by: E.B. Johnson
No matter how badly we want them to work out, not every relationship is destined for success. Some relationships are more work than they’re worth, and these relationships must be closely analyzed and understood in order to protect our wellbeing. Our partners should not make us feel run down, depressed or anxious. Our partnerships should bring us joy, and when they don’t, we should pay close attention.
Partnerships that ask us to sacrifice ourselves, our needs, or our visions for the future are (often) not worth holding onto. They block important opportunities and take up value space in our personal lives. In order to safeguard the future that we’re trying to build, we have to assess and accept our relationships for what they are — and then use this knowledge to move ourselves toward action. We alone have the power to build happier, healthier relationships for ourselves, but it requires some brutal honesty along the way.
Relationships shouldn’t eat away at who we are.
We’ve been fed a lot of big ideals when it comes to our relationships. Many of us expect grand romance, and sweeping gestures of affection that leave us swooning in the wings. We’re so obsessed with theses images of love, that we often blind ourselves to the brutal realities and force our partnerships into painful little boxes. Determined to “make it work”, we put in more and more work. Until we’re so lost in the other person that we’re miserable and looking for a way out.
Our relationships shouldn’t eat away at who we are. We shouldn’t have to bury ourselves, or compromise on the important things. We shouldn’t have to put our needs last — time after time — or go out of our way to suppress our emotions in order to make the other person comfortable.
In happy relationships we can be who we are without fear of judgement. When we are truly loved, valued and seen for who we are, the work comes naturally and it comes with an equal share. Stop taking on the burdens of the world just to feel like one person loves you. Romantic love is a team effort. When we put in too much work, we lose ourselves and we lose sight of those things which would provide us with a fulfilling future. Get honest and get proactive. Is your relationship too much work? That’s a question only you can answer.
Why we settle for the wrong relationships.
The wrong relationships don’t happen consciously. They happen because we’re fearful of change, fearful of being alone, and fearful of sticking up for ourselves. When the wrong relationships are all you’ve ever known, it becomes easy to overcompensate and put in more work than you should. Moving past this requires us to understand where this need to settle for less comes from.
Better than the unknown
As humans, we don’t always handle change well and we don’t always embrace it with the fullness that we should. Change, to us, is the unknown. And not only is that uncomfortable, it’s downright intolerable. So many people cling to the wrong relationships because they perceive it to be better than the unknown. Combating this self-defeating perspective requires us to look within and begin to see uncertainty not as something to be feared, but something to be embraced. After all, it is through the unknown that we find opportunity.
Fear of being alone
Society places a great deal of value and importance on our romantic relationships. You can hardly turn on your phone or the TV without being confronted (instantly) with some sort of a romantic ideal of love. It’s the end-all-and-be-all to western society, and the more we live alongside this idea the greater our fear of being alone can become. This fear of being alone is tricky, in that it can quickly overcome our desire to lead a happy and fulfilling life if not addressed.
Quite simply, some people settle for the wrong relationships because it’s the only kind of relationship they’ve ever known. Their lives might have started in trauma and perpetuated that trauma relationship after relationship. Though it’s miserable, it becomes a sort of “comfort zone” (as well as a pattern that you find yourself repeating). Becoming accustomed to toxic relationships can leave you blind to the option of anything else. Therefore, you become trapped in a cycle of your own making.
Zero value of self
The way we see and value ourselves is critical. When we place a high value on who we are and what we want, we don’t so often fall into the trap of settling for less than we deserve. When we place a low value on ourselves, however, it has the opposite effect. We overcompensate and over-compromise, doing anything we can to cling to toxic relationships; even while we sell ourselves out and lose touch with anything and everything that matters to us.
Many of us have some warped ideas on love which can dramatically shaped by socio-religious pressures around us. When we come to value romantic relationships as the definitive form of value, we develop a short-sighted vision of love that does nothing to serve our greater goals. We have to start seeing the bigger picture and understand that closing the door on one partnership is often opening the door to a better one. Long-term romance requires long-term vision. As well as a commitment to standing strong beside our needs and limitations.
Desiring a place to call home
Growing up in the midst of a turbulent family can lead to a later longing in life. This longing causes us to seek a “home” in others, or a sense of understanding and belonging that was not provided to us by our families. When we’re this desperate for a sense of unity with others, we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of, and we put in more emotional work than we should. This is due to an internalization and a belief that you alone are responsible for making those around you happy and safe.
When we allow ourselves to go around feeling rejected, dejected and less-than — we often find that wind up looking for validation through our romantic relationships. It’s easy to understand. When someone else loves us, it can make us feel valuable and seen. The only problem with this external validation is that it is false and variable. It can disappear from our lives as quickly as it appeared and then we’re left with nothing. The only validation that matters is the validation that we provide to ourselves.
Signs your relationship is more work than it’s worth.
When your relationship has become a burden, it’s no secret. From keeping score, to failed communication and sheer exhaustion — these are the common signs that your relationship is requiring more work than it’s actually worth.
