It’s a wonderful thing to show empathy, to care for others, and want to help in the context of a mutually supportive relationship.
I see a lot of people in lopsided relationships where they are doing all of the care giving and receiving little in return.
Sometimes we don’t realize that our care giving has crossed the line into codependency or unhealthy care taking. It’s not always easy to see when our behavior is no longer supporting a healthy self and a healthy relationship.
A healthy relationship is made up of two whole and independent people who mutually support each other. It doesn’t work for one person to do all of the giving and one to do all the taking.
Several problems can result when you focus unhealthy amounts of time and energy on your partner’s problems:
1. Your needs aren’t being met. You’re so busy meeting all of your partner’s needs that you don’t prioritize yourself. Eventually you become resentful and burnt out because you are taking care of your partner, but not receiving care in return. You’re also not making time to take care of your own needs. You don’t go out with your friends or see your family. You don’t prioritize exercise because it takes you away from your partner. You may also not feel worthy of spending time or money on. Sometimes women bring these ideas with them into a relationships but often they choose partners who directly or indirectly reinforce the idea that you’re not worthy.
2. You become frustrated and discouraged because you are trying to change your partner. You are working harder than she or he is to improve things. You suggest counseling, self-help books, or 12-step meetings and all you get in return is broken promises. All of your efforts to fix or change someone could be energy spent elsewhere – on your own hobbies, career, or personal growth.
3. You lose sight of who you really are and what’s important to you. Because your focus is so much on your partner, over time, you lose touch with your own goals and values. You compromise so much of who you are to please or take care of your partner that your sense of self is very weak.
In order to attract a healthy relationship by letting go of codependency and unhealthy caretaking you can:
1. Prioritize meeting your own emotional needs by showing yourself the same love and care that you give to others.
2. Set clear boundaries so that you and your partner both know what to expect. Boundaries demonstrate respect for yourself and others.
3. Begin to speak up. You need to specifically ask you partner for what you need or want. Don’t assume that s/he knows.
4. If you’ve asked and your partner still can’t or won’t consistently offer support and help, carefully consider your options to accept him/her or leave the relationship.
Most importantly, remember that we are all deserve mutually caring relationships where we both give and receive support.
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Originally published on Sharon Martin Counseling