I think most of us have been in the type of relationship where it feels like we’re doing all the work. Maybe it’s long-distance, but only one of you does the traveling. Maybe you live together, and only one of you is doing the cooking and cleaning and other boring (but slightly romantic) stuff around the house. Whatever the situation, it weighs on both of you, and you start to resent your partner for it.
This isn’t good.
This is bad relationship territory.
But, it can be a really tough habit to break if you don’t speak up. Most of the time, the person who’s doing more isn’t telling her partner how it makes her feel. Most of the time, we stay silent, because we don’t want to be a nag, or worse – an asshole.
It’s hard to find balance, especially when you’re holding it in until you just can’t take it anymore. Trust me – I’ve been there. Multiple times because apparently I’m not a very fast learner. (I think it actually has something to do with humans being creatures of habit, but that doesn’t mean it’s a particularly pleasant habit to have.)
This situation is definitely easier to address, the earlier you do it, but that doesn’t mean that you want to start complaining right at the first sign of discord, right?
Rest assured – there is a way to save a relationship that’s gone one-sided. It’s not going to be easy, and it will require a conscious effort from both of you, but it is possible.
Hold your partner (and yourself) to a slightly higher standard.
This shouldn’t be about control or manipulation. It also shouldn’t be about unreasonable expectations. There’s a difference between expecting more and expecting it all. I’ve heard somewhere that you should expect to improve by about 1% every day that you try to improve.
In short, this means that – once reasonable expectations have been set – it’s going to take at least three months of conscious work to actually get things where you want them. This might sound like a lot, but there’s no such thing as an overnight habit.
Aside from just setting expectations for your partner, you need to expect more from yourself, too. I know what you’re thinking – I’m here because I’m already doing too much! – but that’s not what I’m saying. You need to improve your ability to communicate your needs to your partner. You need to make an effort to gracefully present the problems you see.
I’m sure you know that starting a fight over every little thing isn’t going to fix the problem, but neither is bottling everything up. Work on your communication so you can express yourself without causing unnecessary hurt feelings and overreactions – on both sides.
Two words: “Step up”.
Whether your girlfriend is willing to try or not is going to make all the difference here. You can’t (and shouldn’t) force someone to change. Developing a more symbiotic and balanced relationship absolutely requires that your girlfriend also wants a more symbiotic relationship – and not everyone is ready for this step.
Most people (men and women alike) have personal quanitifiers for what makes a relationship “worth” the extra work. In cases where you feel you’re putting in more effort, it probably means that you have looser quanitifiers in play than your partner (or you could be unaware of where the balance actually lies).
Talk to your partner about how you feel, and about how she feels. Most people enjoy a challenge when they see the benefits as “worthwhile”. When the benefits no longer outweigh the challenges, this is when we start to feel burnt out and used. Be brave enough to discuss your feelings before this happens – remember, the change is going to come slowly, if it comes at all.
You can do things for her without catering to her.
I always used to resent the song Cater 2 U (Destiny’s Child… Look it up if you haven’t heard it). I felt like the way Beyonce spoke about her man was just an unfair standard – I don’t think there are too many people out there who actually want to cater to their partner, at least not all the time.
It’s perfectly fine to spoil your partner every now and then. In fact, it’s important that you both spoil each other. But if one of you is doing all the spoiling while the other is reaping all the words, it will drain you – faster than you expect. It needs to be even, or at least close.
That’s not to say that you two need to do the same things for each other. In my household, I do most of the cooking, and my partner does most of the massaging. That’s something that works well for us. But we share our other responsibilities, and that’s important to keeping both of us sane.
Actions speak louder than words. Always.
When you realize what you deserve, it makes it almost impossible to settle for anything less. This is a good thing, believe it or not. But saying what you won’t stand for and actually not standing for it are drastically different. If you tell your partner you’re at the end of your rope, but then continue to allow yourself to be walked on, it’s going to send a very clear message that you’ve got quite a bit of rope left – and you’re going to hang yourself with it.
Likewise, it’s important to realize that your partner’s actions are more important than her words, too. Anyone can say that they’re going to try to improve themselves – but it takes a strong person to actually put forth the effort to make the changes. Don’t settle for hearing about the improvements – expect to see them.
Sometimes, the relationship already in progress seems comfortable, and worth the pain you put up with. I promise you, once you feel what real love – not just convenience – feels like, you’ll wonder how you ever dealt with that “comfort” you had before. Make up your mind that you must have results, and not just empty promises. If she’s not able to hold up her promises, she’s not ready to have you.
Understand that neither of you has to do anything.
Not everyone is ready for a relationship they have to work for. It’s easy to feel that’s unfair, but it’s a personal decision – and, technically, there’s nothing wrong with it. She is free to choose not to work for your affections.
But, by the same token, you are not obligated to give your affections to someone who’s not ready to work for them. As much as you may love and care about your partner, she’s never a necessary part of your life. If your relationship brings you more pain than happiness, it’s probably time to let it go. Trust me when I tell you this isn’t as hard as it feels like it will be. Your heart will thank you for it.