Is your relationship exhausting you? How to know when you're doing too much of the work.

by Shira Myrow, LMFT, Couples Therapist and Curriculum Director @ Evenflow Meditation

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Reprinted from Thrive Global

Are you working too hard in your relationship? Women in particular are socially conditioned to focus on tending and nurturing relationships, but often one partner of either gender may be bearing a disproportionate amount of the work to keep a relationship stable.

How do you know if you are working too hard? You can start with some questions. Are you the one that instigates communication, connection, intimacy or sex the majority of the time? Are you the one that consistently tries to repair after a fight or work through issues? Are you the one thinking about the state of your relationship while your partner seems disinterested and emotionally disengaged? This is a sign that the relationship may be out of balance.

Many of us believe that taking as much personal responsibility for our relationships as we can will result in “improvement” and that can be true to some degree. But if we rationalize putting more energy into propping them up and doing all the  “self help” for our relationship, we can override our intuition and our felt experience that we are not being met. A neglectful partnership can enervate you both emotionally and physically. 

While a bad or abusive relationship can deeply corrode your sense of self esteem and self worth, a neglectful partnership can do the same thing over time, only it avoids obvious detection. Emotional neglect can also distort your concept of what a healthy, loving vital relationship looks like and result in depression, anxiety and a diminished sense of well being. 

Becoming mindful of how you may be overextending yourself can help create the space to pull back and actually give your partner the room to step up, if that’s possible. Here are some indications that you may be working too hard.

1) You feel like you’re doing ALL the work. 

2) You feel like you are constantly placating your partner.

3) You feel anxious and depressed or angry and frustrated about your relationship most of the time. 

4) You have a perpetual list of grievances with your partner that are never resolved .

5) You see yourself as the martyr in the relationship. 

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, doing a mindful check in with yourself can help  clarify exactly what you’re feeling, but also clarify what roles you have taken on to compensate for an imbalance in the relationship. 

Ask your partner to sit down with you and talk about your expectations but make sure you both set an intention to listen with curiosity and compassion. Perhaps you were on the same page when you met, but haven’t explored the current state of the union. There may be some discrepancies at play between your expectations of reciprocity, the way you language and express love for each other, and what default positions from your past relationship dynamics you both have unconsciously settled into. 

When we’re working too hard, we are always compensating for something. While we all have flaws and imperfections, taking stock with a more mindful and compassionate perspective may help us discern whether the situation is actually an opportunity to gain more insight into ourselves and how we may be perpetuating our own suffering, or whether it’s time to seek help if our partner isn’t truly able to attune to us or meet us.