Over the weekend I met a friend for a walk around the seawall. Dee is a wonderful person I met a few years ago and we’ve often said that we met exactly when we both needed one another. She was going through a divorce and I was struggling through the end of a horrible relationship. We supported one another through the healing process and really gave each other the courage to heal and have the courage to believe in our biggest dreams. She and I have talked often about our past and currently relationships in very supportive ways, so it was no surprise that we started talking again about how we were doing in our love lives. She said something during our talk that really struck a chord. She thought the reason my past relationship failed was because I sacrificed too much. At first I wasn’t sure that was right, but she started lining it up for me and I couldn’t say anything . We all sacrifice for the people we love, but there is such thing as giving too much for not enough return.
Here’s the list. I gave up my home in the city for his home in the suburbs. I’m the type of person that loves the hustle and excitement of the big city, so moving to a place where the closest coffee shop was fifteen blocks away and everything closes at 7 was a real change. I don’t usually get home from work until 7 or 8, so basically once I got home there was nothing to do. He was a hiker and mountain biker, so I gave up my lifestyle to make his easier. At the time I didn’t mind because I loved him and I wanted him to be happy. I tried to make it work. Moving away from the city meant I gave up the ease in which I saw my friends. They went from living a few blocks away to at least a 30 minute drive away. I gave up my food routine and adapted to his way of eating because he complained about not getting enough of certain things and I was the only one who cooked. I gave up big portions of my weekend because we moved into a bigger place than I was used too, and he didn’t really help clean. He tried sometimes, but he just didn’t get it and I didn’t want to nag. Now none of this seems particularly huge to me. We all give certain things up. But what Dee pointed out was that I got nothing in return.
I’m not a give and take person all the time. I believe in karma and positive energy, and sometimes you help someone just to help them. I don’t always need a reward or payment. But in a relationship, there needs to be a certain equality. After awhile, the things I was sacrificing piled up until I started to resent it, and because of how unhappy I was, more and more things started falling away from me. I sacrificed my health because I was depressed. I was eating poorly and eventually ended up medicated for anxiety. I stopped seeing my friends because getting to them was too difficult, and I felt guilty about asking them to trek out to me. I sacrificed every ounce of confidence I had at events because I was constantly worried about him and his social anxiety problems. I sacrificed time with my family, because his anxiety made it hard for him to visit them, but it had no affect on seeing his family, so we visited them way more than we visited mine. In short, it became all about him and not enough about me.
I let this happen. I don’t want to throw blame all over him because at any point I could have said ‘this is too much’, but I didn’t realize it was happening. I had started living his life, a life that was not compatible with who I am.
Now let’s look at his side of things, because it’s always important to see both sides of any argument or situation. What did he sacrifice for me? We moved to his neighbourhood for his hobbies… He had to start paying rent because he lived with his parents before, but that’s something he would have had to do regardless unless he wanted to live with his parents forever. We ate his food, stuck to his dietary needs, focused on his mental health problems. We hung out with his friends most of the time, because he never, not once, ever hung out with my friends. I tried his hobbies because he told me my hobbies ‘weren’t really his thing.’ I’m just having a hard time figuring out what he sacrificed that equalled what I did. Maybe he would have chosen a living situation deeper in the forest, but now that we’re apart he’s moved into the same neighbourhood we lived in together. I think he struggled so much with his anxiety, maybe he felt like he was working really hard at being in the relationship, so to him that was a big sacrifice.
It’s hard to see someone else’s point of view in these situations, but the major points seem to show me giving into him, and not the other way around! And what was the result of all of this? I was horribly depressed, I had no confidence in myself, my health suffered, I gave up all the things I loved, I lost touch with a huge group of friends… basically I lost my identity.
Again, this isn’t supposed to be a blame game. I didn’t realize what was happening. I didn’t realize how much I was working at being the person he needed. If I had remained who I was and made sure I was happy before anything else, maybe the relationship would have worked because I wouldn’t have allowed myself to fall into this trap. Think about how unhappy you are in your relationship. Is it because you resent how much you put in and don’t feel they’re putting in the same? It’s possible they don’t even realize they’re doing it. Sacrifices have to be made on both sides, otherwise you’re always going to feel like the less important person.
I have a story where this over-sacrificing reached a point of no-return. I feel like it started the downward spiral that ended our relationship, where I finally said ‘you’ve taken too much from me’. A few years ago my dad passed away. It was awful. In my whole life it still sticks out as the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. For months and years I was affected. To say goodbye, my mom decided we were going to travel as a family to England for a few weeks, because that’s where my dad was born. My boyfriend came with us. We’d been together for years and he’d been there through all of it.
Now this is the part that really hurts me. This trip was both wonderful and awful for me. Even writing about it now makes my heart hurt. Remembering my dad and being there was like salt on an open wound. Every night I lay in bed awake and cried because I missed him so very much. But on this trip, my boyfriend suffered from severe anxiety because he’d never really travelled before. Because I cared about him, I spent a lot of time helping him and taking care of him, making sure the trip was as easy as possible for him. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized that trip should have been about me. My dad, my open wound, my families loss, and the trip was about my boyfriend and his anxiety. Thankfully I hid it from the rest of my family, but my time was taken up worrying about him. And he allowed it. He even demanded it. He looked at me and guilted me into taking care of him.
Even now I find myself tearing up. My boyfriend stole from me the time meant to say goodbye to my dad. That entire trip I was so stressed about him that I never truly sat down, closed my eyes and felt my dad’s presence. I will never get that back. That was a sacrifice too big for me to make and looking back on it, our relationship never recovered after that. Yup, I’m getting emotional now. That was a time in he should have put everything aside and sacrificed to support me. I don’t normally ask for it, and I didn’t on this trip, but he should have been able to.
What I want you to take away from this point is not to selfishly cling to everything you thing you want. I yo-yo’d pretty drastically after that relationship and went through a pretty big phase of ‘it’s my life and no one will take anything from me’. But sometimes the sacrifice is worth it. You may sacrifice that perfect apartment to start a new life with the person you love and you’ll never look back. You may give up a family vacation to go with them and support them through something horrible, and it will make you closer. But if you’re doing all the sacrificing and one day you turn around and need that person to support you, then there should be no question that they do. My trip to England should have seen my boyfriend support and be there for me, and hold my while I cried myself to sleep. That was a sacrifice he should have been able to make. Because he didn’t, all the sacrifices I’d made until then suddenly weighed so heavily on me I felt like I was sacrificing. I realized I was paying too much for a relationship that wasn’t making me happy. Despite the fact that I truly loved him, there was no way we could recover from that.
Because of that event, I fully resented every single thing I sacrificed for him. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I did. I started to blame him for why I was unhappy. ‘I moved here for you’ I would say in my mind. I started to truly hate where I lived because of it. Every time he asked me for something, that resentment blossomed in my chest until I couldn’t look at him. Instead of lashing out and being angry, I suffered silently, until depression took over.
Some people take and take and rarely give in return. They don’t realize they’re doing it and maybe you don’t either, until it’s too late.