What Roles Have You Chosen to Play?

In a recent workshop, I asked the attendees to think about some of the roles they play in their relationships; personal and professional. The resulting discussion was very interesting and also very revealing.

We all have chosen to play certain roles in our relationships, and we have fallen into those roles for various reasons. If everyone in any relationship is satisfied with the arrangement and it works for all concerned, there is no problem. But if someone feels compromised or less than satisfied with the way things work, it’s probably not healthy and sooner or later, something’s got to give!

Here are some of the relationship roles that people in the workshop listed as problematic. Read them and decide if any of them are familiar to you:

The Enabler: Has a strong need to take care of and please other people, allowing them to get away with negative or abusive behavior. It is easy to become addicted to approval and that is a sure path to low self-esteem.

The Excuse Giver: Woe be unto those who are in a relationship with one who plays the Excuse Card on a regular basis. This person has a well-stocked pantry of reasons why he did or did not or is not able to do something. The Excuse Giver is always well prepared and hones his craft diligently.

The Bully: Sadly, the world will always have bullies. They are Mr. or Mrs. Bossy-Pants and try to establish their leadership through intimidation and being mean-spirited.

The Whiner: When a whiner is in the mix, there is a constant need to call a Waaaaambulance! No relationship is enhanced by someone who consistently contributes to Global Whining!

The Rescuer/Fixer: Inadvertently keeps other people in a dependent position. When we rush in to be someone’s savior, we are sending a message that the other person is not capable of managing his own affairs. When someone constantly arrives to make everything OK for another person, the fixer is depriving him of being accountable for his own life and well-being. Serial rescuers need to take a look at their own motives for their actions and make sure they are not allowing their egos to dictate their behavior.

The Enforcer: Plays the role of “policeman” by monitoring other people’s actions. Unless the relationship involves a minor child, the enforcer needs to stay in a Clint Eastwood movie!

The Punisher: Tries to make other people stay in line by manipulation and threats. We all know these people! These are the ones who make you feel as if you will pay the price if you don’t do what they say! It can run the gamut from the silent treatment to payback!

The Guilt-Giver: Gives guilt; the gift that keeps on giving! If you have ever been in a relationship with someone who acts as a travel agent for guilt trips, you know what it’s like!

The Martyr: Risks his or her own mental or physical health while putting everyone else’s needs ahead of his or her own. There are no medals given for being a martyr and anyone who plays this role in a relationship should realize that when someone drops from taking on everyone else’s responsibilities…people usually just say things like, “Wow, she should have taken better care of herself!”

Throughout life, we all search for our place in our relationships and hopefully, choose more positive roles than those mentioned above. If you recognize yourself in any of the descriptions, you may want to reassess your role choices. We also occasionally encounter people with whom we work or socialize that fill some of those less than desirable roles. We can’t change other people…unless they are in diapers…but we can choose how we deal with them. Choose Wisely!

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