If you’re in a healthy relationship and have been for a while, I’m sure you can attest to the fact that any strong relationship, although still having it’s ups and downs, is predicated on balance and an even distribution of emotional investment from each person.
Basically, you meet each other halfway when it comes to how much you’re willing to get and give to the other.
One side of this is compromise.
There are things you want to do and ways in which you wish to act that may affect the other person in some detrimental way. Maybe you like to go out with friends too often, or you hog the choices on movie night, or you love making spicy food but your partner can stand it, these are things that you eventually learn to pull back on and compromise your actions a bit so the other person won’t grow to resent you for never changing. I’m not saying you should always change for a person if they don’t like something about you, I’m saying that understanding your partner's limits and being aware of your tendency to absentmindedly cross that line will ensure that it doesn’t become a habit and, therefore, earn the appreciation and respect of your partner. It’s not about losing autonomy, it’s about a greater shared interest in making the relationship work. If things are going well, they should be doing the same for you.
That’s the side of it that involves you understanding the things you normally do for yourself and knowing when to pump the brakes on self-interest.
The other side of this kind of compromise has to do with recognizing when you’re overextending yourself for the other person.
If we’re looking at a sliding scale where one side is effort and the other is self-interest, the center is where we want to be.
When the scale slides too far back into self-interest, we start disregarding the other person’s feelings and desires. We focus too much on continuing to live how we want, and not making the necessary compromises to evolve the relationship as a whole.
As we see the scale slide too far in the other direction, we see how much time and effort we’re giving to the other person and how little they seem to be doing to balance it out. You notice how far past that center line you are and you start to resent the other person for not doing their part. You start to assume they don’t care about you and maybe even never have. This is especially bad when you start to see them becoming comfortable with that dynamic and taking everything you’re doing for granted as if the scales are perfectly balanced when they aren’t.
You have to be aware of when you’re emotionally overextending yourself when you’re not getting back as much as you’re giving.
If you start to notice that you’re always the one who reaches out first — maybe you’re always the first to text or call, or you’re always the first to say I love you, or you’re always the first one to compliment the other or the first to give them emotional or physical reassurance that you’re there for them — do me a favor, stop doing it for just one day. For one day, don’t be the first one to reach out and see if they notice, see if they fill in the gaps themselves. One day of no I love you’s or morning texts shouldn’t be a dealbreaker, but just an experiment to see how the other person acts when you aren’t always the one reaching so far.
When you notice that your emotional arm is starting to strain from stretching too far over the line on that sliding scale just to hold the fingers of a person comfortably and lazily holding on, pull your hand back to the middle. Take note of how long it takes the other to notice and reach back out the connect in the center again. Some people out there might see that their partner didn’t even notice the missing hand that was just holding theirs, others might exaggerate about not feeling capable of extending their arm for whatever reason just because they felt comfortable how they were, not taking into account the fact that it was hurting you. This really only means that they aren’t willing to make the effort, or never wanted to in the first place.
This holding hands metaphor that seemed to naturally develop here actually works pretty well because it’s a better visual representation of real-life and how, although we might frequently pull our partner’s hand toward ourselves, allowing them to caress our face or to kiss their fingers in affection, or how we would allow them to do the same to our own hand by giving them the extra love, the most comfortable position for both will still be to rest in the middle, both relaxed, both felt and still connected.
Compromise is a beautiful thing. It gives us the goggles to see our bad habits and poor self-awareness when they start to stand out more prominently inside the bubble of a relationship. It allows us to see when we’re holding too much close to the chest and need to let the other person’s arm relax for a bit so we can return their love in kind.
Over-extension is it’s opposite and should be taken just as seriously. It can be draining on your mind, body, and spirit to always be the one reaching out, always being the giver and never the receiver. Be aware of what you deserve and don’t settle for less than what you know is fair.
If you’re aware of an emotional imbalance and make it known and they still aren’t making the effort to meet you halfway, maybe it’s time you stop holding their hand altogether.
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