“Great – that’s $100 down the drain.”
“I just feel completely drained!”
“She’s draining my energy.”

We’ve all heard and maybe said similar expressions.  It’s hard not to visualise something disappearing, being sucked away, irretrievable.  It’s the nature of any reciprocal connection that at times, either party might do things that seem to drain the energy from the other. This leaves me wondering, what impact does this have on our relationships when it happens too much or too often?

In his book  ‘ACT with love’  Russ Harris, MD, talks about the five ways we might DRAIN our relationship (Harris, 2009). He uses DRAIN as an acronym to unpack and demonstrate the impact of these behaviours:

D – disconnect
R – react
A – avoid
I –  in your mind
N – neglect values

In my previous post, I described some of the things we often think are wrong in our relationship – and as we all know deep down, regardless of the fairy tales we’ve been fed, there is no such thing as a perfect partner.  Up close, all relationships are high maintenance!  The aim of this post is to invite you to think about how you might be a DRAIN on your relationship.  Importantly, it’s good to acknowledge from the outset that we are all flawed; when the chips are down or we’re feeling stressed, tired, triggered and fed up, we all have the capacity to enlist the following behaviours:

DISCONNECT – Do you get bored, irritable, or stop listening? Do you go cold and distant? Do you close off/shut down/zone out? How does your partner disconnect from you?

REACT – Do you react impulsively or automatically, without stopping to consider what you are doing? Do you yell, snap, swear, storm off, say hurtful things, criticise, blame, accuse, sneer, jeer? How does your partner react to this? Do they react impulsively or automatically?

AVOID – Do you try to avoid or get rid of your painful feelings that are related to the issues in your relationship? Do you use drugs, alcohol, food, and cigarettes? Do you withdraw or stay away from your partner? Do you try to distract yourself with TV, computers, books, going out? Do you avoid talking to your partner about the issue? How does your partner seem to avoid or get rid of his/her painful feelings?

IN YOUR MIND – How do you get trapped inside your mind? Do you worry about the future, dwell on the past, relive old hurts, rehash old arguments, stew over everything that’s wrong with your partner? Do you get caught up in judgment, blame, and criticism? Do you get caught up in thoughts of rejection, betrayal, abandonment, or being controlled? How does your partner seem to get trapped inside her/his mind?

NEGLECT VALUES – What core values do you neglect, forget about, or act inconsistently with when you are disconnected, reactive, avoidant, or inside your mind? Do you lose touch with values such as being loving, kind, caring, generous, compassionate, supportive, fun-loving, easygoing, sensual, affectionate? What core values does your partner seem to neglect, forget about, or act inconsistently with?

It’s confronting to think that both people in a relationship are capable of such things. It’s also essential that we understand the roles we play in the dynamics of our relationship and face up to the need to change elements of our behaviour (Siegel & Solomon, 2013).

Change does not occur in a vacuum; when one thing changes, other things will respond accordingly. Importantly, it’s also not logical to wait around for your partner to do all the work and repair what’s broken. Don’t be a DRAIN – get in there and take action guided by those values that are most meaningful and congruent for you!

It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognise each other, to learn to see the other and honour him for what he is ~ Hermann Hesse

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if the above post resonates with you. I work extensively with gay, lesbian and heterosexual couples; indeed, love does not discriminate.


Harris, R. (2009). ACT With Love. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Siegel, D & Solomon, M. (2013). Healing Moments in Psychotherapy. Norton & Company Inc. New York.

Disclaimer: This article contains the views of the author and is not a replacement for therapeutic support. Please reach out to a registered therapist if you are experiencing distress and require assistance.