Ask the Counsellors: Giving Too Much in Relationships
“I’m in a new relationship and I’m worried that I’m going to screw this one up again. I almost always give my partner everything that they want and I end up resenting them because they don’t do the same for me. How do I stop doing this? I’m usually self-assured but when I really like somebody I feel insecure and want them to like me.”
-Sarah (not her real name)
Here’s a question: have you ever asked yourself why you give so much in relationships? Do you feel like you have to be in service to somebody for them to want to be with you? Are you worried that if you do something that they don’t like or agree with that they might not want you anymore?
Listen, we’ve all been there. New relationships are intoxicating and fun and we never want the high to end. We spend all of our waking hours thinking about our new boo and we can’t help but wonder if they’re thinking about us too. We act out of character and do things we wouldn’t normally do like skip work, blow off our friends, or stay up all night on the phone. This is normal, but it can’t last. Can you imagine if this honeymoon period never went away? Nobody would ever get anything done.
Inevitably, we have to come back down to earth. This is when we begin to see our partner more clearly. Our old patterns resurface and we feel ourselves acting in ways that we know are unhealthy and/or self-sabotaging (checking his phone at 3am while he’s fast asleep, perhaps?) Sometimes we mistakenly believe that this slight distancing is a byproduct of something we’ve done. We begin to wonder if we’re good enough or if we’re doing enough. We try harder. Our partner learns to do less. Before long we begin to feel resentful because we feel like we’re doing all the work. Sound familiar?
Here’s the antidote: Put yourself first.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
It is not your job to do everything for your partner. It is not your job to make sure that they’re always happy. You do not need to fix their problems. You do not need to put your needs on the back burner to make your partner feel good. If you do these things you will start to respect yourself less, and so will your partner. Give yourself the love that you give everybody else.
Ironically, this approach will make your partner feel closer to you. When you stand by your standards, communicate your needs, and embrace your emotions you become a more authentic version of yourself. Boundaries are super sexy.
Of course this is a simple answer to a complex question. There’s more to it, but if you start setting boundaries and communicating your needs your life will look radically different.
If you want to discuss boundaries, relationship patterns, and/or the importance of self care in detail book a session with me.
Gisele Plamondon, BSW, RSW