7 Signs You May Be Emotionally Draining Your Partner
Feeling emotionally supported is one of the most important elements in a relationship. But when you’re as close to someone as you are to your partner, it can be a challenge to remember that they aren’t there just to be your emotional backbone. Especially if times are tough at work, or you’re coping with some serious family drama, leaning too heavily on your partner can sometimes happen without even realizing it. Now, trust, this happens to everyone, but it’s really important to look out for signs your partner is feeling emotionally drained by your needs. Because mutual support is what love is really about, you know?
“While partners are central emotional supports for us, they cannot be the only game in town,” psychotherapist Dr. Dana Dorfman, tells Bustle. One of the first preventative steps to consistently overburdening your partner is making sure that you have a support system in place. Whether it’s pals at work or a counselor, your partner shouldn’t be the only person providing you guidance.
“When we share frustrations with close friends, family and therapists, we are less likely to burden our partner,” Dr. Dorfman says. “Expanding one's support system to include other relationships can help people process emotions through different lenses and receive diverse input and guidance.”
Below, a few red flags that you might be asking a bit too much of your dearest.
1. Your Partner Always Seems Tired Around You
Is your partner always yawning and sprawling out on the couch when you’re around? Hard work days aside, this might be a signal that they're feeling emotionally overwhelmed.
“People in draining relationships often note a consistent 'wave of fatigue' which overtakes them in anticipation of or in the presence of their partner,” Dr. Dorfman says. “While sparks will not always fly throughout a relationship if someone has a consistent feeling of sleepiness, disinterest, or fatigue that may indicate that an individual experiences the other partner as draining.”
And while the whole “always tired” thing might seem odd, Dr. Dorfman says, such a response is literally a person's emotional system shutting down to protect itself. If your body is super sleepy, you can can minimize the emotional engagement.
If you notice constant fatigue is a trend with your partner, and you think that it might have something to do with interactions between the two of you, know that self awareness is the first step to trying to change the dynamic. It’s really important to be aware of the potential effects your mood has on your partner’s well-being.
2. Conversations Always Revolve Around You
The thing about true partnership, my friends, is that it has to be an equal exchange. While sometimes it’s inevitable that your issues or feelings are going to dominate a conversation, you don’t want to make that a consistent pattern.
“At the end of a difficult day, it is natural to complain and 'get out' the stresses of the day,” Dr. Dorfman says. “In fact, most people report the negative aspects of their days to partners in an effort to work them through, unburden themselves or to let off steam.”
But if you are always the one doing this, your partner may feel like a receptacle for your negative emotions, she explains. That can lead to drain and resentment. Make sure you are asking your partner to share about what’s going on with them, and practice listening and engaging so they feel just as supported.
3. Your Partner Worries About You All The Time
While being concerned for your well-being is a hallmark of a good relationship, if that concern seems to tip over into constant worry, that’s a signal your partner might be feeling undue emotional stress. Are you constantly getting texts asking where you are? Do they often say they feel worried about your emotional state or stress level?
“Preoccupying worries and thoughts about the other person's whereabouts, emotional state, and overall well-being can be exhausting and unhealthy for both partners,” Dr. Dorfman says. “This focus undermines the ideal mutual reciprocation of healthy relationships.”
But if you are going through a rough time in particular and feel like you definitely need that extra help and support, reaching out to a therapist or counselor is always a great first step. Learning how to help yourself is also a really important part of being in a relationship, she points out.
4. Your Partner Doesn’t Share Their Emotions Openly
If you notice that your partner seems to keep their own emotions pretty close to the vest, or is constantly telling you that everything is fine or not much is new, this might be a red flag that they don’t feel they can share with you. Actively withholding the truth of their thoughts and feelings can be a sign they just don’t want to upset you.
“Individuals in draining relationships may find themselves walking on eggshells, avoiding certain topics of conversation, and consistently trying to protect the other person from emotional overwhelm,” Dr. Dorfman says.
Ideally, relationships include a natural give and take of sharing emotional strength and vulnerability, Dr. Dorfman says. When one partner can rarely rely on the other emotionally, this inequity creates a drain in the relationship.
Not only is creating a safe space for mutual communication important, it’s also paramount that partners know and talk about their individual thresholds for emotional engagement. Knowing what is “too much” can restore or build balance and trust.
5. They Often Feel Criticized
A couple is likely to experience emotional drain when one member of the couple repeatedly asks for things, or imposes demands on the other partner, Dr. Dorfman says. Maybe that shows up in too many texts throughout the day, or constantly asking for favors that cause extra stress in their schedule.
“Often the 'nagging' behavior originates from anxiety, meaning that the perpetual demands on the other are a way for the 'nagger' to manage their anxiety,” says Dr. Dorfman.
Same with constant criticisms. Unfortunately, this behavior often yields resentment or a habit of “tuning out” by the other partner. And if someone anticipates ongoing dissatisfaction and put downs, that person will stop trying.
“One of the many important elements of a relationship is satisfying and pleasing the other,” she says. But that has to go both ways, and be based on open, loving communication.
6. They Easily Lose Patience With You
If your partner is feeling a little like they’ve “had it”, they might start losing their patience more easily than usual — all of a sudden they’re angry at you for getting the wrong salad dressing, but maybe it’s something a little deeper than that.
Rather than immediately get defensive, recognize this might be a sign that they need some space.
“Maybe your partner tells you they ‘can’t win’ or that they don’t want to talk about specific topics anymore,” Liz Colizza, MAC, LPC, NCC head of research at Lasting, tells Bustle. “Maybe they are giving into your requests or demands with a sense of resignation.”
If their patience is wearing thin, it’s time for you to take a step back and assess your own behavior. For one, Colizza says, you do want to make sure you aren’t “word vomiting” all your feelings onto your partner all the time. “Practice sorting through them on your own first,” she says. “If you see signs of your partner feeling emotionally drained, consider what you might be doing to make them feel that way.”
If you want to go even farther, she says, ask them how you can reset the balance in your relationship.
7. You Can’t Name Your Partner’s Current Stresses
This one might be a real eye-opener. While perhaps your partner is 100% happy-go-lucky, chances are if you don’t really know what’s going on in their lives (but they definitely know what is going on with you) this might be a sign that the relationship is not currently on equal footing, Colizza says.
She says to try creating a habitual space for both of you to share your emotional states. Practice having a de-stressing conversation with your partner every day where you both talk for five to ten minutes about your stresses without interrupting the other person. Oh yeah, and let your partner go first.
While it can be super difficult to take a step back and look at your own behavior, in the long run, it will make your relationship all the stronger.