in Your Relationship or Marriage?
Is there such a thing as giving too
much? How can we decide what to do and not do for our
partner? If you feel like you are always giving and not
receiving, you may be giving too much. That sacrificial
love of yours may actually be doing more harm than good.
But how can you decide what to do and what not to do?
Should we just do the things we want to
do? There are many things that we do for our partners that
we don't want to do. Washing the dishes, taking out the
trash, or going to work may be among them. If we stop doing
these things, serious problems will result. Work is a
necessary part of any relationship.
The unpleasantness of a task has little
to do with the relationship. Usually, as soon as the work
has been done, we are able to forget about it and move on.
If you work for a company and they give you a paycheck, you
don't keep thinking about last week's work. But, if they
don't pay you, then you will feel cheated and used.
Although not a job, we all have expectations of our
partners. When these expectations are not met, we can feel
used and cheated.
Loving sacrifice is not "loving" if it
causes us to feel resentful or it adds to our feeling that
our relationship is unfair. People have an inner sense of
what is fair and when we start feeling things are unfair, we
had better take action before it gets worse. Resentment, or
that sense of unfairness, creates emotional distance and
emotional distance kills relationships.
What actions can we take when we feel
like we are giving much and getting little?
1. We can stop doing acts of meaningless
sacrifice. What you are doing to show love to your partner
may not even be important to your partner. Although it is
something you might appreciate if your partner did it for
you, it may not be part of your partner's love language.
Not everyone wants a box of chocolates or to hear "I love
you" at the end of every phone call. If doing things for
your partner makes you resent your partner, then stop doing
2. We can tell our partner what we want.
Most of the time we don't get what we want because we don't
ask for what we want. What may seem like second nature to
you may not even occur to your partner. If you are afraid
to ask for what you want, then that is an assertiveness
issue on your part. Thinking that you shouldn't have to ask
may make you feel justified, but it won't help you to get
what you want.
3. Negotiate. Negotiation is a normal
part of any long term relationship. Negotiating everything
could be a sign or trouble, but not negotiating at all is a
sign of poor communication. Your partner and you have some
different needs. "I'll pick up the kids tonight if you will
make dinner," or "We can watch a movie you want this time if
I can pick next time." Partners who were only children and
who were pampered by their parents sometimes don't learn
this kind of give and take. Making it explicit is a low
conflict way to help yourself and your partner.
4. Use a mental or written checklist.
When you are feeling resentful, ask yourself these
questions: 1) Am I doing something that is really
necessary?; 2) Have I let my partner know what I want or am
I expecting my partner to "guess" what I want?; and 3) Have
I tried negotiating this activity? If your answers are "no"
to these questions, then you are being worse to yourself
than your partner is.
A relationship, a true partnership, is
many things. It is not purely emotional because there are
many practical demands. It is not purely a matter of
responsibilities because a relationship is not a just a
job. It is not only a matter of management because a
relationship is not just a business. However, a successful
long term relationship has aspects of all three of these
things: emotional, and organizational. Using skills that
pertain to these three components are vital to its success.
Relationship coaches teach more than 30
different skills related to relationship success. The
extent to which you learn and use these skills is the extent
to which your relationship can improve. Even learning one
can make the difference between a relationship that
gradually fades and one that stays vibrant. What you do
today will determine what you get tomorrow.