Healthy Connections

Ending destructive life patterns

Whoops I did it Again! Successful Singles who are Love Challenged

Are you involved with an under-functioning person?


The other day, a female client plopped down in a chair at the start of our session together with the most defeated look. She threw her hands in the air and said - WHY? Why do I always attract the losers? I thought he was DIFFERENT!

Successful, otherwise competent women often come to therapy downtrodden and beating themselves up when they once again find themselves with a dysfunctional partner. It's a common pattern I've seen repeated time and again: the over-functioning woman with an under-functioning man.

Over-functioning means taking on more than your share of responsibility with a passive partner who does very little with no guilt about it. Why would a smart woman be that blind when it comes to love? Underneath it all, anyone can make these mistakes. Intelligence and competence give us no greater advantage than good looks and money when it comes to choosing a romantic interest.

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I put together some tips for recognizing an under-functioning person:

1. In their online profile, they mention the word "independent" as a desirable quality in a partner more than once. Independent may mean "You won't need anything from me."

2. They say things like "I like my freedom", "I'm thinking about changing careers or going back to school." At age 40 that might mean they need someone who sees their potential and wants to help out!

3. He/she describes an ex girlfriend/spouse, as "Crazy." Could it be that he drove her crazy by not keeping promises or taking responsibility?

4. Notice things like how committed they are to their children and other important relationships. A divorced man who hasn't seen his kids in months or years may be a bad choice. Don't fall for the explanation when he complains that the kids don't call him.

5. If you find yourself wanting to make suggestions or give advice on a first date, RUN! Your are already over functioning!

If you are in this type of relationship now, work on shifting the pattern gradually. Do less, stop criticizing your partner, abstain from "helping" i.e. giving advice, making suggestions pushing and trying to change him. Let go and take care of yourself, relax when you need it, sit down and read a book, spend an afternoon with friends and leave the mess behind. Maybe he'll do more and maybe he won't but if he's an otherwise great guy love him anyway.

Ann Smith is the author of the books Grandchildren of Alcoholics and Overcoming Perfectionism.

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