Am I Giving Too Much In My Relationship?

Plus, experts reveal exactly how to pull back.

by Kristine Fellizar
Originally Published: 
how to back off in a relationship, according to experts
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When you’re naturally an affectionate person, you may not think twice about being thoughtful and accommodating to your partner. But being too giving in a relationship can backfire on you when you make the realization that your partner isn't doing as much for you and that it’s time to pull back.

If you don’t know whether you’re giving too much, Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author, tells Bustle there are two key signs to look out for. One, you feel like you’re constantly “chasing” your partner to mutually invest in the relationship. If you have to constantly push your partner to give you the emotional connection you crave, spend more time with you, or put more energy into your physical intimacy, this can potentially lead to resentment.

Another key sign to look out for is an ongoing feeling of exhaustion from relationship issues. You’re either tired of fighting with your partner over their lack of effort, or tired over being the one who carries the burden of making plans or resolving issues. “When partners invest in a relationship mutually, the overall balance offers incredible bonding power and resilience in the relationship,” Manly says.

So what can you do when your relationship is out of balance? According to experts, it's first important to acknowledge that a "balanced relationship" doesn’t always mean 50-50. As love and relationship coach, Emyrald Sinclaire, tells Bustle, "Often times one partner will give more than they receive. But on the flip side, you'll receive more than you give when you need it."

Instead of trying to achieve a perfectly balanced partnership, you should aim for having a well-balanced life that includes your relationship. In doing so, Jane Reardon, LA-based licensed therapist and founder of RxBreakup app, tells Bustle that your relationship will be happy and healthier. "A healthy relationship doesn’t require your attention 24/7," Reardon says. There's no score-keeping or manipulating your partner to do their fair share of work. "A truly balanced partnership deals with a great deal of compromise as well as showing the willingness to do whatever it takes to make the relationship work."

If you feel like you've been giving too much, here are some expert-backed ways to back off in a relationship.


Take Time Each Day To Do At Least One Thing For Yourself

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Practicing self-care daily is important, whether you prefer hiking a mountain or relaxing in the tub reading a book. It can also be something as small as taking five minutes in the morning to meditate. "The important thing here is that when you make sure you are filling your own love cup each and every day, you're keeping the scales balanced and not giving too much to your relationship," Sinclaire says. "The added bonus is that when you're treating yourself with love each and every day, it's going to be reflected out to your partner and it will actually change the way they treat you (for the better)."


Change Your Perspective

You may need to change your perspective of what your relationship dynamic should be. To balance it out, licensed psychotherapist, Lisa Hutchison LMHC, tells Bustle that you may need to do some self-reflection. "Ask yourself, am I a part of the solution or a part of the problem," she says. “If someone is taking too much, you are giving too much." To bring more balance into relationships, recognize the imbalance, stop contributing and instead, give more to yourself.


Give Your Partner The Opportunity To Show Up More

If you're someone who puts a lot of effort into your relationship, you might hope that your partner will eventually return the favor. But that doesn't always happen. "Your partner cannot read your mind," Sinclaire says. "If you really need emotional support and someone to listen to your day without trying to 'fix it,' say so! A truly balanced partnership means you are able to communicate your needs and desires so that you get them."


Ask For Alone Time

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Asking for space in a relationship has a tendency to make people a little nervous, but it's 100% OK to take "alone time" when you need it. "The more time a couple has to be individuals, the stronger their relationship will be together," Sinclaire says. "Nourish your individual likes and desires and you'll be amazed at how that diversity actually adds more spice to your relationship.”


Make Plans With Friends

While you might believe spending a lot of time together keeps you close, your partner might think you need a lot of attention. So make plans with other people, relationship therapist Caroline Madden tells Bustle. "View it as doing things for YOU versus pulling away because you give more than you get," Dr. Madden says. "Give advance notice and don’t be coy with who you are going out with and what you are doing."


Learn To Say No

According to Joyce Marter, LCPC, licensed psychotherapist and author, resentment is “hardened anger” that can result from having your boundaries (emotional, time, financial, or physical/intimacy limits) crossed repeatedly. If you resent your partner for not giving enough in your relationship, you may feel annoyed, frustrated, or irritated by their presence.

