In my experience, we all get better at being in relationships over time. It’s a learned skill. We aren’t all born with the perfect ability to balance and maintain a healthy relationship.
Hindsight is 20/20, though. As soon as you’re out of the relationship, you’ll suddenly see all the issues you had, and for lots of people in first-time relationships, putting your partner’s needs above your own is a big issue.
Here’s how to avoid doing that in the future.
1. BEING A PEOPLE-PLEASER ISN’T HELPFUL
Most people need a person in their life that they can be honest and share their soul with. However, you don’t want a yes-man in a relationship. The honesty you want from a partner is what you should give in return. They need someone to tell them when they have spinach in their teeth, that their shirt is on backward, or that their hat is ugly. People think that the only way to meet your partner’s needs is to be a people-pleaser, but that isn’t the same thing. In order to have a fulfilling relationship, you need to both make mistakes and grow together. If one of you is always protecting the other and defending them from change or influencing their behaviors, then they will stay the same. It’s well-meaning, but it isn’t helpful.
2. YOU’LL WEAR YOURSELF DOWN
Trying to anticipate and meet a person’s every need is hard enough as it is. However, when you combine that with an inability to meet your own needs because you’ve elevated those of another person above yours, that’s tough. You can’t sustain that. It’s isn’t a relationship – it starts to become a chore.
3. YOU START TO RESENT THEM
It’s not their fault either. They didn’t ask for you to put their needs above their own. Well, if they did, they’re trash, but that’s a different matter altogether. Your body soon begins to realize that the reason it’s tired all the time is your partner. However, your partner should be a source of joy, not tedium. You should want to help and support them, but if you become their servant, then it’s no longer an act of love and a pleasant surprise when you look after them. Small gestures are expected, but servitude changes the dynamic, and then your partner comes to expect that level of support, and neither of you is independent anymore.
4. YOU FORGET WHAT YOUR VERSION OF SELF-CARE IS
Sometimes you spend so long with a person that you become like them. We all have a bit of chameleon in us. That’s why we like our partners, after all – we think they’re cool. However, when you adopt all their habits and opinions, you might risk forgetting what you enjoy. The ways that you pass time. Don’t tend to their feelings so much that you neglect your own.
5. YOU BECOME THEM
No. I know that we’re all a collage of the people we’ve met – but that’s more subtle. It’s a compliment, and it’s natural. However, when you start dressing the same, cutting your hair together, and aligning your lives so intimately, even though your needs aren’t being met, it’s a gesture of intimacy that doesn’t ring quite true. Part of being in a relationship is valuing your differences and appreciating each other, not just keeping your personality under lock and key because you’re secretly afraid it might not be good enough.
6. RECLAIM YOUR LIFE
As a solution, try to reclaim what is yours – you will find that your partner is only too eager to get to know you. It introduces a little spark to the relationship. You won’t find love by obsessing over a person and failing to give them anything to love.
7. VALUE YOUR OWN TIME
Don’t drop everything you’re doing just because your partner has a small issue. Know when action is required and when they’re just venting. A lot of the time we just want to complain without being held accountable. Don’t be that person that always wants to fix everything and stops making people feel like they can just meaninglessly vent to you without getting the pitchforks out.
8. FIND A NEW HOBBY
Rediscover your old ones. Take up a new course – drag a friend to it, or your partner. They will love seeing this new and old side of you emerge.
Putting people’s needs above your own isn’t inherently a bad trait. I know it sounds like I’m banging on about it, but don’t worry. It’s just that it conceals lots of other behaviors which actually compromise your quality of life. Value your own needs in a relationship, people!