How To Tell If Your Nurturing Is Hurting Your Relationship
A nurturing relationship is usually a healthy one. But if you've become overly dedicated to your partner, there's a potential you're causing more harm than good. Being too attentive in a relationship can hurt your relationship and your partner, so it's important to be able to identify the signs sooner rather than later.
On the surface, nurturing can look like a really positive relationship trait. The same qualities can become harmful in the long run, however. "For some people over-nurturing can feel suffocating and actually lead them to disengage from the relationship in order to get some space," licensed clinical professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship Therapist, Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, tells Bustle. "Healthy boundaries are good for a relationship and if you get too enmeshed it does not allow the other the space to be [themself]." While showing your love is important, how you choose show it is important too.
Different individuals have different love languages and expectations for a relationship. But most couples should be able to strike a healthy balance through open communication. There are still certain behaviors that can slip through the cracks, however, so it's important to make sure you and your partner aren't falling into patterns of love-bombing or codependence.
Here are seven unexpected signs your nurturing is actually hurting your partner, according to experts.
1You Cancel Plans With Other People
In a healthy relationship, you and your partner should be able to balance quality time alone with quality time with others. If you would usually rather take care of your partner at home than go out, you may be over-nurturing.
"If you don’t want to go out with your friends and family because you would always rather be home with your significant other, you may be crossing the line of nurturing into codependent because you can’t stand on your own," LGBT-affirming therapist Katie Leikam, tells Bustle. Talking to your partner about how much they'd like to go out versus stay in may help.
2You Make Decisions For Your Partner
One of the most important aspects of a partnership is that you're both working on your own lives alongside one another. If you feel that you are helping your partner by always making their decisions for them, however, that may be crossing a line.
"If you make decisions for your partner, including small things like what they might want for dinner, you aren’t allowing them to be their own person and this can smother them," Leikam says. While you can make some decisions for your partner with prior approval, it's important to talk about what they're comfortable with and let them make their own choices as much as possible.
3You Are Telling Your Partner How To Feel
If you find yourself projecting, or telling your partner what their reaction should be to a situation before they've told you their point of view — you may be close to crossing a line.
"You may be over-nurturing your partner if you are telling your partner how they feel, and how they need to deal with those feelings, versus letting them come to some of these realizations on their own," licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle. If you feel that your partner is having inappropriate reactions, you can discuss this with them or a therapist, rather than giving them the answers.
4Your Partner Comes To You With Their Problems Before Thinking About It Themselves
A side effect of over-nurturing and telling your partner what to think may end up being that they come to you with issues before really thinking the problems over themselves.
"You may be over-nurturing your partner if they turn to you first with any emotional issue that is going on in their life, instead of first internally looking at what’s going on and how they are feeling about the situation," McBain says. This sign is particularly easy to notice, and can be helped by being met with an open conversation about why this has become a pattern.
5You Find Yourself Talking Over Them
In a relationship when one partner is nurturing the other too much, that partner will likely monopolize the conversation. If you are concerned that your nurturing may be crossing a line, pay attention to who is speaking more.
"If you are nurturing your partner to the point that they feel like they don’t have a voice anymore, such as talking over them, you [may be unknowingly] love-bombing them," Leikam says. Working on active listening and other skills can help this issue dissipate.
6You Feel Totally Drained
Even if it's reaching a toxic point, nurturing in a relationship can feel comfortable. After this pattern has started to feel normal, the person being nurtured may feed into this behavior, leaving the nurturer totally worn out.
"You may be nurturing too much if end up taking on your partner's emotions to the point that you feel drained, stressed, frustrated or overwhelmed," clinical psychologist Michelle Mullaley, Ph.D., tells Bustle. If you're feeling particularly emotionally drained from a relationship, it may be a good time to see a couples counselor together.
7You Help Your Partner, Even When They Don't Ask
Doing the occasional favor for your partner is a wonderful thing to do, especially if their love language is acts of service. Doing too much for your partner, however, may be toxic.
"The way [over-nurturers] help their partners might take the form of unwanted help," licensed psychologist Lisa S. Larsen, PhD., tells Bustle. "For instance, buying gifts that a person doesn't want, even when the recipient assures the giver of the gifts that it's not necessary or wanted." Making sure you and your partner have clear and healthy boundaries is important in this regard.
Whatever the relationship between you and your partner, walking the line of not nurturing them too much is important. Building healthy boundaries and maintaining open communication between the two of you can help prevent behavior that could hurt one of you in the future.