Friday, March 31, 2017

Loss for One, Loss for All?

Written by  Janan Broadbent, Ph.D.

What happens when a person in a relationship has to be a caretaker, or experiences a loss so that their focus shifts away from the partner? Under the best of circumstances, much mental, and oftentimes physical, energy would be directed elsewhere. Sometimes it also means financial resources are taken away from the home front. How does one deal with the sense of not being as directly emotionally or physically involved?

Such challenging situations can bring people together, or drive them apart. If your partner is dealing with the illness of a family member, he/she may look to you for support, and for strength at times of crisis, or they may withdraw into a place where they deal with it on their own. As a result, either person may feel abandoned. We all carry a deep sense of fears about abandonment. Some of us deal with it better by confronting the fear, taking a look at how real it is, and finding comfort in friends, family, or spirituality. But what if you are all on your own and feel you have to carry the burden individually?

Such stressful times create life’s difficult moments, and the salve lies in our connections to other people. To quote that well-known wise man, Muhammad Ali: “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” I often hear people’s reluctance to confide in friends, or to seek help in any context because “I don’t want to burden others with my problems.” So what is friendship for? Are they not people we can lean on, and can lean on us, when we need support? What is a relationship if you can’t share your fears and anxieties?

Let me be clear that I am not suggesting a partner, a friend, or a family member take on the role of therapist. Counseling would be the direction to go when the load is too much, just as a physician is to be sought when home remedies are insufficient. But if you are dealing with issues that drain your resources, take the risk and reach out to people you are close to. You probably know how rewarding it is when you yourself help another human being. When someone tells you that you really made a difference in his or her life, you know how good that makes you feel. So allow another person feel that warmth. Make their day by holding their hand to cross the perilous street.

The foundation for us to seek a partner is the need to emotionally connect and experience shared joy. In these times, unlike past history, the financial and social benefits of having a partner have decreased and in some cases, are nil. But the need to connect? That is always there as long as we are human beings.

And hard times, one way or another, will always exist for one of us or for both. It is not a weakness to seek comfort in another person – it is what will sustain our inner strength and reinforce our resilience.

Send comments/questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or on Twitter @DrJananB.


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