Should one be the “giver” in a relationship?

hey hey peg asks:

I have been dating this guy for 9 months and lately I haven’t been feeling that great about my relationship. I just want to know if I am in an emotionally healthy relationship or not. Since we started dating this guy has stopped texting me first. I am always the one who is supposed to text him first and he has never given me a clear reason for that. Sometimes when he is angry he says some stuff which really hurts me, and he has also blamed me for his anger a few times, even though I didn’t do anything.  But he does apologize when he realizes his mistake. We also communicate less because I am sick of always texting and calling him first. Sometimes I just feel he doesn’t care about me anymore, and it hurts very bad. He also fails to understand that I have problems in my life too; he thinks my life is sorted but it’s not. And lately we have been fighting a lot. He gets mad a lot due to his studies and responsibilities, so I try to understand his moods, but sometimes I feel there is no one who understands me the way I try to understand and support people. I am always so kind and nice to everyone, I always care about everyone, but when I feel alone there is no one to understand me. I have to deal with all that crap on my own, always. I feel like I should stop caring about everything, but no matter how much I try I can’t. I am not like that. I have always been taught to care, to help. I feel confused. Is this relationship healthy? Should I stop caring about everyone?

Hi hey hey peg –

In a way it looks like you’re asking two questions here, but actually I think it’s just one.  If I understand correctly, you’re asking whether it’s right or wrong to be “the giver” all the time in relationships – whether romantic or other kinds.  And my easy answer is: Only If You Want To.

Let me explain. Like most dogs, I love doing things for others.  I love guarding my yard, I love giving Handsome hundreds of licks when he’s feeling down, and of course I love helping out my Pack members here.  I don’t receive anything back for this, and I don’t want to; I just love doing it for the sake of doing it.

However, I also get lots of nice things in life.  Handsome takes care of me and makes sure I have food and shelter and all the love he can give.  And you guys make me feel a hundred feet tall when I’m able to help you.  So it works out.

But in other areas, there is a give-and-take in life.  When Handsome takes me for a walk, I know he can’t stop at every smell I find interesting, but I need to stop sometimes, and need him to be okay with it.  Also, when we greet each other, we shower each other with affection – it’s not just me licking him or just him petting me.  And if one of these situations became one-sided, I’d be bothered.

Like you.

What I see as wrong in your relationship is that it’s all about what he wants at any time.  He feels okay blowing up at you in anger, and then is okay with apologizing when he realizes something wasn’t your fault.  Well what about him holding back on those blow-ups, or even better, checking in with you to see if he ought to blow up or not?  And what’s this nonsense about you always being the one to text first?  Does he never miss you, or wonder how your day went, or just have something he wants to say or ask?

And in the rest of your life, it sounds like a similar situation.  You feel like you’re the one doing all the caring, and no one is caring about you.  Well that’s an awful feeling! 

Now I don’t know that no one cares about you, or that your boyfriend isn’t interested in you.  But it’s clear that neither he nor your other friends are making you feel cared about!  And you need that!

So my suggestion is to do a mix of pulling back on all the giving you’re doing, and letting these people know what you need.  For example, with your boyfriend, just tell him, “Hi, I’m guessing you want some space, so I won’t bother you till you tell me you want to check in with me.”  And when he asks what gave you that idea, just say “Well, you never text me; you just wait for me to text you.  So I figure that must be proof of something.”  And see what happens.

And similarly, when you feel you’re giving too much to your friends or family, just pull back, and give what feels right.  And if someone asks why you’re not doing more, just explain that you don’t like feeling like you’re giving more than they are. 

But there’s one important part of all this, that might be really difficult: try to say these things to these people WITH NO SENSE OF BLAME OR RESENTMENT.  Just be as casual and friendly as you can. 

It’s like when I’ve played fetch with some children who get the idea of fake-throwing the ball to watch me chase after it and get frustrated.  They think it’s hilarious the first time they do it, so they keep doing it, till, at some point, I stop running for it.  I don’t growl or snarl at them, I just cheerfully walk away and do something else, since they’re not playing the way I like.  And that changes them!  They stop trying to trick me.  Instead, they start actually throwing the ball, hoping I’ll be willing to restart the game the way it was before!

And that’s what I’m hoping for for you.  That your boyfriend starts texting you, and stops putting unfair blames on you.  And that your friends and family stop expecting you to do way more than they do.

Except – and I’m repeating my first point here – Except when you want to do more than is returned.  When you want to just give and give and love the feeling of giving.  I sure don’t want to get in the way of that!

Because it feels so good to do!

All my best,


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