The Burden of Being the Strong One in the Family

In every family, there's a person who ends up assuming the role of the strong, the tough, and the constant and indefatigable provider. However, this role has consequences, possibly more than you might think.
The Burden of Being the Strong One in the Family
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 18 April, 2023

There’s usually a strong person in every family. Furthermore, once someone’s given that title, it’s difficult for them to ever pass it on or share it.

There are several reasons why someone becomes the strongest one in the family. Sometimes, it’s because they’re good at solving problems or because they have a high sense of solidarity.

At other times, it might be because they’re older or have more time to spare. Whatever the reason, it’s naturally assumed that the weight of any crisis and the most complex of difficulties can be imposed on them.

On some occasions, the strong one in the family is perfectly happy to assume that role. However, at other times, they’re not really in a position to do so. Nevertheless, they’re still expected to continue playing this role, even when it comes at a considerable cost to themselves. It’s then that the matter becomes problematic.

“Don’t ever feel bad about making a decision about your own life that upsets other people. You are not responsible for their happiness. You’re responsible for your own happiness.” 

-Isiah Hankel-

Whoever has the role of strong in the family usually carries many responsibilities.

Being the strong one in the family

Being the strong one in the family is usually a role that’s assigned to them without any prior agreement or decision to support it. That’s because there are usually certain people in a family who are more willing to solve problem situations and are effective at doing so. Given this fact, others begin to delegate crises to them.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, some people have a greater ability to overcome difficulties. However, it becomes problematic when someone ends up being assigned that fixed role and becomes the repository of any problems, big and small, within the family, without fail.

It becomes even more complex when family members demand that they assume this role, making them feel guilty if they resist or refuse to do so.

These family members often behave quite childishly and are perfectly happy to hand over some of their independence to the strong one, because it’s comfortable. Consequently, things tend to work out really well for them, but not for the person who has to be the strong one.

If they don’t take care of it, nobody takes care of it

The person who assumes the role of being the strong one in the family can also contribute to the problem with their attitude toward being burdened with responsibilities.

It’s common for them to resort to the attitude of “If I don’t take care of it, nobody will” which is usually true. That’s because, once a situation has fallen into this kind of dynamic if the strong one doesn’t take the reins, nobody will. Indeed, if they did, everything would go wrong.

There are elements of manipulation in these kinds of behavior. In effect, the strong one ends up becoming (often unconsciously) an instrument for the majority. Therefore, a vicious circle is formed that feeds back into the situation.

The dynamics only change when the schema is broken. This usually only happens if the strong one can’t take anymore. Alternatively, they may suffer some type of psychological damage that prevents them from continuing to assume that role.

The strongest person in the family sometimes needs others too.

Breaking the schema

Sometimes, the strong one in the family also needs to be needed. In fact, it’s possible that, at some point in their lives, their desires and feelings were ignored, so they now make themselves visible by doing a lot for others. It gives them a place in the family.

In reality, no one person in a  family should have to be the strong one yet they often remain in this position due to feelings of guilt.

For this reason, in every situation, they should ask themselves to what extent others really need help and what kind of help they require. With this in mind, they can help, but should only do so occasionally and in a limited way.

We should all be able to travel along our own paths. After all, we’re adults and we must all be responsible for ourselves. Naturally, it’s okay to receive help at times but it should only ever be temporary and relevant to the specific problem.

It’s never a good idea for others to take on our problems and for us not to take responsibility for the consequences of our actions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Acosta Díaz, E., Rojas Vergara, E. del P., & Guerrero Yela, O. Y. (2013). LA CONSTRUCCIÓN DE SENTIDO EN TORNO A LA VIDA Y LA SOLIDARIDAD. Revista Investigium IRE Ciencias Sociales Y Humanas4(1), 79-91. Recuperado a partir de
  • Aparicio Gómez, Ó. Y. (2010). Diagnóstico sobre la familia. Gestión y Sociedad, 3(1), 61-76.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.