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Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.
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Lop-Sided Relationships and Depression
lop-sided relationship is where one partner is the greater beneficiary of
favors, decisions, financial rewards, contribution to household chores,
decisions than the other partner. The outcome of decisions or activities on
balance favors one over the other. In other words, one partner is apt to get the
ďdirtyĒ end of the stick on most occasions while the other comes up clean.
to these situations is that the partner in the one-down position is apt to be a
people pleaser and often hails from a family background where there was a
greater likelihood of abuse, parental alcoholism and/or parental separation with
an acrimonious ongoing relationship between the parents. The partner in the
one-down position may not realize it, but is inadvertently used to being second
fiddle and tries to please others as a misguided strategy to gain affection and
reward while avoiding displeasing the other for fear of reprisal.
this scenario, the partner who is one up on the other tends to lead a more
charmed and happy life albeit at the expense of the partner who is in the
one-down position. This person is usually oblivious to their one-up status and
assumes their partner is equally satisfied with the structure of the
relationship. Further, this person is apt to have little empathy, seeks to have
things their way and is likely to be very argumentative to wear down their
partner to achieve personal desires. Once their one-down partner acquiesces, the
view is that their partner is in agreement with the outcome versus browbeaten
time this dynamic falls under its own weight. Eventually the partner in the
one-down position gets dissatisfied, coming to terms with their strategy of
people pleasing not achieving their goal of recognition and reciprocity within
the relationship. Unable to help their one-up partner understand the dilemma
faced and the partnerís role in the lop-sided relationship constant defeat
leads to depression. If the woman in the one-down position, she may seek medical
attention and be prescribed anti-depressant medication. If the man in the
one-down position, he may be seen to turn to alcohol as a coping strategy.
Should the man seek medical attention, he too would be prescribed antidepressant
this couple presents in therapy, the challenge is to empower the partner in the
one-down position and help the partner in the one-up position to empathize and
understand the impact of the lop-sided relationship upon both persons. This is
quite a challenge as it typically means the partner in the one-up position no
longer getting their way a disproportionate amount of time and at the expense of
the partnerís well being. The partner in the one-up position is apt to project
blame upon their partner and disassociate their behaviour or role in their
partnerís depression, thus leaving the depressed partner feeling stranded and
abandoned, only exacerbating the divide between them.
partner in the one-down position is apt to try and explain their situation
better, harder, louder, smarter to their partner who may be quite resistant to
the outright pleas for understanding, appreciation and emotional connection.
garners attention and from the one-up partnerís point of view, they are apt to
see themselves as persecuted unfairly, particularly given they are happy in life
and within the relationship. On the other hand, however, the person in the
one-down position must be helped to understand that their cajoling, begging,
whining and/or pleading falls on deaf ears and that rather than seeking
validation in the hands of their one-up partner, they must come to their own
defense and not succumb to a false reality projected upon them by the partner in
the one-up position.
improve this relationship both persons must come to understand their respective
contribution to the oneís distress. From counseling, the partner in the
one-down position may feel validated for their view of the situation, yet seek
to still change their partner instead of themselves. If the one-down partner
does seek to change her or himself, this can destabilize the relationship.
the dynamic is made clear though, even if just accepted by the partner in the
one-down position, it is like a genie that cannot be place back within the
remains this personís choice as to what to do; now understanding the dynamics
of the situation and their place within it. Live a life of acquiescence or learn
to assert oneself within the relationship which if unacceptable to the one-up
partner may lead to the dissolution of the relationship. The partner who is in
the one-down position will likely need greater social supports outside of the
relationship to assert themselves and carry forward.
for the depression, it will continue if the dynamic doesnít change by the will
of one, other or both partners.
relationships create depression. If balance to the relationship cannot be
facilitated balance to mental health will remain at risk. It is bad enough when
someone else bangs your head against a wall, worse still is when we then
continue to do it to ourselves. If this is your situation, consider your options
and strategies for leaving the relationship. Bear in mind, you will be blamed
for the dissolution but if you develop a more independent sense of self, that
will wash off you and you will see it for what it is Ė an abusive projection
by a remarkably self-centered partner whose only happy getting their own way.
to finally take care of yourself. Then depression can lift.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
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