Giving so much for so little?

Every relationship requires give-and-take between two people, this simply means both parties investing in each other and both getting something back from the relationship. However if one person is doing all the giving and the other just takes, then it isn’t a relationship… at least not a fulfilling one. Have you ever gone above and beyond for a partner to realise that they’re not willing to try as hard as you are? Sadly, this dynamic can have disastrous effects on you.

When you’re naturally a giving person, you might end up falling into the trap of being in a one-sided relationship. There’s been times when I’ve had relationships start off really well (of it does, that’s why they call it the “honeymoon” phase), then suddenly I feel like I’m “carrying” the weight of the relationship, putting in way more effort in terms of resource (time, money, emotional investment). I’ve tackled this situation in two different ways; firstly by raising my concerns and waiting for things to get better, or secondly by “letting it slide” in hopes that things will improve (I really don’t recommend this!) Regardless of how I dealt with one-sided relationships, the end result was that I had to walked away. One thing I’ve learned overtime is: No matter how difficult you think it’ll be, you must let go of anything that doesn’t serve you/make you happy — relationships, people, jobs, etc.

How do we know when we’re in a one-sided relationship?

It sounds like a question with an obvious answer but when people are emotionally invested, they can lose sight of what’s actually happening. Out of nowhere those rose tinted glasses just fall onto our eyes, blur our vision and we start falling for “potential” rather that what’s presented in front of us. According to Kelly Campbell, a professor of psychology and human, you should look out for these signs:

ALL THE EFFORT IS COMING FROM YOU
When you find yourself doing most or all of the cooking, cleaning, planning dates, making all the romantic gestures, it’s an indication that the relationship is unequal. Make a mental note (or an actual note) on how time is spent, including who does what. This will give you a better understanding of the extent of the one-sidedness.

LACK OF QUALITY TIME TOGETHER
Everyone has busy schedules. We all need to allocate time towards career aspirations, family and friends, our romantic partners, and ourselves. Often it’ll feel like a challenge to get the balance right, but if you’re frequently suggesting “date night” to your partner and they show no interest or put it off for another time… this isn’t a great sign. A serious lack of “quality time” together can chip away at the partnership’s foundation, and ultimately compromise the level of happiness you feel when you’re together.

THEIR CALENDAR TAKES PRIORITY
If you’re constantly moving your commitments around or waiting until you know if your partner is available before you make other plans, then yes, this is another sign. You’ll feel like everything else is more important than you which shouldn’t be the case. If your partner only wants to see you when it suits them, then this displays imbalance in the relationship.

MAKING EXCUSES FOR YOUR PARTNER’S BEHAVIOUR
When you’re defending someone’s bad behaviour, it simply suggests that you’re compromising and sacrificing too much… of your dignity! Sadly we’ll lie to ourselves because we don’t want to face reality, or the truth is unbearable. Please don’t fool yourself by making excuses for them, your partner should be showing you the love and respect you deserve.

Well, I don’t know about you, but re-reading my post thus far makes me feel attacked and pretty upset! 😩☹️ It’s a hard pill to swallow knowing that I’ve gone through the above bullshit, but I’m also thankful to God that I saw the light and found the courage to leave. If anyone is going through this current scenario, I urge you to read on and really think about your happiness above anything.

Before you decide to walk away…

One thing I go on about all the time is communication. Effective communication also involves the ability to listen to each other, understand and compromise. The issue with one-sided relationships is that more often that not, it’s just one partner initiating the talks. So when you do bring up the discussion, your partner may not respond favourably to the “problem.” Researchers have called this ‘demand-withdrawal’ which means one partner is initiating a discussion or requesting a change, while the other withdraws from the conversation. It’s always worth expressing how you feel before throwing in the towel. If your partner cares, then they’ll look to improve the balance and put in more effort, but if they don’t change after you’ve shared your concerns, then the partnership is likely not a good fit and you should consider moving on.

If the feelings are mutual, effort will be equal

Romantic relationships can be influential in many aspects of our lives, so when we stay in a unfulfilling relationship it can significantly impact our health and well-being. Balance in a relationship is so important, let’s use a set of scales as an analogy — when one side is putting in a lot more than the other, it will eventually tip and collapse.

The courage to forgive.

