When the spark between you and your partner starts to fizzle, it’s a bummer if not entirely surprising. There are many reasons that the heat may cool, including everyday stress, hormonal changes and other external factors.
But what if the root cause of your fading passion was something completely different? And what if the issue didn’t really feel like a problem at all?
Codependency is a problem in relationships that are struggling with it. “weaponized incompetence,”What may seem like loving behavior can turn out to be a passion killer. Dr. Tari Mack is a celebrity love consultant and psychologist..
Are you his momma or his lover?
Mack discussed these topics on an episode Louise Rumball’s OpenHouse podcast in the context of Justin and Hailey Bieber’s marriage. I was skeptical at first—how could the romantic woes of beautiful, famous, twenty-somethings have anything to do with real life? The conversation goes much deeper than the Biebers.
The episode outlines examples illustrating the couple’s dynamics, and celeb status aside, they’re surprisingly relatable. Hailey was patient, submissive, loving and supportive of Justin’s actions. She sacrificed her needs to better attend to Justin’s, and took up his responsibilities as her own.
Hailey was in these cases part wife, part emotional support person, and part caretaker. What could be more romantic than being completely and totally committed to your partner? Couple goals, right?
Wrong! Mack stated that the dynamic is misleading because it could lead to an imbalance that could end romance.
Rumball summarised it this way: “Are you his momma or his lover?”
You can allow your partner to have a child.
Are you the one who takes on the most physical or mental workload each week? Do you find yourself in the caretaker position more often than others? How often do you take responsibility for your partner’s actions (or inactions)?
Patience is important in a relationship, but extending too much patience to a partner who’s unwilling to pull their weight becomes enabling.
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“When we go along with somebody’s bad behaviors,”Mack said: “when we don’t tell them the truth about how we feel—we don’t like something, we’re losing respect for somebody because of what they’re doing, if we don’t let them experience the natural consequences of [not doing their work], we are enabling them.”
She also spoke out about the Biebers in the podcast. “Hailey, like anybody in this caretaker or mom role, is enabling Justin to stay in this child role. It works for him. He doesn’t have to be responsible. Hailey has to be the responsible one.”
Sometimes partners create this dynamic subconsciously. Other times, it’s created from conscious manipulation called weaponized incompetence. (If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “but babe, if I do it, I’m just going to mess it up,”This will allow you to identify weaponized incompetence. Either way, it’s disastrous for relationships.
Losing ourself in a relationship
“Of course we want to support our partners,”Mack. “But when we take on the responsibility of reminding and leading the way for somebody to do the work they need to do, we are now stepping over from girlfriend, wife, partner, into a caretaker, into mom. In a healthy relationship, both people are responsible for their own self-care, healing, and growth.”
“We each need to be our own home base,” Mack continued. “When we make somebody else our home base, our safe place, that essentially means we need that person to be present or to be happy with us or to be okay for us to feel okay. And that is a core tenant of codependency. That’s really concerning.”
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It’s also not a recipe for longevity. “It’s not going to last. The woman cannot be the mother, caretaker role for very long before the passion is going to get squashed,”Mack stated. Adopting a parental role in the relationship might seem like you’re being a loving, doting partner—but it’s a surefire way to dampen any remaining sparks.
Keep this in mind as you consider your feelings around your fizzling relationship. Are you feeling angry, depressed, anxious or just plain wrong? Mack says this is a sign that a unbalanced, codependent relationship has begun to take its emotional and mental toll.
Finding Another Way
Mack describes two major steps to help you correct an unhealthy relationship.
- Pay Attention to How You Feel.
“If somebody asks you (for a) favor, consider if you want to do it instead of just saying yes without checking in with yourself,”Mack advised. “Start to get familiar with what’s going on inside of you. ‘How do I feel? What do I need?’ And learn how to give those things to yourself; don’t wait for somebody else to give them to you. When we look to other people for love and validation, we are powerless. We have to feed ourselves the words that we’re looking for from other people.”
- Set Boundaries.
Mack suggested that you say the following to your partner: “‘I’m realizing this role is not good for me or either of us, really. I’m trying to get healthier, and part of that means I have to say no sometimes. I have to start taking care of myself.’ If it’s a healthy relationship, your partner will support that because they want what’s best for you, not just what’s best for them.”
“Love should not be transactional,”Mack concluded. “It should be giving and receiving in a natural flow between the two.”You may also have greater problems if your partner expects or demands otherwise.