Four Reasons For Any Relationship Problem: Lesson #4

Over the last three weeks I’ve written about several reasons we have relationship problems which can be pared down into four areas, the first three are:

1. Failure to speak your truth
2. Inability to set and enforce boundaries
3. The belief that you are responsible for other people

The fourth reason for relationship problems is to believe that the other person is responsible for your feelings, success or well being. This is a victim mindset and those who operate from this mindset use manipulation and control to get others to comply. This belief system inhibits authenticity and contributes to a lack of trust in the relationship. This pattern definitely happens in the workplace, but I want to come full circle where I spoke about this on a personal level when I introduced  Jack’s story.  (Jack’s mother continually used Jack as a sounding board to process her divorce that happened 20 years ago and as a result, Jack found his energy and effectiveness severely compromised.)

Both Jack and his mother had an unspoken agreement that he was responsible for her well-being. Otherwise, Jack would have had the courage to speak his truth and set an appropriate boundary, even if it temporarily hurt his mother’s feelings.

The point is this: If you think you are responsible for someone else’s well-being, success or feelings, they must agree with that mindset or the dysfunctional pattern would dissolve. On the flip side of the coin, if you think someone is responsible for your feelings, then you will try to convince them of the same.

Once both of you agree with this story, you co-create a very dysfunctional relationship where there is a big elephant in the room but no one is willing to call it out.

Here are the 7 red flags to let you know if you have fallen into this trap of thinking someone else is responsible for you:

1. You blame someone or something for your unhappiness.
2. You use anger to get your way.
3. You gossip about other people instead of going straight to them.
4. People are afraid to upset you.
5. Others walk on eggshells to keep you happy.
6. It’s your way or the highway.
7. You pout or use the silent treatment.

Points to Ponder
1. Who is afraid to speak their truth to you?
2. How often do you sense others avoiding you?
3. How much of your conversation is complaining?
4. Have you taken the Vow of Personal Responsibility?


marlene2Marlene Chism is a consultant, national speaker and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011). Marlene’s passion is developing wise leaders and helping people to discover, develop and deliver their gifts to the world.

Marlene’s message is spreading across the country at association meetings, corporate retreats, universities and other venues. If interested in exploring speaking or training opportunities please call 1.888.434.9085