Always keeping score
Keeping score is a toxic relationship habit that seriously undermines our confidence in one another. This requires both parties to keep a track of the other and forever hold their mistakes and their weaknesses against one another. It’s a poisonous way to build a life together, and it creates a breeding ground of disrespect, distrust and contempt. It also takes a great amount of mental and emotional work, which wears down our ability to see the best in one another.
It’s no secret that long-term relationships come with a certain amount of work and commitment. Both parties have to come together in the name of the same goals, and then combine their skills (and their weaknesses) to build a life that aligns with their shared dreams, values and morals. When this effort becomes one-sided, or only one partner shoulders the burden of moving the partnership forward — the entire relationship becomes more work than it’s worth.
Working for change
As humans, we’re always growing, and we’re always changing. We strive to be better, and we should. This extends into our relationships, where we grow and change as both individuals and as couples. We should embrace this growth together, but that’s not always the case. Look at your relationship. Are you always working to change your partner? Or inspire them to change themselves? You might push yourself way harder than you should, all in the name of someone else’s improvement. While this might seem noble, it’s actually incredibly toxic. One-sided change is just that — one-sided.
Communication is a requirement in any successful relationship, but it’s something that we can often struggle with as a couple. Solid communication requires us to be open, candid and active listeners, but that can prove a challenge when things are otherwise off balance. If you’re the one always taking the initiative to open up or find resolutions, you might be putting in far more effort (and love) than your partner is.
When it comes to relationships, it takes a great deal of effort from all parties involved, as well as a great deal of compassion, compromise and consideration. Look at the consideration and allowances your partner makes for you. If you’ve expressed your needs and the things you’d like to see corrected, but it falls on deaf ears — you need to make a note of that. Your partner might also fail to listen to you, or do nothing to make improvements that could boost the long-term quality of your partnership. You’re the only one who puts in work and makes room for the consideration of the other person’s feelings…and that’s a problem. A big one.
Strange sense of anxiety
Do you find that you are always stressed, anxious, or depressed when your partner is around? It’s not normal to be so drained by the people we love, it’s also not normal to feel “on edge” around them. If your partner or spouse makes you feel worse (rather than better) when they are around, you might be working far too hard to making something work that isn’t meant to be. Though all partnerships go through natural seasons, a constant season of stress should always warrant alarm. Listen to your emotions and what your body is telling you about your relationship.
Journey toward fear
Fearful relationships are especially toxic, and rare (if ever) are they rooted in maturity and stability. When a relationship has become more work than it’s worth, you never know what’s around the next corner. Conflict becomes the norm, and you even find that you’re always afraid that your partner is going to end things with you. This type of insecurity highlights major issues in your partnership, and a lack of trust that is both toxic and corrosive.
Looking for justifications
Indications of a less-than-worthwhile partnership don’t always come from within. Sometimes our support systems can also provide solid clues. If your loved ones constantly question your partnership, or your find that you are forced to justify it — then it’s time to take a step back and make some considerations. Those around us are often able to see things that we cannot see from our own limited perspectives within the partnership.
Where do you stand in the ranks of your relationship? Do your partner’s need and desires always come before your own? If they’re making all the big decisions and what they say always goes, it can indicate some serious issues. They might pick where you eat, where you live, where you work, or even how your family is structured and organized. You’re a second-class citizen in your own relationship, and that comes with an extreme amount of emotional labor of its own (as well as a toxic denial of self).
Exhaustion and loss
While all the above are very specific issues that you might have experienced, there can also be far more subtle signs that your relationship is far more work than it’s worth. Among these subtle warning signs is that of exhaustion and loss. When you’re with your partner, do you feel more alone than when you’re actually alone? How do you feel when they go home? Do you feel more drained and exhausted than you did before they arrived? These are all signs that your relationship is taking a major emotional toll on you. You’re putting in far more work to make things work than you should be.
How to deal with a relationship that’s become a burden.
A relationship that’s become a burden has to be addressed, and it has to be dealt with. Your problems will not go away by ignoring. You have to embrace some honesty and move forward in the unknown with courage and the knowledge that you’re strong enough to survive what comes next. This requires prioritizing our needs, however, and committing to doing the right thing for ourselves for once.
1. Embracing honesty as a cornerstone
If you’ve been beating your head against the wall of a failing relationship, it’s often because you’ve failed to be honest with yourself. Caring for someone can cause us to see things through rose-tinted glasses. We want it to work, so we just suffer through it regardless of the reality of the situation, and never consider the bigger picture. We have to embrace honesty as a cornerstone of our lives if we want to find happiness, and that begins by being honest about our relationships.
Be honest with yourself — brutally so. Stop tiptoeing around the facts and acknowledge what’s gone wrong. Only when you find the courage to accept the truth will you also find the power to change it. Make this radical honesty a cornerstone of everything you do.
