How To Stop Overfunctioning In Marriage?

Marriage is portrayed as a partnership between two individuals who support and complement each other. While people get married by keeping this concept in mind, the reality can be quite different. 

Sometimes in a marital relationship,  one partner feels the urge to take excessive responsibilities. This phenomenon, known as overfunctioning can cause more harm than good. If your spouse is being overfunctional, it’s high time you learn how to stop overfunctioning in marriage

What is Overfunctioning?

Overfunctioning refers to the execution of excessive tasks all the time. It is done habitually. A person manifesting this pattern in their relationship is called an overfunctioner. They feel the urge to take responsibility, resolve conflicts, and make decisions to ensure everything goes smoothly. 

What is Overfunctioning?
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Overfunctioners find it difficult to keep themselves from taking control of any situation or allowing others to be self-reliant. For example, your partner might want to offer frequent advice to people because they believe that they won’t be able to take care of matters themselves. 

Overfunctioners experience anxiety when help or advice is refused. When they don’t find success in an area, they might start questioning their worth. This can have an impact on their health and mental well-being. 

Signs of Overfunctioning

If you are in doubt about whether your partner is being overfunctional, look for some of the most common behaviours.

  • Making sure you are always punctual 
  • Constantly giving you as well as others advice
  • Taking over tasks because it will create less of a mess and save time
  • Reminding you of appointments
  • Completing tasks for others when your partner is bored
  • Filling the gaps in unfinished sentences
  • Trying to convince you and others that they are right
  • Being a backseat driver
  • Always deciding which place or restaurant to go
  • Ensuring your child doesn’t fail in any area

Although most of these behaviours seem harmless, they can limit a person’s capability. 

What Are the Effects of Overfunctioning in Relationships?

Since overfunctioners are reliable, responsible, and competent, they tend to display laudable performance in the workplace. They work hard to reach their goals. But in a maritial relationship, the pattern isn’t well-received by the other partner as it makes them feel undervalued.

Effects of Overfunctioning

Below are the effects of overfunctioning.

1. Loss of Independence in the Underfunctioning Partner

When one partner takes control over matters, the other is bound to become extremely dependent. The underfunctioning partner struggles to perform tasks when they are left by themselves. They doubt their self-worth as they are unable to do their part as a spouse. As a result, they can become physically or emotionally ill.

To make matters worse, families and friends supporting the overfunctioner tend to look down on the capabilities of the underfunctioner. They regard the person as “useless” instead of encouraging them to play their roles as a spouse.

Undoubtedly, if the undervalued partner is continuously subjected to criticism and self-doubt, they might consider getting a divorce. 

2. Burnout and Resentment in the Overfunctioning Partner

In their married life, the overfunctioner puts more focus on their spouse than on themselves. As they keep on taking on extra burdens, they might feel exhausted at some point. They can feel emotionally isolated and resented because of their relationship not being like a typical husband-wife relationship. 

3. Decline in Physical Intimacy

Overfunctioning also affects physical intimacy between partners. The underfunctioning partner might feel embarrassed to be vulnerable in front of their over-functioning spouse. Since the latter is focused on fulfilling the desires of their spouse, they fail to express their own desires. As a result, the underfunctional partner tends to avoid being vulnerable. 

4. Overfunctioning Parenting

Overfunctioning not only affects the relationship between spouses but also their parenting approaches. The conflicting parenting styles can take a toll on their child’s development. Below are some examples of overfunctioning parenting.

  • The overfunctioning parent encourages the child to follow the rules set by them
  • Allowing the child to alienate or criticize the underfunctioning parent
  • Ensuring the child doesn’t make mistakes or engage in activities that lead to failure
  • Setting high expectations for the child so that they can achieve success 
  • Not allowing the child to explore their interests or learn to perform tasks by themselves 
  • Not allowing the child to keep up with their peers

When the child becomes an adult, the constant exposure to overfunctioning can lead to depression and self-doubt. 

How to Stop Overfunctioning in Marriage?

Islam recommends spouses fulfill their individual duties. As long as they carry out their duties, only then will there be a balance in their relationship. If one of the partners creates an imbalance by being an overfunctioner, there is a high chance of dissolution. 

How to Stop Overfunctioning in Marriage?

Here are the ways to stop overfunctioning in marriage:

1. Observe Overfunctioning Patterns

The first thing you need to do is observe overfunctioning patterns. You can tell if you or your spouse is being overfunctioning by answering these questions-

  • Do you always feel inclined to help people or solve problems? 
  • Does doing tasks for others lessen your stress? 
  • Are there certain things, people, or places that make you resentful?
  • Do you feel disappointed if your partner refuses to accept your help or take advice?
  • Do you think that delegating tasks to people can cause a mess?

If the answer to these questions is a “yes”, it can be a clear sign of overfunctioning. 

2. Take Charge of Emotions

It can be challenging to change an overfunctioning partner unless they make an attempt to change themselves. Nobody should be responsible for how the overfunctioner feels. 

To tackle the situation, the overfunctioning partner needs to be exposed to vulnerabilities where they deal with accepting potential failure or rejection. For example, letting the underfunctioning partner make their own decisions instead of taking their partner’s advice. 

Although the recovering overfunctioning partner might feel disappointed, they should avoid having an argument with their partner. Instead, they should calm themselves by engaging in pleasant activities, such as going out for a walk or listening to the Holy Quran

3. Implement the New Behaviours and Thoughts

Often a person becomes an overfunctioner because of how they were treated by their family or the way their family is operated. An overfunctioner getting used to this behaviour might feel uncomfortable when they try to break the habit. 

Once they’ve determined how they want to think and behave, they should start implementing them in the marital relationship. The other partner might also feel uncomfortable at first, but they are likely to appreciate the change. 

4. Consult a Therapist

If the overfunctioning partner fails to get out of the pattern, they should seek help from a therapist. 


1. What Are the Causes of Overfunctioning?

Being overfunctioning is not the person’s fault. It often results from their upbringing and family system. Below are the possible causes of the pattern:

  • Parents coming from a humble background are likely to teach the same values to their children. If they instill the idea of achieving success into the young mind, it’s natural for the child to be afraid of failing.
  • Parents appreciating something that the child does instead of encouraging them to do what makes them happy. As a result, the child focuses on making their parents happy. 
  • Parents not providing adequate care to the child because of sickness or other issues. As a result, the child believes that they need to push themselves hard to get on with life. 
  • Taking a heap of responsibility for the family’s survival can cause the child to work hard. As a result, it can be difficult to receive love and affection from others. 

2. Am I an Overfunctioner?

Whether you are an overfunctioner or not can be determined by the signs mentioned earlier. It’s worth noting that if only one of those signs coincides with your behaviour doesn’t deem you as an overfunctioner. 

Final Thoughts

Overfunctioning isn’t something that should be ignored as it can bring negative consequences in a marriage. Now that you have learned how to stop overfunctioning in marriage life, hopefully, you and your partner will lead a balanced marital life. 

Talha Ubaidullah
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