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High Maintenance Relationships

By Dr. Margaret Paul
September 08, 2009

Are you in a high maintenance relationship? Discover various forms of high maintenance and how you may be participating in this dysfunctional relationship.

High Maintenance RelationshipsWhat is a high maintenance relationship? A high maintenance relationship is when someone is making you responsible for him or her in various different areas of their life that are their responsibility.

Emotional High Maintenance

When a person takes no responsibility for their own feelings of safety, security, worth, lovability, wellbeing or happiness, they are high maintenance.

Elizabeth wants constant approval, attention and affection from her husband, William. When he is busy with work or his hobbies, she calls him incessantly, whining about when he is going to have time for her. At least a couple of times a week, she insists they talk about their relationship and proceeds to blame him for her unhappiness. But no matter how much approval or attention William gives her, she is never happy for long. Because she takes no responsibility for her own feelings, her happiness is totally dependent on William. Elizabeth is emotionally high maintenance.

Daniel needs things just the way they "should" be. If the kids are too noisy or the house isn't in order, he blows up at his wife, Sophia. Daniel takes no responsibility for the inner self-abandonment that creates his need to be in control over everything. He makes his wife and children completely responsible for his feelings of emptiness and aloneness that are the result of his self-abandonment. Daniel is emotionally high maintenance.

Financial High Maintenance

When Anthony married Olivia, he was trying to get his acting career going and Olivia was earning a lot of money in finance. At first she had no problem supporting Anthony in his passion, but within a couple of years, Anthony had stopped looking for acting jobs and was living high off of Olivia's salary. When Olivia consulted me for counseling, she was thinking about divorce. Anthony was constantly demanding more and more money for the things he felt he needed to be happy - and to cover up the deep insecurity that resulted from his inner abandonment. Anthony is financially high maintenance.

Brenda can never have enough clothes, shoes and purses. And she never seems to have anything to wear. Her identity is completely tied up in how she looks and her material possessions. She takes no responsibility for her inner sense of safety and security. When her husband, Alex, refused to buy her a bigger house, she became enraged and threatened divorce. She is constantly judging Alex for not making enough money, even though Alex does very well. Brenda is financially high maintenance.

Sexually High Maintenance

Brad had learned when he was young to be harshly judgmental of himself, and he took no responsibility for the pain this caused him. Instead, he was constantly demanding that his wife, Emma, make him feel better by having sex with him. Brad uses his wife and sex to take away the pain that he is causing by his own self-abandonment. Brad is sexually and emotionally high maintenance.

Chloe grew up getting a lot of attention for her looks, which she now sees as her value. Emotionally self-abandoning, she looks to her husband, Matthew, to make her feel lovable by having sex with her. She often comes on to Matthew and then gets angry when he is not turned on to her. While Matthew used to be very attracted to Chloe, now he feels pulled on to make her feel loved and worthy. Chloe is sexually and emotionally high maintenance.

As the Partner

If you have a partner who is high maintenance, you need to realize that you, too, are not taking responsibility for your own feelings. Instead, you are enabling your partner to continue to turn to you for his or her sense of worth, security, lovability and so on. As long as you are taking responsibility for your partner, you are not taking responsibility for yourself.

I encourage you to stop caretaking your partner, which is not loving to either of you, and start learning how to be loving to yourself - which is the very best thing you can do for yourself and for your partner!

Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships."

Join IBVillage to connect with others and receive compassionate help and support for learning to love yourself.


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