Be honest about your emotions when they take hold of you and be honest about the mistakes when they happen (not twenty years down the road). Face up to the bad stuff when it’s happening and stop burying your joy away beneath an endless pile of what you think should be happening. By embracing honesty as a cornerstone, you will be better equipped to move through life with authenticity and integrity…improving your relationships as you go.
2. Finding the space to figure it out
Space is a powerful thing and, when combined with time, can provide a strong balm against the pain of a failing relationship. Within this space, you can discover truths about yourself that empower you to move in better directions. When we give ourselves space, we give ourselves the ability to reconnect with our needs, our emotions and our dreams in transformative and motivational ways. Rather than forcing something that doesn’t fit, focus on personal space.
Before you make any major decisions, give yourself some space to figure out exactly how you’re feeling and exactly how you want to proceed. You have to be sure your intentions are aligned with your values and your needs before you go off cutting cords, or re-investing in something that’s better left to die.
Take a step back from your partnership. Get some genuine alone time free from the interruptions and stress of friends, family and work. Revel in this space and use it to take your emotional temperature. How’re you feeling right now? How do you want to feel? Look at your future and consider what you want (and need) from the person who’s going to stand by you until the end. Some things can’t be compromised on, and your happiness is one of them.
3. Prioritizing your needs the right way
One of the most common attributes of a relationship that isn’t working is a one-sided commitment from one of the partners. You put in more effort than the other person (or vice versa) and before you know it you’ve put your own needs on the back burner and you’re miserable. In order to avoid (or correct) this, we have to start prioritizing our needs again. We have to do it the right way, though, and ensure that we stick up for the things that mean the most to our joy and fulfillment.
After you’ve given yourself some time and space to think things through, get focused on the things you need in order to be happy. What have you been denying yourself in service of your partner or your spouse? What passions or hobbies have you let go for their comfort?
Until you start to put your needs in equal importance to theirs, you’ll remain lost, frustrated, or otherwise unable to find peace in your partnership. The agitation and the conflict will never go away. The unexplainable feelings of being drained each and every time they enter the room won’t magically disappear. See to your needs. Build them up again and with that build up the confidence you need to set boundaries and stick to them.
4. Get into major emotional growth
Coming to this sort of crossroads is a great opportunity to invest in some major emotional growth. While you’re looking at all the shortcomings in your relationship, look for your own shortcomings too. Use this time of discomfort to get as much of the other discomforts out of the way as possible. Look at the big picture and fess up to any part you might have played in what’s coming next.
Drop your defensiveness. Drop your need to be right, or your need to seek revenge. Let go of the anger. Dig deep and look at the pitfalls for what they are. Could your communication skills use improvement? Could you have used your strengths or weaknesses to prevent such a relationship in a better way?
Focus on major self-improvement in this time upheaval. Crisis and heartbreak often offer us the greatest chances to see ourselves in a better perspective. We can overcome any feelings of guilt or regret that might arise by committing to become the best possible version of ourselves we can be. Live above reproach (even your own) and strive every day to be better than you were yesterday. Little by little you’ll find the confidence and resilience to stand up for your needs.
5. Do what’s right for you
All the emotional growth and all the honest in the world won’t change your life if it isn’t followed up with a commitment to action. You have to actually do what’s right for you if you want to build a life that is authentically your own. The right partnerships come in when we make room for them by removing the wrong ones. If your relationship is more work than it’s worth — admit it — then take the action you need to get back on track.
Once you’ve had a chance to communicate your needs (while giving your partner a chance to communicate their own) it’s time to make decisions. A partner who cannot meet us in the middle of our growth is not the right partner for us.
Make the hard concessions. Admit when it’s time to cut the cord and move on to bigger and better things. Ultimately, breakups can be the best thing for everyone involved. By making the decision to end things, you actually not only give yourself the opportunity to find “the one” — you gift that same opportunity to your partner. Stop taking up room in one another’s lives when it’s only bringing you both misery and frustration.
Putting it all together…
While some relationships might come naturally, others come only with a great deal of emotional effort and burden. Many of these relationships are worth the weight, but many are not. Only we are able to tell the difference, and we do this through brutal honesty, self-reflection and a commitment to doing what’s right for our happiness.
Embrace honesty as a cornerstone of your life practice and start by being honest with yourself. Admit the shortcomings in your relationship, and weight them against the value that partnership adds to your life. Give yourself some space (and some time) to figure it out and dig into the meat of what really means the most to you. At the end of the day, your happiness is the only happiness you’re responsible for. Begin prioritizing your needs and set boundaries that clearly define where the relationship burdens lie. There’s no point in carrying on a one-sided partnership. We alone are responsible for carrying our own weight. Get into major emotional growth and use this new perspective to empower the action you need to take. Safeguard your wellbeing and do it by doing what’s right for you. You don’t have to stay in a relationship that makes you sad, anxious, or otherwise unhappy. Admit when your partnership is too much work and take steps to move on and move upward.