Everybody wants to know, “How do I appreciate my partner without overdoing it? What's the line?”
Over-giving and people-pleasing is so common. I(Keely) remember giving a lot in my first queer relationship, almost trying to prove myself with gifts and words. I felt like it had to be this fairy tale all the time, and I just wanted to make sure that I kept that relationship. Now that I look back on it, I know that so much of that was carried in from how I lived my entire life.
I grew up in a religious environment. I grew up in spaces where I tried to be this perfect person that gave love to everybody and put myself last. When I started dating, I started to get a little resentful because my partner wasn't giving that energy back. Maybe it wasn't what I had hoped for. Maybe my expectations weren't being met. It just turned into this cycle of me over-giving and not understanding why I wasn't receiving that back.
From a different perspective, I know that I had to align my own boundaries with my expectations. I had to check in and see what felt good to me. I wanted to make sure that I was being supportive. I wanted to make sure I was being loving, but, also, I had to make sure I wasn’t going overboard.
I (Dani) think it's important to note here that, growing up, I was a very, very big people pleaser. I would do anything and everything to get approval and appreciation from other people. I would cross my own boundaries and go out of my way to do everything for everybody else. It didn't work out for me. Not once. It just led to me constantly being resentful about how I didn't get any of my needs met because I wasn't asking for anything. I was just hoping that people would see that I was doing all these great things for them and show me that same thing back.
After having such low self worth, I realized that I was never going to feel good because my intention was always just to get approval. Intention is a really big part of this whole thing because, even if I didn't verbally ask for anything, there was something missing inside of myself that I was always hoping people would give. Approval, love, affection, appreciation, whatever it was, I had this turning point.
I realized that a healthy relationship wasn’t what I was experiencing. I'm constantly over giving, not speaking up, feeling badly about it, and then just continuing the same exact pattern over and over again. I learned how to appreciate myself so I don't have to feel like I needed approval and to feel loved. Then, I started to understand that it's okay not to constantly be doing everything for everybody else. There can be people doing things for themselves, and you don't have to push your own limits just to take care of other people. I don't care if it's a romantic relationship or platonic relationship, whatever it is. You don't have to constantly go out of your way, and it is a great thing when you can do things without expecting anything in return and still have your needs met.
Whether you’re afraid you’re not good enough or afraid that the other person will leave, whatever the root cause of this pattern is, check in with that intention. There's been many times where I've gone above and beyond to show someone how much I care, and it came from a really great place. It came from this place of like, “I want you to feel so loved and cared for.” I didn't walk away from that feeling resentful that I'm not getting the same thing in return.
Sometimes, one partner is giving a little bit more, and that's okay. It can’t be 100 and zero, which is usually what a lot of people coming to us are doing. They're giving absolutely everything to somebody else and they're not receiving anything in return. It's never going to be fully equal, but reciprocated relationships help the relationship grow and support each other when the other person falls short. It encourages appreciation instead of feeling resentful because somebody isn't there for you like you're there for them. You know how to communicate your needs, you're secure in asking for that, and you’re secure in giving them what they need, too.
Think about it in your own life. I really want you to see yourself in a relationship. When you are giving, check in and ask, “What is my intention behind giving this? Is it because I want something in return? Is it because I want to feel better about myself? Or is it because I really care and deeply want to support and love this person?” When you have that ability to check in with yourself and communicate when a need isn’t being met, your relationships are gonna get so much better.
We’ve seen it in our own relationship. We're not doing things just because we feel like we have to do it. We do things for each other from my heart instead of doing it out of fear.
When you can appreciate and give back to your partner not out of fear, you have the capacity to give and you're not crossing your own boundaries. When you're still a people-pleaser, when you're still struggling to understand your boundaries and you're still attracting people that are not willing to give you what it is that you need, these relationships can be very, very difficult.
Create that capacity within yourself to understand what it is that you need, to give yourself that validation, so that regardless, if somebody is going to stay with you or not, you know that you’re going to be okay. What is the difference between compromise and sacrifice? Those are really important things to know in your relationship.
We’d love for you to send us a message on Instagram if you’ve taken something powerful from this blog today. Let us know if you're looking for more ways to get involved with us. Visit ComingOutHappy.com to check out our membership, the Queer Happiness Collective, where we can help you finally become the person, friend, and partner that you’ve always wanted to be though expert workshops, live Q&As, and a fully virtual LGBTQ+ community as your fingertips. There's so many resources in there we have for you to grow on and so much more.
We'll have our book coming up soon on the methods that we've created to heal from toxic patterns and create these healthy relationships. And last but not least, we just launched our LGBTQ+ couples’ conversation cards. They're absolutely amazing at creating better communication and understanding each other better. You can find those on our website, too.
Dani & Keely
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