Breaking the Habit of Giving Too Much

Alex Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW
Individual, Couples & Family Therapy
IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor
AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor
Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.

Posted by: Alex Robboy
CAS, MSW, LCSW Individual, Couples & Family Therapy IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.

Breaking the habit of giving too much depending on the severity of the imbalance in your relationship, and your partner’s level of willingness to work with you, you may want to seek help from a relationship counselor. As an impartial third party, this person can help you discover and address the roots of your problems, and guide you on the road to recovery. Fortunately, there are also steps you can take on your own to begin regaining equality. Using these steps, you can make your partner aware of the problem and open up the lines of communication about the issue, so you can both tackle the problem together. The following are three of the earliest and easiest steps you can take to start moving in the right direction. These steps are SPEAK, ACT, and RESPOND:

Breaking the habit of giving to much REQUIRES SPEAKING – Talk to your partner! This is the first and most important step because it both addresses the problem and establishes your desire for equality. By saying “I have a problem with the way things are going right now, and I want us to change it together,” you assert yourself. You make it clear that you feel that your thoughts and emotions are valid and deserve your partner’s full attention and effort, and addressing your partner as an equal makes it much easier for him to start thinking of you as an equal. Remember that your partner may not be aware that you are unhappy, so avoid making any accusations or placing the blame, but it is equally important that you be firm and make sure he understands that this is something which needs to be addressed. Hopefully the first conversation will allow you to both explain how you see the situation, and start recognizing imbalances by comparing your impressions.

Breaking the habit of giving too much REQUIRES ACTION – Do not validate your partner’s expectations of submissive behavior. When there is an imbalance of power, often the person with less control unknowingly encourages it through their words and actions. If you clean up after your partner day after day and don’t say anything, it is only natural that he will start to assume you don’t have problem with this pattern. Stand up for yourself. Say things like, “You picked what we did last weekend, and this weekend it’s my turn,” or, “You know that dirty dishes go in the dishwasher, please put them there.” You are not a janitor or a pet, and it is important not to act like one. You should make it clear to your partner that you are happy to meet in the middle, but that he has to come halfway. Remember that this only does any good after step one, so that your partner knows how you feel. Don’t be pushy, but be firm and clear about what you want, and that you are serious about being treated as an equal.

Breaking the habit of giving too much REQUIRES RESPONDING – When your partner says or does something that makes you feel submissive or inferior, note it right away. Like all bad habits, a pattern of inequality is much easier to stop if you point it out when it is happening. By reacting to a specific incident, you make your partner more aware of what he is doing. This could mean saying something like, “I don’t feel that the way you’re talking to me right now is fair or considerate,” or, “When you ignore what I’m saying and brush me off, you’re saying that I am not as important in this relationship as you are – when you have a problem, I give you my complete attention, and I would expect you to do the same.” Again, this will only be effective after you have talked to your partner. And don’t forget that the reverse of this rule is true as well! When your partner does something considerate or respectful, make sure to let him know right away. Positive reinforcement is important if you want to create positive change, and this will help your partner recognize what you want.

SPEAK, ACT, and RESPOND are the three simplest steps that you can make in correcting your relationship, and when practiced daily they can make a big difference. SPEAK to your partner – maintain open channels of communication and use them regularly, so he knows where you stand and how you feel. The old adage goes that people will treat you the way you let them, so ACT like an equal and break negative patterns. And when your partner does something wrong, or something right, make sure to RESPOND immediately to help stop or reinforce that particular behavior. By having a clear goal for your relationship and using these steps to foster positive change, you and your partner can work together for a more balanced, and ultimately more mutually satisfying, relationship.

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