From early childhood, we’re taught to help others. We know that if we see an elderly person struggling, we should give a helping hand. If a blizzard hits, we’re out shoveling for those neighbors who would have a hard time trying to lift heavy snow.
For some, helping comes naturally, while for others, it has to be a bit more forced. Going out of our comfort zone is a bit unsettling for some of us, but helping feels good in the end. However, when our “helping” becomes “giving too much,” we have to re-examine things.
Maturing and relationships.
As we mature, we begin to notice those around us and want something more than friendship. As high schoolers, we swoon over those in whom we take an interest, and we become super-excited when they show interest in us. A dating relationship begins.
The thought of that special person begins to consume all of our time. We literally eat, sleep, and live with the newest thoughts dancing in our heads. Is this normal? Yes, it is. There literally are hormones that are released when falling in love that make us feel happy, exhausted, and euphoric all at the same time.
The nerve transmitters adrenaline and phenylethylamine increase when two people become attracted to one another. These nerve transmitters cause our emotions to go into overdrive. The levels of serotonin decrease (the hormone that causes relaxation). Serotonin also causes us to think back about the time we spent with the significant other. The “high” that these hormones cause feels good, and we want more.
Another hormone that takes over is testosterone. Testosterone not only affects men but women too. This is the same hormone that turns men into the hunters. Higher testosterone in women causes women to become more sexual and aggressive. As time goes on, these hormones and nerve transmitters will drop back to their normal range.
Learning to become partners.
As life progresses, we find the person we want to have a commitment with. Soon, we want more from the relationship and may move in to together. As we change our living arrangements as a new couple, there is much to learned about each other.
Learning each other’s little life quirks usually takes place at about this time. This is where the cap left off the toothpaste drives us nuts. Or the one who decides to do the laundry for the first time ends up ruining the other’s favorite sweater. Although these little things drive us nuts, there’s a bond forming, and the relationship goes to a new level.
As the days turn into weeks, we merge into a couple relationship that’s comfortable for us both. This is where life should go on and we live happily ever after.
Learning the signs of giving too much.
As the months begin to add up, there are other changes that may be taking place, and one or both of us aren’t sure we like the feelings we’re experiencing. All relationships will have these ups and downs. All couples will have times when they don’t agree on things. And there will be times when one or the other feels as though they’re having to give far too much in order to make the relationship work.
If you are such a person, you need to review the checklist below. If your relationship is taking its toll because your giving is too much and your receiving is too little, these are the warning signs to watch for that you indeed may be giving too much.
The warning signs that I’m giving too much in my relationship:
1. The relationship has required me to give up part of my integrity. I seem to be lying for my partner, and it’s happening more and more. For example, I have to make up a story to cover for my partner, or I have to call into my partner’s work and lie (“Chris is missing work today because…”).
2. I’m constantly bailing my partner out of something. My partner always promises never to need another bailout, but it’s still happening.
3. My partner uses me to escape responsibilities all the time. I don’t mind helping, but there comes a point when I must say, “Chris, you have to stand on your own two feet again.”
4. I help my partner so often that it turns into dependence. My giving too much is causing my partner to become irresponsible or incompetent. Going overboard with helping and giving is actually unhealthy for me. Because loving and helping a partner should foster that person’s growth, my giving too much actually stops my partner from blossoming fully.
5. With my constant helping and giving, I begin to feel too tired, and my physical and mental health may begin to deteriorate, to say nothing of my self-respect and financial health.
6. I just have that inner feeling that my partner is manipulating me. As I’ve told myself so many times in the past, trust my inner instinct. In the future, I’ll be happy that I listened to myself.
7. If I’ve spoken to my partner and there’s no change, the truth is that this relationship may not work at all. Over time, things will become clearer, but I can’t continue to forfeit my own health and sanity in a relationship that isn’t healthy.
Stepping back from giving too much.
All of the above signs should be clues that the current relationship isn’t good for anyone. Giving too much of ourselves seems to be a trait that many of us come with. If words and promises just keep coming forth, yet there is no change, it’s time to step back.
As in any relationship, we must remember that there is a certain amount of give and take that’s normal. What isn’t normal is for one partner to be doing everything and helping too much. After giving too much for long periods of time, we can become resentful.
Learning to say no and to take care of ourselves is a great starting point. By saying no to certain requests and demands, we aren’t allowing ourselves to give too much in a stagnant relationship. Remember the things that we used to do to relax before the relationship, and begin doing them again. Clearly thinking the relationship through will better help us decide what our future holds.
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