In our last blog, we talked about a friend of mine in New York City who didn’t go “rescue” his wife who had broken down near the Brooklyn Bridge. Response to that blog has been mixed.

A number of people said the story made them think of how often they take care of people in their life when help isn’t really required. Often, they argued, being over-generous with help can create problems, because the giver can become resentful and/or the receiver can become too dependent.

Then, there were people who disagreed with what my friend did. This group believed that my friend shouId have gone to help his wife or, at least, gone to be with her to show support. Isn’t it a good, loving thing for people in relationships to be there for each other? To help each other? To sacrifice?

Which point of view is right? Well, both.

If you help another person and no conflict stems from it, then that’s fine. But if your help causes conflict, then it’s time to revisit what you’re doing. You need to figure out if your help is really helping or not. Be aware of what your attempts at being caring is producing in any given situation. Did your help enhance the relationship or create resentment or dependency?

This answer will vary from person to person (and even from situation to situation with the same person). And that’s because relationships are tricky. There’s no clear cut, one-answer-solves-everything solution.

Relationships take a strong commitment to becoming aware of what we’re doing that’s truly helping or just plain making things worse. An ongoing commitment to this awareness and then taking this awareness another step further to either continue to help as we always have or change our behavior to meet the specific needs of a given situation are two components in creating the kind of relationships we want.