If you’re not getting anything back, it’s time to go.
Pop quiz: when’s the last time you did something for your partner?
It might have been something small, like pouring him a cup of coffee when he woke up this morning, or rubbing his feet after a long day. Or maybe it was something a little bigger, like folding and putting away his clean laundry, or buying a birthday gift for his mother.
Now, when’s the last time he did something for you? Did he make the coffee before you poured it, or do the laundry before you got it out of the dryer? When you’re stressed out, does he rub your shoulders?
These kinds of tasks are easy to identify; concrete and quantifiable. But what about the less tangible aspects of your relationship? How often do you think about your partner – the challenges he might be facing, the ways you might be able to support him? And how often do you think he has those same thoughts about you?
There’s give and take in every relationship; that’s the nature of being with someone. And there’s nothing wrong with taking care of your partner. That’s part of why we humans tend to pair up – so we can look after one another.
But because women are brought up to be caretakers, it’s easy for us to fall into a toxic habit of giving too much. Women are still expected to be the helpers in our society: the mothers, the teachers, the nurses. And whether it’s due to our individual personalities or the way we were raised, some of us embrace that caretaking role more naturally than others. The danger comes when we don’t see we’ve been giving and giving, and getting nothing back.
Here are eight signs you might be giving too much in your relationship…
1. Thinking about your relationship makes you anxious
Of course there’s stress and anxiety in every relationship sometimes, but for the most part, thinking about your partner should make you feel happy. Hearing his voice should make you smile; seeing his face should be comforting. If the thought of your sweetheart puts a knot in your stomach, it might be time to do some hard thinking about why. Why bother being in a relationship if it doesn’t make you happy most of the time?
2. You’re always making excuses for him
Are your friends constantly talking smack about him, or keeping their mouths shut but giving you those knowing, pitying looks and shaking their heads? Do your parents not like him? If you find yourself defending him and making excuses for him (“He really does care about me, he’s usually not like this, he’s got a lot going on right now, you don’t know him like I do.”) ask yourself what would happen if you stopped. Detaching and trying to look at his actions from an outsider’s perspective could help you see your relationship in a new light.
3. You find yourself thinking more about his problems than your own
When your yoga teacher tells you to set an intention at the beginning of class, do you think about being more patient and loving toward your partner, or do you think about being more patient and loving toward yourself? Are you more preoccupied by thoughts about his obnoxious coworkers than about your own abusive boss? It’s good to care about your partner’s problems – but meanwhile, who’s worrying about yours?
4. You talk to his family more than he does
So his parents love you, and they say you’re the best thing that ever happened to him. That’s great. It doesn’t mean you need to be the one fielding phone calls about whether he can make it to his great aunt’s annual holiday brunch, or helping his mother run errands, or worrying about his dad’s cholesterol and his sister’s fight with her terrible mother-in-law. He’s a big boy – draw the line and make him deal with his own family stuff.
5. You say ‘yes’ without thinking
He needs you to pick something up from the store, even though it’s out of your way? Sure, no problem. Can you go with him to the company picnic that might fall on the same day as your sister’s birthday? Of course you can. Want to come over and Netflix and chill, even though it’s your first night off in two weeks and you’d really like to stay home and get some stuff done around your own apartment? Okay, sure. If any of that sounds familiar, you need to stop. New rule: don’t say ‘yes’ to anything until you’ve thought about it for at least 12 hours.
6. Your own life is falling apart
It’s easy to get so caught up in your partner’s problems that you don’t even notice your own life crumbling around you. And often, it’s easier to worry about his issues than your own. Dealing with his problems, whether it’s family, work, health, or something else, is a lot easier than dealing with your own stuff. If your job, friends, family, or even your cat, is suffering because you’re so laser-focused on your relationship, it might be time to step back. After all, you can’t be a good girlfriend if your own life is a mess.
7. There’s nothing you won’t forgive
Similar to saying ‘yes’ without thinking, you might find yourself automatically saying ‘that’s okay’ whenever he offers an apology, or even resorting to saying sorry yourself for things you’re not responsible for. But some things shouldn’t be forgiven. If he’s being verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive, if he’s gaslighting you, or even if he simply can’t meet your needs, you either need to get to couples therapy, or get out of the relationship altogether. Do any of the classic signs of a toxic relationship sound familiar? It might be time to call it quits.
8. You wonder if you’re giving too much
If you’ve read this far, there’s probably a reason. Trust your gut. In a truly healthy relationship, you won’t find yourself obsessing over whether or not you’re giving too much. The rhythm of give and take will feel like a comfortable balance, and will swing back and forth naturally. Don’t stay in a dead-end relationship: you deserve better.
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Comment: Do you tend to give too much in your relationships?