Learning how to say no may help to lessen these negative emotions towards your significant other. “Many of us struggle with feeling guilt when we don’t meet the needs of others, but saying no can free you of resentment,” Marter says. “It can also stop you from enabling the other person, which will encourage them to take more responsibility for themselves and grow.”


Set Time Boundaries

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One way to create more balance in the relationship is to respond to their messages only when and how often that works for you. According to Marter, you can control the pace of your interactions by setting a time boundary for yourself. For example, if they call and you’re in the middle of doing something, say, “I only have 10 minutes to talk,” and stick to that.

“Make sure you are taking care of yourself first before giving to the other person,” Marter says. “This isn’t selfish, it’s essential,” and is just like securing your own oxygen mask on an airplane before assisting others. “We need to do the same in life.”


Acknowledge How Your Behavior May Be Affecting Your Relationship

Self-awareness is key to creating a better relationship for you and your partner. “Once you understand you are overly involved with problem solving, nurturing, involvement and why you are doing this, it is much easier to change your behavior.” Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, tells Bustle.

In addition to thinking about how your behavior is affecting you personally, think about how it’s affecting your relationship and your partner. For instance, maybe being so giving is undermining your partner’s ability to be an independent and competent person who feels good about themselves. If that’s the case, it may cause you to shift the way you help them. Instead of doing things for them, you may try being a supportive and encouraging partner from the sidelines. As Saltz says, “Sometimes less is more.”


Be Clear With Your Partner About What You Need From Them As You Go Along

If you don't tell your partner something is wrong as it comes up, they'll get into the habit of putting less into the relationship because you seem to be happy giving more. Be open about what you need each day as things come up. "If you usually cook for you and your partner, but your job is keeping you late at the office, see what you can work out regarding who cooks on those nights or if your partner is going to pick up food," licensed marriage and family therapist, Heidi McBain, MA, tells Bustle. "Be clear about the areas you’re struggling with and what you specifically need from them."


Create An Affirmation

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Giving too much in a relationship can stem from feeling like you’re not good enough. “These thoughts cause us to focus on trying to be enough for the other person, always doing more, so they will pick you,” Kathryn Ely, associate licensed counselor, tells Bustle.

To let go of the thought that you’re not enough, relationship expert, Rachel Kove, suggests creating an affirmation. It can be as simple as, “I am enough” or “My partner loves me just the way I am.” Whenever you feel anxious about needing to go out of your way for your partner, just take a moment to pause.

How To Address Pulling Back In Your Relationship With Your Partner

Before you start consciously backing off, it’s not a bad idea to talk to your partner about it so you’re on the same page. When you have this conversation, be sure that you’re talking about how you feel and the root of why you’re feeling it. You don’t want to accidentally project your feelings onto your partner, clinical psychologist Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, tells Bustle.

“This is important because there is a transactional nature among the minds of some gift-givers, where the provision of the ‘gift’ (i.e. being of service, providing emotional support, etc.) means that the other person must provide something in return,” Romanoff says. “When the other partner does not agree to this tacit arrangement set up by the gift giver, it can lead to resentment and bitterness.”

When you talk to your partner about making the relationship more balanced, explain about why having a more equal relationship is important to you. For instance, if you want your partner to put more effort into texting, say that hearing from them throughout the day makes you feel happy or more secure in the relationship. According to Romanoff, take this time to explain what certain behaviors symbolizes to you.

While you can’t change a partner’s behavior, especially if they’re not taking the relationship seriously, you can do your part — through repeating mantras, communicating your needs, or setting boundaries — to foster a more balanced relationship.


Emyrald Sinclaire, love and relationship coach

Jane Reardon, LA-based licensed therapist and founder of RxBreakup app

Lisa Hutchison LMHC, licensed psychotherapist

Caroline Madden, relationship therapist

Heidi McBain, MA, licensed marriage and family therapist

Joyce Marter, LCPC, licensed psychotherapist and author

Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at the Weill-Cornell School of medicine and host of the How Can I Help? podcast

Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist and author of upcoming book, Date Smart

Dr. Sabrina Romanoff, clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill in New York City

Angela Ficken, psychotherapist

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