Holding yourself appropriately accountable is a crucial skill to have. Inappropriate accountability occurs when you take an unnecessary amount of responsibility. Your automatic thought process comes up with associations and tells you what your responsibility is. Here, I introduce you to the six most common thoughts that I often encounter in the therapy room related to taking on unnecessary amounts of responsibility.
- “Since my husband is angry with me, it’s my job to calm him down”: First, it is likely that your husband is not angry with you. He may be angry with something you have said or done. Still, as an adult, your husband has his own self-soothing skills. He can calm himself down, and he should calm himself down. You are not responsible for coming up for coping skills that he can engage in. Similarly, it is not your responsibility to calm him down.
- “I’m my boyfriend’s caregiver. I know what he needs”: Being a caregiver to a partner complicates the relationship structure and the way it functions. Your caregiver role and your partnership role should be separated if this is possible. For example, hiring a third person who can be the caregiver can help you to define your role as a partner rather than a caregiver. If this separation is not possible, partners must be aware of the new relationship dynamics and clearly define their expectations from one another. Keep in mind that you cannot assume that you know what your partner’s needs are if they do not tell you or if you do not ask.
- “My child is bored, and I don’t know what else I can do. I can’t make my child happy”: Boredom and happiness aren’t opposite ends. You do not have a responsibility to keep your child entertained. They can be bored and happy at the same time. Allow them to come up with their own ideas to overcome their boredom. Tolerating boredom is a skill that they need to learn and practice. They will deal with their own frustration.
- “I had a particularly good day, but my wife had a bad day. She brought my mood down”: Not exactly. Your wife did not bring your mood down. You are choosing to be upset with her or even angry with her for bringing your mood down. You were not able to set an emotional boundary and keep enjoying your good day. You can continue having a good day and continue supporting your wife if she is expecting your support.
- “My grandmother died. It’s my responsibility to make sure that my grandfather is okay”: Your grandfather is grieving, and you want to help him, but remember that you are grieving too. It is your responsibility to make sure you are okay. You can support each other in your grief process but you are not responsible for making sure others are okay. In early stages of the grief process, allow yourself and others to feel sad, angry, or frustrated if these are the feelings that they need to experience to heal.
- “I have to make sure that my partner achieves an orgasm”: There are numerous studies written on desire, arousal, and orgasm. All these studies suggest that when each partner focuses on their own pleasure, they will be mutually satisfied with their sexual intimacy. You are responsible for your own orgasm or pleasure, and your partner is responsible for theirs.
Focusing on your own happiness, self-soothing skills, grief, pleasure, orgasm, and needs does not make you selfish, it makes you self-aware. This focus helps you to take an appropriate amount of responsibility with healthy emotional, physical, and sexual boundary setting.
Taking the appropriate amount of responsibility is about your ability to set and maintain boundaries. It is a skill that can be developed. If you feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities and/or are not sure how to set and maintain healthy boundaries with your loved ones, contact me.