Being a couples therapist, and being in a marriage myself, I have had a lot of time to ponder this question.
It’s obvious that being loving and considerate in a relationship is what we want, and that love and kindness work a whole lot better than being selfish. But…that said, being too considerate can become co-dependency, and that’s not good either.
If you’re not sure what codependency means, it’s when person #1 gets their feelings of self worth through sacrifice of their own needs in order to please person #2. This process can get so habitual that Person #1 can lose touch altogether with their own needs and wants, never being able to say no, or express true feelings.
Usually in this type of relationship one person is the Giver while the other is the Taker. But two people who are co-dependent can also fall in love and form a relationship. In this case both people are trying to second-guess what the other wants in order to give it to them.
Example: You make a decision to do something that you don’t want to do, based upon thinkingthat your partner wants to do it – but you haven’t actually asked. Your partner doesn’t want to do it either but agrees, thinking that you sincerely want to do whatever it is. You both lose. You see how this gets very complicated!
If you are identifying with this syndrome right now, here are some suggestions on how to talk openly with your partner about the cycle you are caught in, and work on it together.
- Validate that you both love the other, want the other to be happy, and that’s a good thing.
- Admit that you give in too often so that the other will like you.
- Admit that because of this pattern sometimes it’s hard to know what you really want.
- Commit to more honest self-searching about how you feel in a specific situation before expressing what you want, and agree to being more courageous in expressing your real feelings.
- Reassure each other that you value and love each other even when there is disagreement.
- Remind each other that ‘surprise’ gifts and gestures are appreciated even if they don’t hit the mark, or evoke the hoped-for reaction.
- Practice building trust in your own self worth, striving to believe that your value goes far beyond people-pleasing.
- Practice trusting that your partner loves you even if you don’t want or need exactly the same things at the same time, and that you are loved even if you don’t always comply with what the other wants.
A lot can be done to make relationships better through love and good communication. Consider couples therapy to get some help changing these habits. If you are hesitant about doing therapy read my book SOMEONE TO TALK TO; What Really Happens in Therapy and How it Can Work for You.