Do you invest time and effort to love and care for your partner, but feel taken for granted and fear putting forth your own needs? Here is a call to arms, to reclaim your dignity and your place in the relationship.
Dear Nice Guy,
I hear that you are the kind of guy who shuffles and juggles to really make time for your partner, despite that crazy schedule of yours. You really invest yourself in your relationships and go that extra mile to make your partner feel wanted and cared for.
But then you tell me that your partner takes you for granted, is disinterested in sex, is short on appreciation, but consistent with criticism.
And what do you choose to do about it?
It’s okay, I guess. It happens. She has been really busy lately. She needs her space. Maybe I should try harder. I guess I should learn to have lower expectations. I don’t want to look all whiny and clingy in front of her. I don’t want to tell her how I feel and rock the boat, as things are so stable otherwise.
How many of us have been the second fiddle in a relationship? How many of you can relate to this situation? You do a lot for your partner, but you barely take any space for yourself in the relationship, fearing that they would find your needs burdensome and then leave you.
I have been there and done that with a bunch of partners, over time. It’s great when you get the love back for your gestures and when the going is good, but it feels like shit when your expectations start getting dashed on a regular basis.
So what makes us play the fool, stuff our heads in the sand and keep the chase alive, while our partners run for the hills, or take the space of two people in our relationships?
An inherently deep feeling of shame, inflicted during childhood, which makes us feel like we are not good enough to receive another person’s love. And to feel worth it, we need to really go above and beyond our capacity to give and hold on to those who give us their scraps of affection, even when things have become unhealthy.
Mind you, self-worth has many dimensions, as it expands into various aspects of your life. You may have a strong and exalted sense of self when you are at work, but become a doormat when intimacy knocks at your door.
But we know the answer to this problem, don’t we? We all do and it is so deviously simple. It’s Self-Love!
But wait, if we know the answer then why isn’t it working, or why is it still so hard to change when I know I do these things in a relationship?
The answer to that in my opinion, is that we jump a few steps and try to go straight to the post healing phase, where I feel I am enough and I unconditionally love and nurture myself.
I have been working on my own shame based self-worth issues and in my opinion these would be the broad steps to develop our sense of self in a relationship. Please use your own discernment and judgment with these ideas and this is not a replacement for effective, professional counseling or psychotherapy.
It’s not about the other person anymore
Yes, the other person takes you for granted, but that’s because you let them. They hold a mirror to your inner feelings of “I am not good enough” and hence you are given the space in the relationship that you deserve subconsciously and not what you consciously desire. It’s not about them anymore, it’s about you. Focus inwards and empower yourself out of the victim mindset. What’s done is done.
Feel the shame and lack of love – physically
Shame is a very physical feeling, along with grief, feeling unloved and angry. Feel those feelings in your body. Is it like a throbbing clot in your heart region, radiating unease from your solar plexus, or flushed cheeks and feeling hot behind your ears? Feel it and try not to repress them even if they are very painful. If it’s too overwhelming, then seek the professional help of a psychotherapist
Discover and reprogram shaming memories from your past
A psychotherapist maybe of great help here as you dig up shaming messages from your childhood that were reinforced throughout your past relationships. Go back to those memories, get into the felt sense of those messages and reprogram them to something positive and empowering. Get out of your head and into the body — that’s where true depth transformation occurs
No more Mr. Nice Guy — express your anger healthily
You are pissed and rightfully so! Your boundaries have been played with in the name of love and it’s time to back those boundaries with some healthy anger. State how you feel to your partner in a respectful and healthy way. Maybe you want to do some anger release work with your psychotherapist first and practice delivering your speech with him, so that you have a good chance of getting your message across. But rise above that fear of making her/him uncomfortable. Rock that friggin’ boat. You deserve to be heard and your needs matter.
Decide on what you want and who to get it from
For long you have kept your needs as secondary and have hoped that your partner would meet them after you have met all their needs and more. It doesn’t work that way. You have to ask. Decide on which needs you can fulfill on your own and the ones you want your partner to fulfill. State the needs clearly and without manipulation, while highlighting how important they are to you. Negotiate and compromise if needed, but learn to take your space in the relationship in this way. Give your partner time and space to adjust to the new you.
You deserve love because you are good enough. You become a doormat only when you let someone walk all over you. Self-love will follow as you learn to stand up for your needs.
This is ‘cos you matter…
A version of this post was originally published on the author’s website and is republished here with his permission.
Photo credit: Pixabay/Ryan McGuire