You can withdraw from your relationships by giving too much, learn to balance your 'yes'.
Are you a giver? If so, you probably love to surprise others with gifts that you found on a random trips to the mall. You spend hours hunting down unusual ingredients for special meals that your friends chow back with reckless abandonment. You supportively listen to your ex’s epic dating fails, missing a meet up with your potential new partner. Or, instead of finishing your important work, you help a friend paint her kitchen.
Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, you could be someone capable of ‘costly altruism’, where you do things for others at the expense of yourself. This is not entirely a bad thing—after all, compassion and empathy are essential in supportive and growth-oriented relationships. However, giving works best to build relationships when it is consciously managed.
What? Bet you thought that giving, especially the unconditional kind, meant being prepared at any moment to sacrifice what you want, to help someone else get what they want. Wrong—that kind of giving leads to big problems.
Here is one typical problem resulting from unmanaged 'costly altruism'.
You give. They take. You give more. They take more. And more. You become angry, resentful and exhausted. They ask you what’s the problem and where are the things you used to give. You tell yourself that they are taking advantage of your good heart, and you tell them to back off. They avoid you. You feel totally unloved, unvalued and unhappy. Slowly the tension dissipates and you begin to feel better about yourself. You make new friends, and reconnect with a few of your old friends. You get happier. And then, you start to feel like you would like to give again – after all, it is part of your ‘authentic’ nature, you tell yourself. And the cycle begins again.
If this sounds like you, then you may benefit from learning how to manage your giving more effectively, so that you can stay balanced in your relationships with others, and avoid this cycle of unhealthy giving and withdrawal. Here are 3 things to remember every time you get the compulsion to do something special for someone else.
1) Remember that giving is a choice. You can choose to paint their kitchen wall, or not. You can choose to host their birthday party, or not. You are never free to say 'yes' to anything, unless you are also free to say 'no'. If you want to get better at saying 'yes', then practice saying 'no'. Give yourself permission to say 'no' to your own overwhelming desire to give.
2) Remember that giving enhances relationships when it is a natural part of the relationship dynamic. If you treat giving like it is an 'economy'—where you do this for someone in the hopes that they will do something for you—then you will likely be disappointed. Give without expectation and you will enrich the relationship. It’s all about the connection.
3) Remember to consider the impact of your giving. Are you giving what you wish to give or what they wish to receive? Focused giving can be more impactful and deepen a relationship faster. By focusing your desire to give on what the other person wishes to receive, giving feels more intimate. And you can give less frequently, which will stave off any lingering negativity that might be lurking within you.
Once you get the hang of this, the cycle of unhealthy giving will slowly disappear. You will no longer feel worn down by your giving frenzies, or overwhelmed with resentment or disappointment. You can let your authentic giving spirit soar!