It’s a nice thing to please others, right? You want to be helpful. You want others in your orbit to feel good. And, of course, when you help others, you feel good yourself. It’s all good. Except in excess.
When you have a lopsided relationship with someone else, it can feel lonely if you’re the only one supplying all the comfort and support. You’d think the person on the receiving end of your tender care would give back in kind, but in fact, she doesn’t. She just demands continued fealty and you continue to meet her needs so as not to jeopardize the relationship. Because you’re lonely and a bad relationship feels better than no relationship.
That may be because you suffer from low self-esteem or depression or anxiety like many people do who are in co-dependent relationships. You do the heavy lifting because you don’t feel you are worthy unless you are pulling way more than your weight. You might even put your own needs on the back burner to tend to your co-dependent partner. Meanwhile, your partner thrives on your support. It’s a mutually rewarding relationship—you get to feel needed and your partner gets the attention she needs.
It’s mutually rewarding until it isn’t. That’s when you realize you are on the lonely, emotionally draining side of the co-dependency coin. Your relationship is not bringing you the happiness and positive connection that you would find in a healthy relationship.
Maybe you grew up in a dysfunctional home. Maybe your childhood was chaotic and stressful. Maybe you suffered from emotional abuse growing up. Whatever the reason, you are willing to accept an unhealthy relationship as an adult. Until you’re not.
That’s when you realize you are really all alone in your relationship and you feel emotionally isolated. Your partner is perfectly happy to be the recipient of your largess and is unlikely to change the dynamics of your relationship. It’s up to you to liberate yourself from the co-dependent state in which you find yourself.
What can you do? You can recognize that you really can’t fix your partner—only she can do that for herself. You can realize that it’s really not your job to fix her—it’s fine to be supportive of her, but beyond that, she must help herself. Try to take an objective look at how much each one of you contributes to the relationship and if you do the lion’s share without reward, make adjustments. Establish boundaries that are healthier for you emotionally.
You can decide to be careful how you spend your emotional capital. You can support others without letting their troubles consume you. You can help others while retaining your autonomy. Because, ironically, when you set boundaries, you are less alone. You are more able to grow and improve when you aren’t overwhelmed by others’ needs. And that’s a healthy thing.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact