There are some major misconceptions in the area of couple relationships. People often think when two people commit to an exclusive relationship, “Two become one.” This is a nice, romantic sentiment, but I can’t figure out how it happens. Two people are still two individual people attempting to make a healthy, loving relationship and life together. The fact they are two individuals makes this challenging.
I’ve heard from many people over the years, I’m tired of giving 110% to this relationship when my partner only gives 30%. I have no idea know how these percentages are being calculated. There is no commitment scale I am aware of. I do know the Connection and Freedom needs are often in conflict in a relationship, sometimes within yourself and sometimes between the two of you.
There will be times when an individual wants couple time and also wants time away from their partner. The person’s decision generally depends on which need is most deficient at the time.
Unless you forge a relationship with someone with the exact amounts of Connection and Freedom at precisely the same time, you will have challenges balancing these two needs. This challenge is where the perception of people putting different effort into a relationship comes from. If you are a Connection person, relationships are your thing. They are easy for you and are typically what you prioritize in your life. Connection people value their relationships above other things. Putting 110% into their committed relationship is as easy as breathing. However, if you are a Freedom person in a committed relationship, it requires a great deal of effort to put in one-quarter of what your partner is doing. Assessing how much one is putting into a relationship requires not just assessing their behavior, but also looking at the strengths that person has for the needs of Connection and Freedom.
When you find yourself in a committed relationship, and notice you are unhappy, it is important to decipher your beliefs, values, perceptions, wants and needs to understand why those feelings are persisting. Often, the reason for extended unhappiness is because you are trying to let your partner know you are unhappy, they are the cause of it, and if they would do things differently then you could be happy again. When put this way, it sounds a little ridiculous but no less true.
It would be more productive to recognize your unhappiness and determine what you want that you aren’t getting. Then assess your options:
- Ask for what you want
Once you know what you want, ask for it. It is unfair to hold your partner responsible for giving you something you have never articulated. Do not convince yourself you have asked because you’ve hinted about what you want. Some of us believe if we have to ask for what we want, then our partner is somehow lacking or doesn’t love us. Before reaching this conclusion, ask directly for what you want, understanding your partner may not be able to read your mind or guess what you want from clues you may be giving. You may just get it!
If you have asked and not been given what you want, then you have five options left:
- Change what you are doing
Perhaps there is a behavior that would be more effective in getting what you want. For example, sometimes sex and romance are the areas where conflict occurs. People tend to try to get what they want by engaging in the behavior they want more of. For example, when you want more romance in your life, you become more romantic and when you want more sex in your life, you become more sexual. This may seem counterintuitive, but it is best if you want more sex in your life to become more romantic and if you want more romance, become more sexual. Finding a more effective behavior can result in your getting more of what you want in your relationship.
- Change what you want
Maybe you are tired of cooking and want to go out to eat at least twice a week. Your partner is concerned about the expense of eating out so often. You can change what you want by grabbing takeout or having your partner do the cooking at home.
- Change your perception
Many times, we create perceptions that are far from the truth. This is more likely to happen when we are frustrated, sad or lonely. You can look at a behavior in your partner and perceive it’s a sign he or she doesn’t love you when in fact, it’s the very behavior they use to demonstrate their love. This happened in my marriage. My husband was a workaholic and my love language is Quality Time. I thought his working late meant he didn’t want to spend time with me, therefore, in my love language, he didn’t love me. In truth, with his love language of Acts of Service, his behavior was his way of showing just how much he did love me. Realizing my perception was inaccurate went a long way toward giving me what I wanted – a husband who loved me.
Sometimes the answer is to simply accept that you aren’t going to get what you want. Brain scientists have discovered our brains are hardwired for negativity. This means it’s more common for us to notice the things that are wrong or that we don’t like, rather than to experience the things we do. Knowing this, you can accept the thing you don’t like while finding the many things you do in your relationship. You may learn you are more satisfied than you thought.
Leaving is an option I advise saving for last unless you are in a physically abusive relationship and your personal safety is at risk. However, there are times when you will decide being alone is better than living without what you want in your committed relationship. Sometimes people leave mentally and emotionally, as in disconnection and other times they leave physically through separation or divorce.
To determine when #6 is your best option, you need to do some self-evaluation while discontinuing your evaluation of the other person. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Am I free enough in this relationship to be myself?
- Are the important things I need satisfied?
- Can I get what I want outside this relationship without threatening the commitment of the relationship?
- Regardless of what my partner is or is not doing, am I satisfied with what I have in this relationship?
- Is the possibility of being alone better than remaining in this relationship?
- Which is more important to me, getting what I want or staying in this relationship for the long haul?
- Am I happy in this relationship?
- Do I get enough of what I want?
- Do I like who I am in this relationship?
Once you have completed your self-evaluation, make your decision about what you will do based on what you want and need, not on what your partner is or is not doing. In the end, you must love yourself more than you love the other person or the relationship. You will forever be in relationship with yourself and must be true to you. Consider wisely, then decide.