Relationships are a transaction
Are you giving too much? Do you know the limits when trying too hard starts to work against you? It seems that many people do not. Underneath we tend to be ‘people pleasers’ in that we want to be liked and accepted. A need to fit in is healthy and it ensured survival in evolutionary terms. Yet, many of us don’t seem to know where to draw the line. We fail to see when our actions are counterproductive and it can lead to an outcome which is the exact opposite of what we desired.
This doesn’t mean that for every act of kindness you should ALWAYS receive something similar in return but when looking at the ‘exchange’ as a whole over time, things should balance out. If they don’t, you are most likely leading yourself into a losing situation. Of course, if you want to give freely of your time, effort and money and receive absolutely nothing in return, then go ahead. I am not referring to this scenario.
Balance is key
What I do come across regularly is people trying to make another person love and accept them by overdoing it with effort, gifts (sometimes) and general obsession with another when the other person clearly has a different agenda. Most people love attention and gifts and are unlikely to vehemently discourage you (unless you become a stalker). This can give false hope and lead a person into irrationally thinking that they have more of an upper hand in the ‘relationship’ than they actually do.
So, why do we do it? To a large degree, we all experience the world in terms of control issues. People pleasing is a subtle form of control – trying to influence another to like us and see how wonderful we really are. Constantly meeting the needs of others can be exhausting. It deprives you of freedom because the choices you make are dictated by their effects on other people. Your focus is not on yourself. Self-sacrifice robs you of a clear sense of what you want and of who you are.
Is gaining approval your primary motivation? Do you really need the approval of others? Ultimately, as long as you approve and feel morally justified then you do not need approval from others. When the give-get ratio is out of balance, the future will consist of anger and resentment. This in turn can lead to maladaptive ways of coping (examples: Compulsive behaviours such as overeating, drinking too much alcohol, overspending, gambling etc).
You may hold the irrational belief that it is wrong to get angry with others so you deny and suppress your feelings. Internalising your needs/wants will result in maladaptive coping strategies. You may end up magnifying problems or blowing up over minor issues. Pent-up anger has to go somewhere.
Danger signals to look for:
You tend to choose domineering and/or self-absorbed types who have a strong sense of self. They become irritated when you disagree or attend to your own needs.
You choose people who don’t seem to respect your needs and/or opinions.
You spend a lot of time focusing on another person when there are many signs (sometimes not all that obvious) that they are not thinking about you as much.
You are the one to initiate most meetings and activities for the two of you to do together.
You seem to be less of a priority to them whereas you consider them highly important in your life.
There is very little in the way of reciprocity.
What to do about it:
1) Understand the origins from your childhood, often this type of behaviour comes from a lack of self-esteem and feeling we are unworthy of equal attention. It is important to tell yourself that you are good enough as you are and that you do not have to go overboard to try impress someone else in order to get them to like you. Ultimately, someone will like you for who you are, not for your skills and gift-giving talents.
2) List everyday situations where you sacrifice your needs for others. Start forming your own preferences and opinions. Stop behaving passive-aggressively â€“ express what you want and need. Practice asking other people to take care of you. Try achieve a balance between what you give and get.
3) Pull back from relationships where people are very self-centred. Practice confronting people instead of accommodating so much. Express your anger appropriately as soon as you feel it. Be more assertive as your needs, wants and opinions are as important as everyone else’s.
I have the right to say no when people ask me to do unreasonable things. If I say yes, I will only get angry at the other person and at myself. I can live with the guilt of saying no. Even if I cause the other person a little pain it will only be temporary. People will respect me when I say no and I will respect myself.
The magic word is BALANCE. If the ‘give-get’ ratio is out of proportion the end result will most likely be imbalanced. One person will be superior and one person will be inferior in the relationship equality stakes.
Photo by P.O. Arnäs