Taking a look at your relationship on a regular basis can help you understand the current role you're playing in it. Are you the rescuer, the passive, do you give more than you receive? Are you a pleaser to make life easier? Perhaps you are the one who exerts control?


Determining the role you play means that you can begin to understand where this behaviour stems from. It might be your childhood, or from past experiences/relationships, and doing this can allow you to make changes to yourself in order to make your relationship feel more balanced.

There are many types of roles that can be played in relationships, and you might even see a variety of different roles in yourself or your partner. In this month's blog, I'm taking a look at a small number of the roles that we see, and how they tend to present within a relationship. 


The rescuer

A rescuer likes to take on other people's problems and responsibilities - while they like to ‘help', they can become more of a hindrance. 


A rescuer helps others in order to feel good about themselves and feel like they are needed. Their self-esteem suffers if they're unable to help for long periods of time, therefore they launch themselves into their next ‘project' to help with. They may (but this is by no means a guarantee) subconsciously seek out relationships with people who repeatedly need rescuing - those with addictions, eating disorders or mental health disorders for example.  


Someone with rescuer tendencies can start developing them as early as in their teenage years. It mostly stems from them subconsciously learning that rescuing others, often parents or siblings, is a way to feel connected to them.  The ‘help' that a reducer offers is often angled to encourage dependence on them, rather than wanting to help for helping's sake.  


The passive

Being the passive one in a relationship means that you usually go along with whatever your partner wants or decides. You often leave decisions, ideas and planning up to them. 

This can have a negative effect on your relationship as you don't step up to the plate often, and it can leave your partner feeling like they're taking on all the responsibility for decision making in the relationship. You are mirroring the other person in the relationship and therefore blocking intimacy as the other person finds it hard to connect with you.


Passivity in a person can stem from controlling parents who might not have let you make decisions or ‘babied' you to an extent. They may have subconsciously taught you that you only have worth if you please others.


This can stem from growing up in an environment where other people were regularly angry or aggressive, meaning it's often easier to not react. It can also stem from low self esteem - believing that everyone else's judgement is better than yours, so allowing them to make the decisions. 


The giver

The giver in the relationship prioritises the needs of the other person over themselves. Being the giver in the relationship can have lots of benefits, it enhances the strength of a relationship and establishes a sense of security in the partner, however prolonged acts of giving without reciprocation can lead to feelings of neglect.

People can fall into the role of the giver because it seemed the best option at a certain time to avoid conflict or resentment from someone. This anxiety-based behaviour can stem from childhood when the person felt they must accommodate someone they looked up to in order to avoid loss or they have watched adults do the same.


People pleaser

Being the people pleaser is not too dissimilar to the passive. People in this role will go to great lengths to make others around them feel better about themselves, while ignoring their own suffering.


People pleasers will start off early in life by pleasing their parents in exchange for nurturing. They can often also be encouraged to put on a brave face in front of people, regardless of how they're feeling and told to ‘keep up appearances'. 



The controller likes to do just that, take control of situations and have things done the way they like them. Being able to exert control can help them feel confident and powerful, but not being able to do so can lead to anxiety and even anger.


Changing up the roles

The roles we take on through childhood can often lead to our natural way of being in adult life, which can often cause problems and conflict with partners. It's important to try and find a balance in the roles that you play and the roles that both you and your partner take on.

Try to identify the roles you have taken on - if it helps, ask your partner what roles they think you take and discuss together the roles both of you play in your relationship and the positive and negative effects these have on you and others around you.


Determine which roles you'd like to maintain, which ones you'd like to work on getting rid of or reducing/balancing with your partner.


Once you and your partner can openly communicate about the roles you both play and work to balance and adjust these, you can live a more fulfilling relationship.

If determining your role within your relationship and understanding it is something you think you need help with, then counselling could really help you. I provide individual or relationship counselling, so please get in touch via https://www.121counselling.net.