest level you may be acting out unconscious roles adopted in your childhood. Perhaps being the rescuer fulfilled your idea of being a good Christian, a caring person. It may have met the needs of those around you unwilling to be responsible for themselves, people whose favourite saying was “I can’t”. Being the “capable one” gave you a sense of your own power and self worth.
You cannot “fix” another
The biggest gift you can give yourself is to recognize that being The Rescuer is not doing you, or your relationship any good. The biggest challenge is to realize that the only one who can help your partner is themselves and rescuing them takes away their own momentum. A person will either do, or not do something based on their own choices and belief systems. We can suggest, encourage, even push but ultimately what another person chooses is up to them. So goes the old saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink!”. See what happens to them if you refuse to rescue. And if what they choose to do is to have that extra drink, not exercise, over indulge in porn, ignore you or your relationship you cannot control that.
It’s easy to forget in relationship the only one we can control is ourselves, the tantalizing game of “if I do this then you should do that” is a destructive cycle. It’s one we benefit from saving ourselves from its empty promises.
Instead, as The Rescuer, it’s time to focus on yourself.
- See what happens in yourself when you acknowledge that you absolutely cannot save your partner from themselves. Not even to get what you so might want for yourself. Often the feeling is one of powerlessness. This is appropriate as you are powerless to fix another.
- Acknowledge the powerlessness you feel in dropping The Rescuer role, see feeling this as the way of coming home to your real self.
- Claim your true power by exploring what you’ve been overlooking or avoiding in yourself whilst you focussed on your partner and your relationship. Find creative and loving ways to fill the spaces in you.
- Give your partner the gift of seeing them more clearly without the one dimensional lens of your need to rescue, you might be surprised at what you find. Let them see themselves more clearly, even if they don’t like it.
- Value yourself enough to feel your own feelings, acknowledge your own thoughts and desires, express you real opinions, allow yourself to be vulnerable and to receive. Allow yourself to be your real YOU.