I used to work in a women's domestic violence shelter, so when I talk about how being too nice can ruin your relationship, I feel those women staring me down from their cots as they wished they had that problem. It sounds ridiculous. But it's totally true. Being too nice can be bad for your relationship.
There are many different ways to be in an unhealthy relationship, and not all of them are centered around abuse, or even negativity, for that matter. I studied healthy relationships in-depth and talked with countless couples about how to make their relationships stronger, both as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and as a Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator. Believe it or not, a lot of couples have problems that stem from being too nice.
More specifically, those problems are usually about a fear of losing, disappointing, or upsetting the person they love so much. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, if you want to make an omelette, you gotta break a few eggs. Or, if you want to be in a healthy relationship, sometimes you have to go to uncomfortable, sad, angry, or disappointed places.
That's not to say you should get mean or stop caring so much about your partner. But if you're doing any of these things below, you might want to have some #realtalk with your partner about how they feel, then maybe tone it down a tad. I've been there, both professionally and personally, so let me guide you through it.
1. Checking Up On Your Partner Too Much
I am a grown person. I know that I need to eat, take my meds, and pay the Internet bill. My partner likes to ask me if I've done these things a thousand times a week. She only asks me these things so much because she cares about me, and you or your partner probably have the same motivation to care for each other. But when you're constantly checking up on your partner, there can be an unspoken undercurrent of distrust. Distrust in their abilities. Distrust in their maturity. Distrust in their reliability. If you do it too much and too often, it can make your partner feel like child.
2. Being Too Positive
I love people who are positive all the time. I admire and envy them. I think they make the world better place. But I don't want to date one. Because let's be real. Nobody is that positive all the time. If your partner is always on the sunny side of life, there could be some denial happening. At the very least, it seems annoyingly fake. Especially when one partner is going through something terrible. "Controlling our feelings is a form of self-manipulation that we perform in an effort to control others' responses to us in the hopes of winning their approval or minimizing the chances of them feeling hurt, angry, or displeased with us" according to Linda and Charlie BlooM in an article for Psychology Today. Sometimes, the right thing to do is let the terribleness wash over your partner and just be understanding. If you're really going to connect on an intimate level, you have to both let your guard down at from time to time. Emotional honesty is important.
3. Thinking You Know What's Best For Your Partner
I know you only want me to take those vitamins because you love me, but I don't want to take them and you can't make me. I know, I sound like a petulant child, but as an adult, you have to let your partner make decisions even if you think they're bad decisions. You can't force health foods, you can't make make someone wear mittens when it's cold, and you can't exclude them from big decisions because you think you know what's best. That's not a true, equal partnership, that's a scenario where you're trying to be in control, even if your intentions are loving and sincere.
4. Being A People Pleaser
People pleasing can mean all kinds of things, from never saying no to doing more than your fair share of the housework without complaining. If you're justifying being a people pleaser by telling yourself that you're just spoiling your partner, you'll soon come to realize that you're actually setting up expectations that will lead to resentments and anger. When you never make it about you, it's never about you. And sometimes it needs to be about you. Know what I mean? Ken Page, L.C.S.W., in an article for Psychology Today, pointed out that we need to have a partner who sees our quirks, vulnerable areas, and unique attributes (both good and bad) and loves us for them. We don't have to do all the loving. You have to be in an equal partnership, emotionally as well as in terms of power and responsibility.
5. Never Disagreeing
When two people spend a lot of time together, they're going to disagree. That's just the facts of life. If you consciously never disagree with your partner, you're basically setting up a relationship in which your partner is always right. Not only will it create a burden of a situation that's hard for your partner to live up to, but it will fill you with regret, unfulfilled desires, and resentments. Disagreements don't have to be scary, terrible messes with some good communication skills and some patience. They're an essential part of all healthy relationships.
6. Solving All Your Partner's Problems
Solving problems is almost an instinct to some people. When it's someone you love, if you can solve a problem, why wouldn't you? Well, when you solve all of someone's problems for them, what you're actually doing is enabling them to never have the skills to take care of themselves. People have to learn to solve their own problems. It's a basic survival skill. Sometimes you have to let your partner fail or have a bad day. It sucks, but it's part of life. Even if the bubble you build around your partner is made with love, it's still unhealthy.
7. Being Overprotective
Overprotective behavior is tricky. It can be a loving act based in kindness (though still unhealthy) or it can be a means of power and control. Abusive partners misuse power and control to keep their victims under their thumbs. You might think you're just keeping your partner safe, but in reality, you're trying to control a situation you can't control, like overcompensating for a fear of losing your partner in a car crash by never letting them drive. Or using your fear of infidelity to justify never letting your partner go out without you.
The take-away here is that just because your actions are loving,that doesn't automatically mean they're healthy. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do in a relationship is take care of yourself.