It’s easy to fall into a pit of despair, bitterness and grief when we’ve been deeply hurt. After someone has wronged us, the thought of forgiving them seems elusive. Where relationships are concerned, if we’ve been the victim of cheating, mental/physical abuse, being lied to or put up with toxic behaviour; these events will naturally stick with us due to our brain’s innate tendency to remember things that are emotionally impactful. This is why letting go, whether it’s feelings, people and/or relationships can be so difficult.

Forgiveness is no doubt one of the hardest challenges you will ever face in a relationship or post-relationship. Most of us assume that if we forgive, then the offenders are let off the hook while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We must remember that forgiving someone doesn’t mean condoning their behaviour or pretending it didn’t happen. In essence it’s about letting go of the desire to seek revenge towards the other party, eliminating negative emotions rooted from them and shedding the emotional baggage from the unpleasant incident. Unfortunately there’s no quick formula to recover from pain nor is it a linear process, but if we’re able to practice forgiveness, I guarantee that it will bring a kind of peace that will enable you to move on and live a happier, more meaningful life.

It was only 3 years ago when I truly learned how to forgive properly, since then I’ve reaped the benefits. My perspective in life, personal growth, attitude and relationships in general have improved vastly. Being able to finally get over a relationship wound that I was subconsciously holding onto for almost 10 years (!!!) instantly made me feel a huge sense of relief, freedom and strength. You just know when you’ve finally let that shit go… something instantly changes within you, it’s that kinda feeling.

Until that moment I really thought I had known how to forgive, but I hadn’t. The only thing I was doing was suppressing the memories; but through time, maturity and lots of self-reflection, it occurred to me that some of my behaviour patterns were very destructive. When it came to relationships, I struggled with communication (particularly when I was upset), I was easily triggered, I was defensive, paranoid and anxious often. When I had that moment of realisation, I knew something was going on with me deep down and I needed to fix it. Not just for future relationship but for myself.

If you’re going through a circumstance; whether you’re struggling to forgive someone, haven’t forgiven the past (and haven’t let go) or simply don’t wish to forgive, I get it. Sometimes stubbornness and ego gets in the way. And sometimes it’s just the principle! But if I can highlight just a few reasons why it’s essential to practice forgiveness, then I hope it will enable you to think or view the situation in a different light.

It helps you to recognise the pain in others
No one is born wanting to hurt others. Our life experiences shape us as we mature and learn over the years. If we can take some time to think about the person who has hurt us, we can often find clues that help to explain their behaviour. And when we’re able to do this, we can begin to see things from a bigger perspective. The person who caused us pain is just a human trying to cope with their challenges, just as we are.

It’s for your benefit
Forgiveness is not something we do for others, it’s something we do for ourselves. If you continue to feel like a victim, then you’re carrying a heavy burden. The act of forgiving allows you to drop the burden and free yourself by walking away.

You’ll build inner strength
It takes a lot of courage and mental strength to forgive someone that caused us significant pain. When we practice forgiveness, we’re releasing negative emotions that we’ve held on to. And if we can continue to maintain this powerful mindset, we’ll become more resilient as well as build greater relationships in future.

We can learn from past experiences
Whether we move on with or without the person who hurt us – be mindful of the lesson. During and after the situation, we should do our best to take a step back and learn something about ourselves. Understanding what pushes our buttons, at what point do we get sensitive, how do we handle our emotions, how do we deal with conflict. Gathering this knowledge enables us to be better equipped for the next dispute or relationship later down the line.

Improves wellbeing
Holding a grudge or holding on to any negative emotion affects the cardiovascular and nervous systems. According to a study, people who struggled to forgive had elevated blood pressure and heart rates, as well as increased muscle tension. Choosing to let go and offering forgiveness will help boost your feelings of wellness on a mental and physical level.

Forgiveness comes with many steps, and depending on the situation, it can take weeks, months, or even years to get over a painful experience. I wouldn’t want anyone to be a prisoner of someone else’s behaviour, and struggling to let go might mean that you’re the one who pays most in the long run. It’s important to remember that forgiving means to eliminate the suffering, not the wrongdoing. The offender might not deserve your pardon, but you definitely deserve to be at peace.

We’re not friends or enemies. Just strangers with some memories.

