Caring need not entail taking over

Approaching a decade, there appears to be either a deepening or a drifting, and I feared the drift.

Approaching a decade, there appears to be either a deepening or a drifting, and I feared the drift.

Published Aug 21, 2015


Durban - Once you’ve been dating someone for a while, it’s natural to feel obliged to help them at any opportunity that arises.

And that sometimes means supporting them even when they’re wrong.

Some go as far as to take on their battles and fight their fights. It’s normal to take on the role of protector and provider, but should we really be getting involved in our partners “beefs”?

From trolling each other on social media to allegedly getting into a physical brawl at a club, the beef between hip hop stars AKA and Cassper Nyovest just doesn’t seem to be dying out.

AKA’s girlfriend DJ Zinhle has vowed she won’t get involved in any of his battles or answer any interview questions about his behaviour.

But Cassper’s girlfriend, actress and presenter Boity Thuli, has been vocal about her distaste for AKA and even dissed him at the recent MTV Africa Music Awards.


We asked Durban psychologist Claire Newton whether it is wise to fight your partner’s battles.


Is it advisable to get involved in a partner’s trouble with friends or family?

No, it usually only complicates the problem, and the friends and family will resent you for interfering.

If the trouble is resolved, all will be well with the person, but you could be seen in a negative light for a long time afterward.

Getting involved in your partner’s troubles can also make it very difficult for a person who is then torn between two sides, both of which he or she wants to keep happy – an impossible task.

Getting involved is not necessarily healthy or beneficial for the relationship. It can even be unhealthy and destructive. You are giving the message that your partner cannot manage alone, which is undermining.


When is an appropriate time to defend your partner?

The one time might be when the trouble is about you, or you are involved in it. Then an explanation from you might help to clarify the situation and resolve the trouble.

Of course it would be better if you were left to fight your own battles.


How would you describe someone who takes on a partner’s battles? What are they like in a relationship?

It is case-specific. There are many reasons someone could take on a partner’s battles:

* They might be controlling – a person who thinks his or her way is best and they can do a better job of the defence.

* They might believe the partner needs him or her to fight the battles otherwise success would not be guaranteed. This can point to perceptions of weakness or stupidity.

* They might like or need (consciously or subconsciously) to be in the limelight. Fighting a partner’s battles brings you into focus and can make you the centre of attention.


How would you describe a partner who doesn’t take on such battles?

Again there are many reasons:

* They might not need to control things and will be happy to let a partner get on with it, while still supporting him quietly in private.

* They trust a partner to be strong/clever/wise enough to sort out their own battles.

* They share an equal relationship in which both act as mature adults rather than one acting out a parenting role and the other the child role.

* They might be self-assured enough not to need to be the centre of attention.


Where a partner is too involved with another’s battles, how can they get out of the battle while remaining with the partner?

They simply need to withdraw from the battle. In most cases this is probably best done quietly and privately, with no need to make the fact known publicly.

There is no need to explain or justify your actions. (If you do need to justify your actions it would be interesting to know why. Often insecure people feel a need to explain and justify – to be right and to prove it.)

Have a conversation with your partner and let him know that while you still love and support him, and will continue to do so, you are withdrawing from the public battle.

Then do so. Stop speaking out about the issue in public. Don’t get baited into responding to public questions or taunts.


What overall effect is there in being too involved or not involved at all in a partner’s battles?

Being too involved in your partner’s battles can have a negative effect on your relationship if you convey the message (even subconsciously) that your partner is not capable or smart enough to fight their own battles.

He or she will feel undermined and resentful.

Not being involved at all, even on a private level, might make him feel that you don’t care.

It is a fine balance. You need to show you care and support him or her, which does not have to happen publicly and most often is best shown privately, without taking over the battle.

We also need to consider the question: “Why do I feel the need to fight this battle as opposed to letting it go?”

Often it is insecure people who need to fight to prove themselves right – to the world and themselves. This need is often subconscious.

Secure, confident and self-assured people have no need to prove themselves. They know who they are and they know the truth about themselves.

They are able to let go of other people’s opinions.

Sunday Tribune

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