Are You Over-Functioning in Your Relationship?

Last updated: Apr 7, 2024

“Those who have trouble giving attract those who have trouble receiving.” Amanda Owen

My client – who I’ll refer to as Cheryl – had a baby five weeks pre-maturely and was suffering from postpartum depression. She was up breastfeeding her baby girl every two hours, wasn’t sleeping (obviously) and was still working weekends.

Cheryl’s husband was working a shift from 12pm – 9pm five days a week. When he was done with work, he wasn’t yet ready to wind down, so he would go out for cocktails with his co-workers for a few hours. When he wasn’t feeling well, he would sleep in the spare bedroom “so he could get a good night’s sleep.”

This was 23 years ago, but she still remembers it as if it was yesterday. It’s so vivid in her memory because it’s the first recollection she has of when she began over-functioning in the relationship and (through her silence) allowing her husband to under-function in the relationship. 

And it’s only continued to worsen over time, creating decades of resentments for her. Now their marriage is on the brink of collapsing.

Some people over-function because they have control issues – wanting everything to be done their way – but then resenting that they do everything. That wasn’t the case with Cheryl. It wasn’t about control; she would have gladly shared the workload and let him do it his way. He just never offered… and she made that okay in her mind in order to keep the family together.

Over time Cheryl began to feel like:

  • If she didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done…
  • And it became easier to do it herself than to fight with him to get him to engage

Over-functioners and under-functioners always seem to find their way to one another, even if it didn’t start out that way. The reason is because we establish a cadence in terms of how we’re going to function in our relationships. And when we are willing to consistently over-function, our partner can take on the role of the under-functioner, since “you’ve got this handled,” and frankly, it’s easier to just let you do it.

The housework…
The kids and all that they need…
Making sure dinner’s on the table… 
Paying the bills…
Earning an income to help support the family…

Anyone would understand why Cheryl felt disconnected and more than a little resentful of her husband. 

And he’s thinking: “That was so long ago! You’re still holding onto that?”

She’s still holding onto it because she never fully expressed it.

You see, we think if we stuff our feelings down in order to keep the peace, they’ll magically go away. 

They don’t.

Instead they fester and build and worsen… until we’re so disconnected that we no longer trust or respect our partner. And that is difficult to find your way back from.

If you’ve been over-functioning in your relationship for years (or decades) we need to talk. I can help – whether that’s to change the dynamic between you or to help you release the marriage in the most loving way possible for you and your family. 




If You’re Struggling In Your Marriage…

I will help you find the clarity you need to re-commit to making your marriage work
or the strength and peace of mind to lovingly release it.