Relationships: Giving Yourself Up Can Kill You

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Years ago, when on a book tour for our book, “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?”, my ex-husband and I had dinner with a couple on the East Coast with whom he had become friends. I connected with Allison (not her real name) immediately. Warm and open, I could see that she was a deeply caring woman. On the other hand, her husband Ken, while overtly charming, had a huge black hole inside that felt like a vacuum cleaner sucking the energy out of everyone. His need for attention was overwhelming to me.

A few months after that dinner, I heard that she had committed suicide. I immediately understood why.

It was evident to me in that dinner that Allison had completely given herself up to Ken, giving him all her attention and constantly trying to fill his empty hole. She had completely abandoned herself in her attempts to take responsibility for his feelings. The result was that, instead of Ken healing, he had become more and more dependent on her over the years, and Allison felt more and more trapped and drained. I don’t know why she felt she could not leave rather than kill herself, but apparently she did not see leaving as an option.

I understood because I was in the same situation – with my husband, my parents, and my children. I was the caretaker for everyone, and I was slowly dying from having completely abandoned myself and given myself up to others.

I chose, after 30 years of marriage and many attempts to break the taker-caretaker system, to leave rather than die. I wish Allison had made the same choice.

Today I work with people all over the world, both men and women, who feel so trapped by the neediness and demands of their spouse that they are in deep depression, often wanting to die. They feel guilty if they take care of themselves rather than care-take their partner. They believe they are selfish if they take responsibility for their own feelings and needs instead of giving themselves up for others, and their partners reinforce this by telling them how selfish they are if they attempt to change the caretaking-taking system.

What they don’t realize is that continuing to take responsibility for others’ feelings and needs – others who are fully capable of taking care of their own feelings and needs (excluding babies, the ill, and the elderly) – is enabling, rather than loving to others. When we do for others what they can and need to do for themselves, we disable them, causing them to feel even more empty and insecure. While love heals, caretaking does not. Love means supporting ourselves and others in our highest good, which never means giving ourselves up to care-take others who are capable of taking care of themselves.

If you feel trapped and depressed, and you think about dying or you wish your spouse would die, then you are giving yourself up rather than taking responsibility for your own feelings and needs. If the pull on you to care-take those around you is too great for you to find your way through to taking care of yourself, or if your guilt prevents you from taking care of yourself, then the loving action may be to leave until you can break the codependent system between you and your spouse or you and others.

It is your right to have life, liberty and happiness. It is your right to take responsibility for doing what brings you joy, while supporting others in doing what brings them joy. You are not on the planet to fill up another’s inner emptiness and trying to do so is not loving to yourself or to them. If you feel trapped, consider beginning to free yourself.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding healing process. Dr. Margaret Paul is the author/co-author of numerous best-selling books, including: Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By You? Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By You?…The Workbook Healing Your Aloneness The Healing Your Aloneness Workbook Inner Bonding Do I Have To Give Up Me to Be Loved By My Kids? Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God? Margaret holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is a relationship expert, public speaker, seminar leader, consultant, facilitator, and artist. She has appeared on many radio and TV shows, including the Oprah show. She has successfully worked with thousands of individuals, couples and business relationships and taught classes and seminars for over 42 years. Dr. Paul’s books have been distributed around the world and have been translated into many languages. After practicing traditional psychotherapy for 17 years, Margaret was discouraged by the results – both for her clients and herself. She had spent years trying to heal from her own dysfunctional and abusive background, but found herself still suffering with anxiety and relationship problems. She started to seek a process that works fast, deep, creates permanent change, loving relationships, inner peace, and joy. In 1984, she met and became friends with Dr. Erika Chopich, who had half the Inner Bonding® process, and Margaret had the other half! They have been evolving this incredibly powerful healing process for the last 26 years. Margaret works with individuals and couples throughout the world – on the phone, in workshops and 5-Day Intensives, and with members of Inner Bonding Village at http://www.innerbonding.com. She is able to access spiritual Guidance during her sessions, which enables her to work with people wherever they are in the world. Dr. Margaret has just completed a 12 year project call SelfQuest®, which is a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution software program. SelfQuest® is being donated to prisons and schools and sold to individuals, families, and businesses. You can read about SelfQuest® and see a short video of it at http://selfquest.com. In her spare time, Margaret loves to paint, make pottery, take photos, watch birds, read, ride and play with her horses, and spend time with her children and grandchildren.

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