How You Can Tell If You're Putting In Too Much Work In A Relationship
Relationships are hard work. You've no doubt heard people say this before. But the notion of "working hard" on love can be confusing. Exactly how challenging is it supposed to be? When can you tell if you're actually putting too much effort into a relationship and not getting enough back?
Well, if this possibility is something you're grappling with, begin first and foremost by checking in with yourself and your needs in the partnership. And as therapist Dea Dean, who has a private practice in Mississippi, tells Bustle, there are some more obvious signs you may be in an imbalanced dynamic where emotional work is involved. For one, if the invitations you extend to your partner for connection, partnership, or communication are denied or dismissed repeatedly, this indicates a problem, Dean says.
"If your partner says they are willing to meet a need (more quality time, healthier boundaries with friends or family, equal share in household responsibilities), yet their behavior consistently reveals unwillingness and a lack of follow-through," Dean says, that's not a good sign.
And as Lisa Myers, 32, tells Bustle, she has found herself in unbalanced relationships where she gives things up to focus on her partner's needs. "My biggest thing has always been 'dumbing down' my success or how social I am because it makes my partner's uncomfortable," Myers says. "Literally every one of them."
While every relationship has its ups and downs, and the internal dynamic between the two of you might shift, in general, it should be a give-and-take that works for both of you. Below, take a look at some signs that you might be doing too much when it comes to keeping your relationship working.
1. You Feel Drained When You Hang Out
Every now and then, being around your partner — or anyone, for that matter — can be draining. But as life and relationship coach Diana Venckunaite tells Bustle, hanging out with your partner should be fun, fulfilling, and relaxing for the most part. It's the kind of dynamic that should lift you, not deplete you.
"If you feel exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally every time your partner leaves, then you may be doing too much work to please your partner and going out of your way to make sure that everything is perfect," Venckunaite says. Are you the one who makes the plans? Takes care of the food? Tries to maintain the peace? Ask yourself what you think your "responsibilities" are, and if they are truly balanced between you both.
2. You Feel Like Your Partner's Therapist
"A relationship needs a strong foundation of being one another's rock during tough and stressful times, where you trade who will be the support for who on and off," Venckunaite says.
But if you find yourself being "the rock" over and over again, then you have to sit down and think if you're getting enough from the relationship.
You both deserve to be mutually supported, and feel safe to ask for help and let your guard down. And remember, even as a source of love and strength, you aren't responsible for each other's emotional issues.
3. You Feel Irritated A Lot Of The Time
You might start to get irritated with your partner once you begin recognizing there are some imbalances, Venckunaite says. Maybe it's because you always end up being the designated driver, or you can predict in advance the way your partner is going to behave in a social situation.
"You're not a babysitter," Venckunaite says. And you shouldn't have to feel irritation that foreshadows the same things happening every single time you go out.
4. You Feel Your Contributions Are Unmatched
Dean says that if you are giving on an emotional, financial, or physical level and it's not being reciprocated in some balanced way, you can easily become critical and withdrawn.
Do you pay for everything and do all the house work? Are you always providing emotional support and doing all the planning? Even if you give different things, you want to make sure you are giving to each other in an equitable way.
"In order to avoid [imbalance] partners can frequently 'check-in' with one another and give non- judgmental feedback about how they can better help one another and find balance in negotiating responsibilities with finances, housework, emotional care and relational preferences," Dean says.
5. If Your Partner Asks For Something Small, You Feel Resentful
Again, if you feel like you are putting a whole lot into the relationship without much in return, you might notice yourself feeling bad in general, but that might be doubled when your partner asks you for something. For example, if you feel like you're constantly the one giving, having them ask for that glass of water at the end of the night might be the last darn straw.
"If this is happening to you, take some time to identify if your resentment is stemming from your own needs going unmet," Dean says.
If you do indeed find that is what's going on for you, it's time to communicate with your partner.
"Once you’ve informed your partner of the imbalance in your dynamic and invited them to demonstrate care for your desires, evaluate whether they show willingness to match the level and frequency of care you’re longing for," Dean says.
Ultimately, never doubt that you deserve a supportive relationship that makes you feel respected and seen. Even when it's a lot of work — it should be work for both of you.
Counselor Dea Dean LPC
Life and relationship coach Diana Venckunaite.