When I worked with college students, I counseled a super bright and just overall pleasant guy. He came to see me to talk about his stress and anxiety. Long story short it was all related to his long-term relationship with his girlfriend.
He was in graduate school; however his stress and anxiety was all about trying to make her happy meeting her many demands. He took care of her. He went above and beyond the call of duty and he was paying a price for it.
For example, my client’s stress was almost always related to not having enough time to devote to his assignments as a graduate student and he felt he was putting out subpar work. When I asked him what was getting in the way, it was that he was spending his evenings and much of his free time throughout the day providing emotional support and comfort to his girlfriend.
You see, giving is good but too much giving can set you up to be in a severely imbalanced relationship or just plain being taken advantage of.
We are led to believe that all great relationships require give and take. While this is true, it can get confusing when you find yourself in a relationship where you are giving way too much without much in return.
To make some sense of this, I want to give you a few common reasons, and how to keep them in check, you may find yourself giving too much in a relationship.
I’ve got to warn you, these require some real self-reflection. So drop your defenses and check out whether or not these apply to you.
1. YOU HAVEN’T SET YOUR BOUNDARIES.
Poor boundaries can really set you up for hurt and disappointment in your relationships. When boundaries aren’t set it is just too easy to accelerate the pace of your relationship and overlook really big red flags.
If this sounds like something you’ve gone through, you probably just dive into relationships eager to take care of too much for your partner. And, don’t get me wrong, these are wonderful tendencies but too much too soon is setting you up to be potentially over-invested in the relationship before you’ve really given yourself time to get to know a partner. You know, to test out their reliability.
I want to put this out there: sometimes the most good-hearted people are the most at risk for being in a relationship with a taker. Good-hearted people give lots of chances, they see the best in people and they give the benefit of the doubt.
One way to really gauge if you are in a relationship with a taker is to give a little and then sit back and see what they do with it. You are looking for something very important called, mutuality. Do they reciprocate? Or do they take and then expect more?
If there isn’t a balance of give and take and you aren’t seeing mutuality, it’s time to revisit your relationship status or at the very least how much you want to continue to give. Because you are at risk to be taken advantage of.
2. YOU HAVEN’T DEALT WITH YOUR BAGGAGE
We all have baggage. Baggage from family or even from past relationships. There is no shame there.
But if our past baggage isn’t unpacked and dealt with, then it has this way of sneaking into the present.
This was my client’s reason for being attached to a taker. He had family experiences where he was continually put into the role of the saver, the fixer and if he wasn’t in that role he was basically invisible. Being an over-giver was how he was noticed when he was young, but it was having a major impact now he was older.
This may not be your exact scenario, but there’s often a similar explanation when there are issues from the past. Let me quickly explain: when we are in relationships we have needs: needs for love, attention, affirmation, validation, respect, etc.
If these needs aren’t met, they start to grow bigger and more extreme. This puts us at risk to be in a relationship with someone who takes too much or to be the one who gives too much.
If you think that you may have some issues from the past to deal with, take time to explore them. Reflect back on your past relationships and look for patterns. If you need to, get a professional.
3. YOU’RE BALANCING OUT AN EXTREME
Sometimes we have a quality in us that is a little bit extreme and so we end up with a partner with that quality in the opposite extreme
So some people are extreme givers. We just like to do things for people and take care of them. It’s in our nature. It’s an amazing quality but it means extreme givers are at risk to end up with extreme takers. Someone who gives a lot would love to be with someone comfortable taking a lot.
At first it would seem like the giver is just really appreciated for this quality but before you know it, you are the only one giving. And they are just taking, taking, taking.
If this sounds like you, then you need to take extra time to really get to know the person you are dating. Keep your tendency to give in check. Practice giving just a little, observing how they handle it, and watching for reciprocation.
Much of the work will be on your end. Just because they reciprocate doesn’t mean that you’ve now been cleared for unlimited giving. You will have to really work to pace this area, to go slowly and to give little bits at a time.
THE TAKE AWAY
Here’s my main point: Take your time in relationships to really vet out your partner and vet out your own issues around giving.
When a good thing goes to the extreme it becomes a not so good thing anymore. Being a reliable partner is great, but being the only reliable partner in the relationship, not so good. You get what I’m saying?!
It can be easy to say you are just being a good partner or that you partner just really appreciates how you meet all their needs, but make sure the person you are with is meeting your needs too.
Originally published on Ibelieveinlove.com