“If you are a giver and you have a big heart, to be truly happy in life, you must learn when to let go. Naturally, you’re going to care when you shouldn’t, you’re going to stay longer than you should, and you’re going to give when you have nothing. Know when to stop and let things be.”
-Sylvester McNutt III
While men can certainly be empaths and givers, much of the tasks related to giving and caregiving still falls on women in our culture. Girls and women today are still socialized to:
- Put other’s needs ahead of their own … even when it takes a toll on their physical and emotional health
- Be friendly/polite … even when it puts them in danger
- Be accommodating … even when others take advantage of them
Because of the way women are socialized to be caregivers, and men are also socialized to expect their female partner’s to be selfless, women are likely to take on more than they should in a relationship. A very common frustration I hear from my female clients in heterosexual relationships is that “all of the work” in the relationship falls on them—this often means the emotional work, household labor (despite the fact that women are working just as much as men now), childcare, logistics and scheduling, etc. This can lead women to feel burned out and resentful. It can also lead to poor physical and emotional health, and low sexual desire. Review this checklist to consider whether your “giving” may be taking a negative toll on your emotional and physical health:
- I do more of the household and/or childcare labor than my partner.
- I do not think my partner recognizes my self-care needs.
- I struggling with telling my partner what I need—Or feel as though I should not have needs.
- On average I have less than an hour a day for my own self-care.
- More days than not I feel overwhelmed and/or burned out.
- More days than not I feel resentful towards my partner.
- I have little to no sexual desire.
- I cringe or feel repulsed when my partner initiates sex.
- I feel like my partner is “man child” or is just another person to take care of in the household.
- I often fantasize about life without my partner and/or children.
- I do not put much care or attention into my physical appearance.
- My physical health has declined.
- I feel depressed and/or anxious much of the time.
- I lash out at my partner about small things.
- I feel angry towards my partner often.
- I find it difficult to express to my partner what I am actually angry about.
If you believe you are overextending and allowing yourself to be taken advantage of in your relationship you may want to consider therapy. Individual or couples therapy may help you to set healthier boundaries with your partner, learn to give yourself permission for self-care (as easily as your partner likely does), and assess whether your relationship is healthy for you in the long-run.