Being friends with exes, there’s no universal rule. Research has shown that maintaining contact with exes is pretty common, but the motives for wanting to maintain contact should be thought out carefully. I’ve personally never had any desire to remain friends with a man I broke off a relationship with. There’s a reason why I walked away and that reason still exists. It’s not that I’m bitter, it’s not that I can’t handle it, I have no beef or ill feeling towards any of the guys. It’s just that by the time I’m done with the relationship, I’m emotionally checked out, I have no care for it or them. I’m happy to move on and put things in the past. They’ve served their purpose and I already have enough friends.

When I’m investing time and effort with anyone, I’d like to see if there’s real value there. My friends are the people I turn to when I want to have chit chats about current affairs, work, family, TV shows, dating, sex, reminiscing the old days, etc. Having great friendships is enjoyable, effortless, there’s mutual respect and each individual holds a important place in my heart. With that said, the thought of exchanging these kind of conversations with exes and sharing my personal business with them doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. Reminiscing about the past? Giving them updates on who I’m dating? Nah, it doesn’t make sense to me.

What else makes me skeptical about the whole idea?

Truth is, one person is always a little more invested in the relationship than the other. In breakups, we have our egos challenged. These situations are never easy or nice to deal with on either side, the whole process is excruciating and exhausting. No matter what people say, it’s a challenge to go from loving words to no contact and awkwardness (it gets easier over time with more practice 😬) But I simply couldn’t think of anything worse than resorting to that cliché response of “let’s be friends” just to soften the blow after a break up. Offering friendship while the other party still has feelings for you is giving them false hope… and boy, do some exes clutch at the straws! Perhaps I’m a bit brutal but I’ve made an attempt to remain friends with an ex once! Unfortunately it wasn’t long until he started pissing me off with his inappropriate jokes and going on about the “good times” 🙄 — you can leave now.

In addition, I’ve always been someone who prefers to start off a new relationship with a clean slate, meaning no drama or baggage pulled in from the past. Hovering exes can be quite off-putting and let’s be real, it doesn’t really set the tone for a great start. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, many (insecure and jealous) people will use continued “friendship” to constantly compare themselves to the new partners in their ex’s life. A guy I once dated remained friends with his ex, and that ex would occasionally reconnect to ask silly questions about me 😒 I was not impressed. In instances like these, people tend to hang onto exes for the purpose of an occasional ego boost or to keep tabs on them.

Where new relationships are concerned, “friends with an ex” is tricky terrain. Letting your partner hang out one on one with a person they’ve previously had sexual and emotional history with? Having your partner’s ex call/text them at ungodly hours of the morning for a chat? Your partner getting sent birthday gifts and cards to the door from their ex? I mean… how would you feel about this? I know where I stand with those scenarios. And if your relationship started off romantically charged to begin with, then there is no friendship to really transition back to. Which was the case for all my previous relationships. Don’t get me wrong, if I bump into an ex, I’ll be civil but it’s never a case of “let’s go for a coffee one day!” Lastly, there are circumstances where staying on talking terms is necessary, for example, if you have kids together. You’d have to navigate some sort of friendship or at least have some form of communication there because it’s the right thing to do, even if there were feelings of hurt involved. 

Some of y’all are too liberal with the word “friend”… But that’s none of my business.

Ultimately there is no right or wrong answer with regards to being friends with an ex, it’s a choice you make as an individual. In my opinion, I believe there is a difference between “being on good terms” and “being friends”. If neither party has ulterior motives, and if the friendship doesn’t interrupt your current relationship then who knows, it may work. Although I’ve never heard of any success stories thus far. Either way, it’s important to have boundaries in place so that the past doesn’t interfere with the present. A good test is whether you’re comfortable hanging out with your current partner and your ex together, and whether your ex’s partner is comfortable with you. If you choose to stay friends with an ex, it might be worth asking yourself some important questions.

What are my motivations here?
Is this friendship truly feasible?
Can you be truly honest with each other?
Is this friendship fair to your current partner (if you have one)?
Is this friendship interfering with/delaying my recovery and emotional well-being?

Every individual is entitled to choose their own friends and live the way they feel comfortable. But things like this may have the ability to alter the dynamics of new relationships, so communication and understanding plays a vital role. Being entirely open and honest with each other will help relieve any worries/concerns as well as set the expectations early on.