Do you find yourself giving too much in your relationship and not getting enough back in return?
Do you worry that you’re selling out on your core values or compromising in a self-destructive way just to stay in your relationship?
How much should you sacrifice to be with someone?
In this post, I’m going to teach you exactly how to avoid one of the worst relationship mistakes you can make: Giving yourself away. What you’re going to learn here may surprise. Our culture teaches that this mistake actually leads to healthy relationships when it really doesn’t!
You’ll get concrete relationship tips that’ll help you avoid getting involved in toxic relationships and giving yourself away over and over again. You’ll learn how to create fairness in your relationship and recognize when it’s time to move on!
Giving Yourself Away
You may be feeling that something just doesn’t feel fair about your relationship.
Perhaps you feel like you’re putting in all the effort to make your relationship work, and your partner isn’t putting in any effort at all.
If you’re like a lot of people, you may be making a big relationship mistake: You give, and give, and give, and don’t expect anything back in return. And you don’t even realize you’re doing it! That is, until you start feeling so resentful that you explode or shut down and don’t even want to relate anymore.
Why do you end up giving yourself away like that?
According to family systems thinker, Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, if you grew up in a family where family members acted unfairly toward each other, you will tend to recreate that same culture in your adult intimate relationship.
You might become too much of a taker or too much of a giver. But either way results in an unfair relationship.
If you become too much of a giver, its likely because you were taken advantage of emotionally by the grown-ups around you when you were a child. For instance, a parent might have used you as a shoulder to cry on, even though you were just a little kid. At the same time, that parent might have been too emotionally overwhelmed to attend to your own needs for soothing and comfort. Fast forward to adulthood and that’s just what you’re used to: Giving everything and getting nothing in return.
How do you know if you’re in a relationship where you’re giving yourself away?
It all has to do with fairness.
The Importance of Fairness in Relationships
It’s very common for one person in the relationship to feel like the relationship is imbalanced, like they’re giving too much.
In fact, sometimes both people feel that way.
Ultimately, relationships need to be based on fairness. Dr. John Gottman, one of the foremost marital researchers, says that relationships have what he calls a “fairness meter” where both partners are aware of how fair the relationship feels to them. Those relationships that feel fair to both partners tend to last whereas those that don’t feel fair tend to dissolve.
Relationships that survive are those where both people report that the relationship feels fair. Too much unfairness leads to the end of your relationship.
When I’m talking about unfairness, I’m not talking about one person doing the dishes 51% of the time and the other person 49.
I’m talking about a real imbalance of power between you which can be present in many different areas of life. Here are some examples of how unfairness may be present in your intimate relationship:
- One of you spends money with no concern for a budget while expecting the other one to be on top of the budget all the time.
- One of you insists that the other one not interrupt them while they freely interrupt their partner when they’re talking.
- One of you makes all of the major decisions without soliciting any input from the other one.
Where Does Unfairness Come From?
You may be wondering if there are certain personality types that are more likely to create an unfair relationship.The answer is yes!
If you’re insecurely attached, it means that you came from a family that operated in a way that was inherently unfair. You learned that one person wins and the other person loses. You didn’t see your parents take into consideration the needs of other people in the family.
If you came from this kind of family, it’s likely that you’ll end up creating an unfair relationship. That’s a problem, because no one does well when they’re being treated unfairly.
Nobody’s going to get everything they want in their relationship all of the time. But it’s important to be clear about what you are and are not willing to give up.
There are some very big issues in relationship that couples need to be on the same page about in order for their relationship to succeed. If you feel like you need to give up on those things in order to maintain the relationship, then your relationship is doomed to fail.
These are the big ticket items. We call these deal-breakers. They’re fundamental issues about your values and lifestyle choices that really cut to the core of what’s important to you. Things that you and your partner may have very different ideas about.
Deal-breakers could include any of the following:
- Whether or not to have kids
- What faith to raise your children
- Whether to be monogamous or polyamorous
- Radically different ideas about where you want to live
- Substance abuse issues
- Wildly different sexual libidos
- Finding out that your partner has been keeping secrets from you
- Differences in the way you deal with money
Your Relationship Values Can Be a Deal-Breaker
And there’s another kind of deal breaker: The values you hold for your relationship.
To determine what your values are for your relationship, you can ask yourself questions like:
- Should your relationship be fair?
- Should it be based on equality?
- How about total honesty?
- Should it be your responsibility to soothe your partner when they are upset?
If you and your partner fundamentally disagree about these issues, that in and of itself should be a deal breaker!
Be aware that you and your partner should not proceed with your relationship until you have fully resolved any deal-breakers! Stay engaged with your conversations about deal-breakers until you come to a resolution about whether you can make them work or not.
