Many stories about unhealthy relationships or situations where it’s not mutual but there are attempts to make it mutual and ‘level’ are about one person not knowing when to back off and stop/reduce giving. All of these people end up extremely hurt, rejected, distrusting, and even blaming and shaming themselves. In the quest to get what they wanted through giving, they lost sight of their identity and busted their boundaries.
A frequent tale is the rather painful experience of making yourself indispensable with a view that the person thinks that you’re so valuable and devoted that they will give you the relationship that you want. You’ve ‘earned’ it. There’s often a very quiet expectation that because you’ve given so much that they will overlook what you perceive as your ‘flaws’. Or, you expect that they won’t reject you or get into conflict with you or that they will do exactly what you want. So the giving is effectively an attempt to build up credits to get what you need, want and expect.
When it all blows up and you end up reminding them of what you’ve given, the other person often becomes very defensive. It can even cross into you inadvertently attempting to guilt them into coughing up what they ‘owe’. “After everything I’ve done…”, “I gave you eleven years…” or “If I’d known that you weren’t going to do _____, I wouldn’t have done _______.”
When you give and give and give and possibly give some more, it’s because you’re an over-giver. You don’t truly believe that you without the excessive giving is enough.
You overdo it because you’re attempting to create a tipping point where the other person will reciprocate and match you so that you get a return on your investment. When you don’t, you feel devalued by the experience.
Let’s be clear: giving is a ‘bad thing’. Giving, however, because you attribute so little value to your own worth that you think that the only way that you can ‘get’ and ‘keep’ people around you is to give the crap out of yourself, isn’t a good thing. People who don’t have limits do not have boundaries, standards, or much self-esteem to work with. One day you realise that you’re someone who gives too much in the wrong situations or to the wrong people. You see that you’re mistaken for a doormat who doesn’t know when to fold and get the hell out.
You wonder where to go from ‘here’. Maybe you even feel ‘bad’ about the possibility of not giving and heaven forbid, saying NO or waiting for others to step up. Believing that ‘Good People’ don’t say no, let other’s do things, or walk away leaves you feeling guilty.
You may even feel ‘scared’ that if you stop giving, you won’t have any ‘power’ anymore, possibly because you don’t know your self-worth or values. You value yourself in terms of what you can do for people (and what they give back), not what you’re able to do for yourself, or your qualities, characteristics, and values. Giving with hidden expectations and a ‘You Owe Me’ that hasn’t been communicated or agreed to isn’t wholehearted giving though.
Over-giving indicates using external solutions (people) to fix your internal problems while using ‘giving’ as your bartering mechanism. When you address and begin to mend your relationship with you, you can put more energy into giving to you instead of draining and neglecting you to boost others.
Let’s be real: who truly feels good about themselves when they feel like they have to ‘buy’ people’s attention and affections with giving or they have to overcompensate for their perceived flaws?
When you’re hungry for love, attention, affection, friendship, etc., when you meet someone, you get high on the possibilities. You rush around doing an excessive amount of stuff that looks particularly odd in the context of hardly knowing someone. And then something happens that brings you back down to earth with a bump, and it can feel difficult to recover from the giving hangover.
There is something critical that gets forgotten by people who have the equivalent of an Overactive Giving Thyroid:
If you keep giving blindly because you’re focused on trying to fill up a void within you and to generate a tipping point, you do not get a chance to truly see what the other person is about. You don’t get to see what their own capacity is to give.
Since I first wrote Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, I’ve read thousands of stories via email and comments. In many, the person was so in love with being in love, or focused on getting the commitment or validation, or in their own little illusionary world doing all this giving to build their ‘future’ together that they didn’t realise that the other person wasn’t on board. They then felt blindsided, wronged, used and shortchanged.
Over-giving clouds out the other person. You’ll know who they are and what they’re about if you slow your giving roll. You can know who someone truly is and where your relationship is at if you have boundaries and are ‘meeting’ people in your relationships instead of chasing and trying to pull them in with your giving.
When you hold your own and act like you’re worthy of being treated with the basics of love, care, trust, and respect, you don’t keep trying to overcompensate. You don’t keep trying to fix issues by over-giving because you think it’s something ‘about you’ that created the problem and will be the solution.
Mutual relationships, romantic and otherwise, are organic.
You always know that the relationship isn’t that mutual or organic when you’re acutely aware of what you’re giving and what you think the other person isn’t. Over-givers, whether it’s conscious or not, keep score. You may think about your interpersonal relationships in terms of investments that you feel that you’ve put too much into to walk away from. This will be despite how desperately unhappy you might be with some of these relationships.
I’ve asked many over-givers why they continue to give in a situation that’s emotionally bankrupting them and where they’re barely able to sustain themselves. The truth is, they’re afraid that if they stop or reduce giving, that the person isn’t going to step up. Then they’d have to admit that they’ve poured their energy into something and someone that isn’t mutual. The thing is, they know it’s not mutual already because if it was, then it wouldn’t be over-giving!
It’s a false economy, though. All of this over-giving is done to prevent the person from leaving (but they may do anyway) or to prevent the person from failing to recognise your worth (but they may not attribute the same value that you do to your giving). Or, the over-giving is about preventing other ‘unfavourable outcomes‘. All that excessive giving will do, particularly in an unhealthy relationship where you’re treated without love, care, trust, and respect and not experiencing other ‘landmarks‘, is create far more unpleasantness than you would ever have experienced if you’d stopped doing all of these dodgy preventative measures.
The most valuable thing that you can do for you is to start treating you with love, care, trust and respect.
When you withhold these things from yourself and do not regard you as a worthwhile, valuable person, any old person can come along with a crumb. You’ll think that it’s a loaf because it appears to be better than what you’re giving to you. When you’re on a crumb diet, you end up clamouring for more crumbs (because you’re starving) and so you go into giving overdrive in the hopes of getting the loaf (or at least some chunks). They’ll do one thing, you’ll do seven in the hope that next time they’ll do two. They then they think “Wow, they did all that when all I’m giving is that?” And suddenly one equals seven and you’re in a relationship subsisting on crumbs. Boom.
If you feed you with some self-love, which you need to do whether you’re in or out of a relationship and irrespective of whatever has come to pass before, you’d walk before you downgrade you or start blowing smoke up someone’s bum.
The sky will not fall down if you quit the excessive giving. A poor relationship, though, won’t be left with anything to stand on. Wondering where to start with reducing? Keep it simple.
If you’re giving away your self-esteem and dignity, you’re giving too much.
If you’re giving with a view to what you think the other person will do and you haven’t communicated this, you’re giving too much. There’s a handy litmus test for giving that keeps you out of a lot of problems and removes hidden agendas. If you wouldn’t continue being or doing something if you weren’t going to get the reward or desired outcome, halt. Be honest with the other party about your expectations, revise your motivations, or don’t give it.