Are you giving too much in your relationship?
We sometimes lose ourselves in relationships that are important to us. How can you tell if you are simply engaging in healthy accommodation or if you have crossed the line into dysfunction?
It's difficult to find a relationship where each person has the same degree of commitment to the relationship throughout the life of the relationship. This isn't to say "unbalanced relationships" will not work out. As long as the people in the relationship are willing to accommodate each other at various points, then the relationship can maintain its health.
Here are some examples:
1. Your past trauma prevents you from compromise.
It's important for one person to go to the beach for vacation and the other person wants to go to the mountains. The person wanting to go to the mountains recognizes this is more important to his partner, so he accommodates by placing her needs above his own for the good of the relationship. This is healthy.
Now, imagine the person who wants to go to the mountains wants to avoid the beach because when he was young, his sister drowned at the beach. He hates the beach and wants to avoid those painful memories. Is it still a healthy accommodation for him to agree to go, even when it will create undo pain for him? No, this is moving into the area of dysfunction, unless he has decided he wants to overcome his fear and push himself to make the trip to the beach.
2. You change your mind on the non-negotiables.
A couple has been married ten years without children. When they married, they agreed they didn't want children. Now, ten years later, the husband wants to start a family. He has a value that mothers should stay home with her children. He's asking his wife to give up her goal of partnership in her law firm so she can stay home and raise their children that she never wanted in the first place.
She really loves her husband and her professional life. She's torn about what to do. She wants to give her husband what he wants, and at the same time, she doesn't want to give up her career. In the end, she decides to give in and start a family. She takes an indefinite time off from her firm, almost guaranteeing she will never make partner.
3. Your health is impeding on your marital duties.
A man and his wife of 68 years are in their 90s. She has Alzheimer's and he's her primary caregiver. They still live independently in their own home. He's noticing a loss of his own health as he deals with the stresses of providing physical care to his wife, while he watches her mentally deteriorate. He may literally be killing himself to keep his promise of "in sickness and in health."
4. You pressure your partner to step out of their comfort zone.
Let's say one person in a relationship uses drugs and the other person doesn't. The person using drugs wants his girlfriend to experience what he does when he's high, so he asks her to try cocaine with him. She's reluctant. He applies more and more pressure until she gives in and starts using drugs with him.
5. You physically or mentally abuse your partner.
Finally, a married couple seems to have everything going for them. They're upper-middle class, live in a beautiful home, attend all the important social functions, and seem very happy together. However, there's a secret in their marriage: He's physically rough with her and coerces her to engage in degrading sexual acts by telling her these are his fantasies. She gives him what he wants by doing as he requests.
If the person accommodating still gets what he or she wants from the relationship, then it's healthy accommodation. However, if the person doing the accommodating is angry, resentful and demoralized, the behavior is moving into the dysfunctional category.
When the accommodating person in the relationship is no longer getting enough positive from the relationship to balance out the negative, then the line has been crossed into dysfunction. No one can make that determination for the person, other than the person himself.
If you're in a relationship and find yourself having more pain than happiness, you're likely in the dysfunction area. That's not to say it's not possible for you to move back to a healthy accommodation place. Just know that when the pain outweighs the happiness, it's time for some serious reflection.