over functioning in relationships

When you are faced with a problem at work or in your home life, do you assume the responsibility of “fixing it’ all on your own even though there are other people involved? Or do people in your life come to you to rescue them when they are in a mess of their own making because they know you will?

If you said yes to these questions, then you might be over-functioning in your relationships.


This week’s Real Love Revolution video is all about how to recognize over-functioning, understand the cost to you, and learn how to end this behavior. In the video, I cover:

  • Characteristics of Normal Functioning and Under-functioning
  • Characteristics of Over-Functioning
  • What Might Have Caused Over-Functioning Behaviors to Develop (Childhood, Parents, Etc.)
  • Negative Effects of Over-Functioning in Your Life (And Your Relationships)
  • How to Recognize and End Over-functioning


What does it mean to function optimally?
It means you’re getting things done. You follow through, keep your word, meet deadlines – just a normal way of being able to deliver in your life without over-promising or stretching yourself too thin. Under-functioning describes people who are not keeping their word or fulfilling their obligations. These people often rely on others to manage things for them. Over-functioning is taking responsibility for your own life and for the lives of everyone around you. The over-functioner is someone who looks like they have it all together. They are detail-oriented, organized, reliable, typically viewed as a great worker. The characteristics include being overly focused on another person’s problem or situation, offering frequent advice to help others, and doing things that are part of the other person’s responsibility. With the over-functioner, there’s a fear that if they don’t do it, it won’t get done.
Over-functioning comes at a huge cost. You might feel exhausted all the time, or burnt out from trying to maintain an impossible workload. This is all at your expense. And when an over-functioner is in a relationship with an under-functioner, the situation can only last for so long and will likely be unhealthy, as it could be that the under-functioner is out of work and quite literally needs the over-functioner for basic necessities – this is a clear recipe for resentment.

So how can you do less over-functioning in your relationships?
First of all, awareness is the key to changing anything. If this resonated with you and you think you’re an over-functioner, it’s great to know that now. The second step is for you to look at your home life and your work life and assess where you are taking responsibility for someone else. Make a list. Are you over-functioning for your spouse? For grown children? For co-workers? For your friends? If you do 90% of the housework, STOP! Ask for assistance or get your children to help you. Everyone should be a part of the solution. Make a second list of things you can stop doing – things you can put on someone else’s plate, or (if you can afford to) hire someone else to do them. You don’t have to delegate everything to others, but if you are making yourself sick from over-functioning, it’s time to seek support. Make a list of where you can stop over-functioning, and do it in the least threatening relationships first, which are your friendships and coworkers. Your romantic relationship may be the hardest one because it’s the relationship that you’re probably most invested in, but I promise that you can make these changes.

Download the full Checklist: How to Identify and Stop Over-functioning below, to begin the process of creating more balance in your relationships, leaving you happier and healthier. This isn’t something you are just doing for yourself; this also benefits all the people that you love because when you over-function, you end up resenting the crap out of them, which does not make for a good relationship.

Drop me a comment here on the blog and let me know what resonated with you after watching this video. Then head over to my YouTube Channel and SUBSCRIBE for free access to every Real Love Revolution vid! Join the conversation with #RealLoveRevolution on social media and share the love!

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Thanks for watching, reading, and sharing!
And as always, take care of YOU.


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  1. Terri, somehow your blog post made it into my email box and I am so grateful. I am definitely an over-functioner and I am going to stop!! My business focuses around mentoring but I keep giving away my ‘gifts’ in all relationships. I need to keep it restricted to being paid for. And you’re totally right, people need to have self-accountability. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  2. Hi Terri,
    Thank you for sharing this!
    So much of this resonates with me growing up and in my marriage years ago and over-functioning to the point of having two jobs to pull the slack that my partner wouldn’t
    help with bills Etc because of his own wants and desires and through frivolous spending .
    I think I spent most of that relationship exhausted while he thrived and did what he wanted. which is pretty scary when you have a child to raise together. But I pulled through and made it!

    1. I have been the under functioning partner in my last relationships. Came across this term reading something else and it hit me. That I’ve been under functioning my entire life.
      This is why my last two failed. I was never living up to what I could do. Always doing the bare minimum and using that as an excuse. Look, I’m doing what you expected of me, leave me alone now. But I only ever did the minimum and no more. Even when I was willingly given the time to do more I still didn’t.
      Look, see. I’ve done enough. You should be happy with how much I’ve done.
      Even most times it was rarely even the bare minimum.

      I feel horrible now. Some of this was due to mental health. I had booked a dr appointment before the end of my last relationship actually. I came to the conclusion that I could no longer do nothing in my life.
      She was already gone by the time I got into the Dr.
      She had left a few days before. I remember going to the drs office and feeling so alone.
      I told my doctor that I wasn’t even able to do basic things most days and my life was a mess.
      I was diagnosed with ADHD and have often felt very overwhelmed by life to the point I’m unable to do anything.

      I’m on a new medication that has improved things so much. Sadly a little late for my past relationships and hopefully I’m able to continue to improve my motivation and drive.

      Thanks for sharing this article. It’s definitely answered a few things for me and where I was responsible for my part

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