Q: Why do I end up with such "basket cases" for partners?

A: Basket cases--a great description of someone whose behavior prompts you to give too much of your time and energy to help, calm, or "fix" them. If you are exhausted and exasperated from feeling that you always have to pick up the slack or do damage repair for your partner, you might be trying to help in unproductive ways.

The key word is "always." After all, some situations might require happy and mature relationships to adjust the degree of assistance. For example, if you become ill, your partner might need to step in and take over.

Complementary abilities and flexibility are key features of sound, mutually satisfying love. The famous movie line "You complete me" from Jerry McGuire describes how the skills of many high functioning couples complement each other. Think of two pieces of Swiss cheese lined up facing each other. You won't see through too many of the holes in the cheese because one piece is solid where the other is not. In the smoothest relationships, the holes are smaller, and there is overlap in the solid areas.

Many relationships discover that they don't have enough flexibility and strength. They get caught in the "basket case rut" when one person ends up doing too much. Here are the top reasons you might be fed up with your partner's ineffectiveness or unreliability and solutions to reducing your unhappiness.

Top Reasons Why Your Partner Acts Like a Basket Case

1. You feel more comfortable with being in control. Being able to take charge is a great skill--but not at the expense of your partner being part of your decisions. You tend to choose partners who let you make the decisions. And it doesn't help that you are usually right!

2. You tend to be a perfectionist. You tend to believe there is one right way to do something. Even if your partner disagrees or fights you, things often go your way. Yet, you have often have a clearer view of the situation!

3. You have strong needs to feel important and special. You unknowingly chose a partner who puts you on a pedestal--and needs you to be in charge. You might not feel as comfortable with a partner who is too competent. You might tend to resent your partner's deficiencies, but yet you still are at your best when you have the most input into decisions!

4. You really want to feel better about your choice of partner. You work hard to fix or over-help your partner so that you know you didn't make a mistake in choosing him or her.

5. You want to fix yourself by fixing your partner. We tend to choose partners with different styles but similar problems. When you rescue someone, you also rescue yourself. At the very end of the movie Pretty Woman when Richard Gere rescues Julia Roberts from a life of prostitution, she tells him that she is rescuing him, too, from his unhappy life.

Solutions for Getting Your Partner Out of the Basket

Unfortunately, there isn't one sized solution for all. Here are the most important tips. Tweak them to make them work for you.

1. Get a perspective. There are few things in life that absolutely have to be done in a specific way. Expand your "room for error quotient." Pick one thing that is somewhat important to you and then back off from insisting that it be done your way. Your anxiety will go up. Making changes usually increases discomfort. Tough it out. Add more as your comfort increases.

2. Keep a Perfectionist/Rescue Journal. We often learn a great deal about ourselves when we write down our thoughts and feelings. Make sure to include your speculations about why you act the way you do.

3. Replace anger and disappointment with empathy. Sit down with your partner and tell him or her that you want to do an exercise together that will make each of you easier to live with. Each person picks an issue that is important or bothersome. Now pretend you are your partner and take his or her side. Really get into it. For example, talk about why something is difficult for you or why something makes you upset. Then develop solutions together.

4. Talk with your partner. If you don't do the exercise above, tell each other what things you each like to do. Then make a list of things where you need more help. Be specific. Don't just say, "I need more help with the kids." Instead, say, "I need you to give junior a bath." Explain in detail what is involved.

5. Stay in a loving mindset. Make a list of all the positive attributes of your partner. Think about when you fell in love. Now make sure that you obey the Golden Rule of Relationships: Speak and act in a way that you would like your partner to be with you. For example, don't yell or criticize or take over. This rule is so simple--yet few follow it.

Best of Luck!

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Author's Bio: 

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, ED.D., MSS is a noted psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, specializing in relationships. For her book about women and love, she welcomes women to take her 17-20 minute online research survey at www.lovevictory.com. Also on her website, if you donate $5 to Habitat for Humanity-Sarasota, Florida, you can receive a download of her relationship advice cartoon book for women, "The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie." Follow Dr. Wish on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.