Setting Boundaries if Your Spouse Treats You Like Their Therapist
- Can you be your partner’s therapist?
- Evaluating your boundaries with your romantic partner
- Tips for clarifying boundaries
The best marriages are also the best friendships. Sharing your life, the good times and not-so-good, with your spouse creates intimacy and trust in your marriage. You want to be there for them as a supportive listener and confidante. You’re glad when they’re open about things they consider important, and you want the same kind of support in return.
But what happens when you begin to feel more like your spouse’s therapist than their marriage partner?
Can you be your partner’s therapist?
No matter how understanding you are or how emotionally supportive, trusting, and close your relationship is, you can’t be responsible for your spouse’s emotional well-being.
While you want to be supportive, you can’t be expected to shoulder and solve your spouse’s problems. Trying to do so would leave you feeling drained, and your spouse would still be stuck in a situation without a resolution. Maybe they just need to vent, and that’s okay to a point. But if it’s guidance and advice they’re looking for, they may need the help of a professional.
There are many good reasons to seek the support of a professional therapist instead of just venting to a loved one. Therapists are trained to understand the dynamics of emotional issues, and that helps them motivate their patients to seek a resolution instead of getting stuck in the problem. Therapists must also ethically remain uninvolved in their patients’ personal lives to keep boundaries intact so they can effectively help them seek answers to their problems.
Evaluating your boundaries with your romantic partner
When one spouse relies on the other’s emotional support instead of actively seeking answers for themselves, it can be a heavy burden for the other partner. It can even damage their relationship.
Without healthy boundaries, one partner gets the bulk of the attention and care while the other ends up feeling overwhelmed and resentful.
Healthy relationships require healthy boundaries. This includes your marriage. Setting healthy boundaries in your marriage can help you:
- Set reasonable expectations with each other
- Ensure your emotional and physical safety and comfort
- Establish respectful and effective communication with each other
- Establish your responsibility toward each other
- Establish consequences if boundaries aren’t kept
- Express your opinions and feelings safely and responsibly
- Reduce codependency
- Reduce feelings of resentment
- Separate yourselves as autonomous individuals within your relationship
Clear boundaries allow you to gently and respectfully communicate what you are and are not comfortable with. They can help prevent resentment from repeated no-win cycles without resolution.
Tips for clarifying boundaries
Of course, you want to support your spouse. But if you’re constantly the one doing all the supporting, you can start to feel taken advantage of. Your spouse may not even recognize that they’ve dumped their problems on you time and again and how it’s affecting your marriage.
Setting boundaries and urging your spouse to take responsibility for their own issues may be one of the most supportive things you can do for them. You can take some simple steps to lovingly, respectfully, and clearly establish your boundaries with your spouse.
- Clarify your personal boundaries and feelings for yourself. It’s important to understand how you feel and why you feel that way. If you don’t understand it yourself, expressing it to your spouse will be difficult.
- Choose the right time and place. Make space to have clear and effective communication without being interrupted or stressed by time constraints.
- Be honest and clear about your concerns. Let your spouse know you care about what is happening to them, but these issues are weighing on you, too, and it often feels like they get stuck in a holding pattern. You don’t feel you’ve been helpful in the way they need help.
- Discuss how it has impacted you. Instead of finger-pointing, use empathy and “I feel” statements. You don’t want to add blame to their emotional struggle.
- Suggest other resources for them to get the help they need and reach a resolution. Whether those resources include professional therapy or another resource, emphasize that the purpose is to find a viable solution instead of remaining stuck in the problem.
- Remind them that you will continue to be there for them and support them. While you want to be a supportive spouse, there needs to be limits going forward.
- Get help of your own. Dealing with your spouse’s emotional issues may have affected your own mental health. It’s important for you also to get the support you need.
Relationships are complicated. Marriage is complicated. Sometimes, these important relationships require the help of others.
At Hello Divorce, we are a compassionate team of professionals who want to support couples, whether they are trying to save their marriage or looking for a simple and affordable divorce solution so they can move on. We offer online divorce plans and professional services that can help you find a better future. Schedule a free 15-minute call to learn how we can help.