With deal breakers, you can’t leave any stone unturned. You can’t make any plans about your future or whether you’re going to even be able to create a life together until you resolve them. If you don’t deal with your deal breakers, they will come back to bite you in the butt. It’s only a matter of time!
Let’s say that you and your partner have dealt with all of your deal-breakers. You’ve come to the point of realizing that you actually can make your relationship work. It’s still critical that you not give yourself away in your relationship.
Relationship advice is all over the map when it comes to how much you should be willing to sacrifice in order to maintain a relationship with your partner. People get very confused about the word sacrifice. So let’s get clear on what sacrifice means and whether it leads to relationship health or disease.
Is Sacrifice In Relationships Good Or Bad?
Many people think of sacrifice as a good and noble thing.
Many YouTube relationship videos are full of viewer comments about how people have sacrificed everything for their relationship. These people believe that sacrifice is the secret to their happiness in relationships.
On the other hand, there’s a whole other school of people who say, “No, absolutely not! You shouldn’t sacrifice anything just to be in a relationship.” They say that sacrificing in relationships is akin to codependency.
So what is sacrifice and who’s right?
If you look in the dictionary for a definition of the word sacrifice, you see that this word has two very different meanings.
- Sacrifice (Definition Number 1): Something given up or lost.
- Sacrifice (Definition Number 2): Destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else.
If you think about these two meanings, it’s clear that they signify very different things. And yet, they’re definitions of the same word. No wonder there’s so much confusion about sacrifice!
The fact of the matter is that the only kind of sacrifice that really works is the one described in Definition Number 2: Destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else. Remember, ultimately, for relationships to work, they must be based on fairness.
If you’re going to give up something that’s important to you, it only going to work if it’s for the sake of something else- and that something is worth at least as much or more to you than the thing you are giving up!
It wouldn’t make any sense for you to be in a relationship where you’re surrendering or destroying things that are important to you if there’s nothing in it for you. Relationships are supposed to improve the quality of your life, not make it worse.
Avoid Building Resentment
It’s often repeated that in order to make relationships work, both partners must be willing to make sacrifices.
This is true as long as we’re not talking about sacrificing your deal-breakers. But if we’re talking about sacrificing things like where to go out to eat, or whether your family should visit at Thanksgiving, then of course, individuals in a relationship have to give up their personal desires at times for the sake of the relationship.
But here’s the take away: If you’re going to have to give up something that’s important to you, you need to feel like you’re getting a payback of some kind. Otherwise, sacrifice is bound to build resentment.
The question is, how can you get your partner to agree to what you want by making it worth their while?
It’s a question many partners don’t think about.
Instead they do things their way, with no concern for what their partner wants. That doesn’t work! In order to make it worth your partner’s while, you are going to need to acquire an important skill: Bargaining!
Bargaining: A Critical Relationship Skill
A lot of people think of bargaining as a form of manipulation that has no place in intimate relationships. But that’s a fallacy! Bargaining is a very necessary skill to use with your partner.
I use bargaining all of the time in my own relationship.
For instance, if the dishes are piling up, and it’s my turn to do them, I might say to my husband, “Honey, who wants a head rub tonight?” I’ll trade a head rub for him taking my turn at the dishes. After a hard day’s work, he thinks he’s getting the bargain of the century, and I get to do other things that I want to do instead of the dishes.
Voilà, no resentment!
Create a Fair Relationship Now
If your relationship doesn’t feel fair to you, it’s important that you talk about it with your partner.
Successful couples talk frequently about anything that they feel is interrupting the flow of their relationship. This, among other tools, are common habits of Power Couples.
Tell your partner that you’d like to work on your relationship together so it feels fair to both of you. Bring this up, and see if they’re open to talking about it.
If they are, you have a good chance of being able to use the second definition of sacrifice, which is giving something up in exchange for something else. You have a chance to create a relationship in which both of you are willing to accommodate the other person at times because you know that in the long run you’ll get something of value back in return.
On the other hand, if you bring up the lack of fairness with your partner, you could be met with any one of these problematic responses:
- They give you the cold shoulder
- They express no interest in making the relationship a fair place for both of you
- They think it already is fair, when you don’t
If your partner responds in any of these three ways, it’s clear you’re sliding toward the first definition of sacrifice: Giving something up without getting anything back in return.
That’s giving yourself away. And that’s a deal-breaker!
Are You Sacrificing Without Getting Anything In Return?
Leave me your comments below and let me know the following:
- Which of the two definitions of sacrifice best describes how you typically behave in your relationship?
- Do you tend to lean more toward the first definition, where you’re giving something up or losing something without getting anything back in return?
- Or do you tend to do more of the second one, where you’re willing to surrender something for the sake of getting something back that’s meaningful to you?
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And please check out The Power Couple Formula for lots more information about how to build a fantastic relationship.
I’ll see you in the next video!