Helpfulness might be sabotaging your relationship.
Helpfulness is a positive quality, but sometimes it can create tension in a relationship. When is helpfulness unhelpful? It depends on the motive.
Are you helping because you expect something in return?
When help is conditional, it can become problematic and feel manipulative to your partner. If you are keeping score, it is likely that your relationship’s brand of helpfulness is a source of conflict. How does this play out? You martyr yourself with the tacit expectation, “What goes around, comes around.” If you don’t articulate your needs and your partner assumes you are helping because you enjoy it, or as an unconditional gift, you can end up feeling disappointed and resentful when she doesn’t help out.
A solution? If you expect something from your partner, ask. Do not assume she will step in and help you as much as you have helped her.
Do you help because you want things done your way?
A controlling nature can often hide behind a mask of helpfulness. If you are someone who likes things “just so,” it is often more comfortable to do the task yourself or lend a hand. While help is often appreciated, if the root of your help is lack of trust in your partner’s ability to execute a task or a need to have things done your way, you can come across as a micromanager or control freak.
A solution? Next time you jump in to help, ask yourself if your presence and way of interacting is a way to insert your preferences and will into a situation that your partner is trying to take care of. Are you meeting your own need to control when you help?
Is your sense of value in a relationship based on what you do instead of who you are?
If you feel threatened when your partner does not want your help, or scared when he doesn’t seem to appreciate your help, it might be time to examine what your helpfulness does for you. Maybe you feel like you need to earn your partner’s love by doing her favors. Perhaps how feel about yourself tied to how much you accomplish in a day.
A solution? Realize you have value that transcends what you do. You don’t need to earn love or prove your worth on a daily basis.
Do you feel more comfortable in a relationship when your partner depends on you? Or, are you uncomfortable when your partner tries to help you out.
If you are always the one helping and rescuing in your relationships, it might be time to examine that pattern. You might feel better and more secure in your relationship once you have rendered yourself indispensable to your partner. Equally dysfunctional is an aversion to accepting help. Sometimes a strong sense of independence and autonomy can undermine the connection you have with your partner and create distance in your relationship.
A solution? Develop an identity and sense of self outside of your relationship. Empower your partner instead of rendering him dependent on your help. If you are afraid to accept help, figure out what help means to you and why that feels threatening.
Do you and your partner have different views about help?
If you view help as an act of love and your partner doesn’t, you may end up feeling undervalued and even unloved. Likewise, if you help to demonstrate love and your partner doesn’t seem to appreciate your efforts, that can be an uncomfortable and upsetting feeling. When you offer help to your partner, it is possible she hears, “You are too dumb to do this yourself” or “Even though you are an adult, I need to take care of you.” If you are on different pages when it comes to help and acts of service in your relationship, that is a recipe for tension and hurt.
A solution? Have a conversation about what help means to you. If your partner doesn’t understand that you feel loved when she helps you, you might need to articulate that in plain language instead of assuming she understands. Likewise, if help makes you feel uncomfortable, talk about that together instead of assuming “help” means the same thing to both of you.
Helpfulness can be a huge asset in a relationship, but if it is rooted in an unhealthy belief system or sense of self, helpfulness can be unhelpful to your relationship.