The question really is–how do you approach your relationships and what is your stance in your relationships? Are you someone who usually gives a lot, and likes to please others? Or do you find it easy to take the help of the other in the relationship and rely on them to guide or protect you?
Although many of us can be both givers and takers in our relationships, it is important to understand how we balance that or whether we tend to lean on one side or the other. Understanding this can help uncover sources of frustration and dependencies in a relationship.
If you are the giver in the relationship. What is the driving force behind your generous disposition? Sometimes we want to give ourselves to others because we want to be happy and we believe that this is the only way to be happy. We were raised to believe this was important because it was a value we shared. To put the other person’s need before our own is also reinforced in certain cultures. So this may be simply something we are used to doing and may not put much thought into.
For others, it may be self-protective–it ensures that others will continue needing us, or we are afraid of being rejected by others if don’t acquiesce to their needs. The question becomes: are you are genuinely happy doing for others and grateful taking on the role of the care provider and doer in the relationship. Or are you angry or resentful, feel unappreciated- left out to dry by others and never feel worthy enough to have your own needs met. If so, this can lead to underhanded hostility towards others. Passive aggression and sarcasm are other variants of underlying frustration with others that we never openly express to them. Figuring out how can you balance giving with taking and expressing your needs to others can go a long way to ensure more equity in your connection. At the very least, acknowledge that you are making a conscious choice to give.
“Sometimes you have to learn to say no without feeling guilty. Setting boundaries is important, as it helps us to respect and take care of ourselves”
If you are the taker in a relationship. Think about your role as the taker and what creates the dynamic of wanting- to- take. Does the other simply have more to give, or is generously offering. Sometimes this can mean others give on certain things in order to later take on other things, or quid pro quo. This may work in some situations but can be disastrous in others.
Some of us feel comfortable with this if our life experiences comprised of not having enough (love, affection, loyalty, or commitment), leaving us entitled to needing more, feeling greedy and standing with our hands open to receiving. For others, we may seek relationships to fill the void that we experience within ourselves. Looking to others to help us feel happy and satisfied with ourselves or feeling accomplished because we have another.
When we become the mere extension of others and see ourselves incapable of existing without the strength and support of the other, we are truly lost. Our boundaries between ourselves and others can be blurred as we struggle to keep ourselves attached to people we view as stronger or more powerful than we could ever hope to be. And some of us unfortunately may truly enjoy depleting others, not considering the costs it may take on the relationship or not caring enough about the other or their needs.
Issues of dependency and co-dependency can easily develop and flourish when our past emotional baggage continues to follow us around and threatens to destroy the foundation of good, loving relationships that we have with others.
Therapy can help you understand your patterns, your behaviors and help you separate your issues from those of your partner’s. Relationships and marriages are gardens but every plant has its own roots.