'I Do Everything For My Partner But It's Become A One-Way Street'

It can be an extremely isolating experience.
Hiding from the crowd, avoidance and depression. Staying at home
Olga Rolenko via Getty Images
Hiding from the crowd, avoidance and depression. Staying at home

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Reciprocity is key in relationships. Whether it’s friends, family, or your partner, everyone wants to feel an equal exchange of effort in a relationship. So, when you feel that this isn’t happening, you can start to get frustrated or even upset.

This is the case for this week’s reader, Tom.

“I feel like I continuously give to my partner but she doesn’t reciprocate that back. I buy her everything she wants, try and comfort her when she’s upset, but when I ask for validation for my feelings or want a cuddle she can not be bothered to fulfil my needs,” Tom says.

“I’m not okay with this, is our relationship over?” Tom asks. Clearly, Tom loves his partner but he’s frustrated with her lack of effort, what should Tom do?

Co-founder of app SoSyncd, Jessica Alderson writes in. She understands that being in a relationship where one person is giving so much yet not receiving the same energy back can be a deeply painful experience.

What would you say to the reader?

“If this dynamic persists, it can be incredibly damaging to the relationship, as well as one’s own self-esteem,” Alderson says.

Eventually, it can cause people to question their worth and desirability. “If you feel insignificant or devalued in your relationship, it’s likely that resentment will build up over time,” she adds.

Alderson can see how Tom is making bids for connection that are repeatedly being shut down by his partner, either intentionally or unintentionally.

“Bids for connection are vital in any relationship because they serve as building blocks for emotional intimacy and trust. These bids, whether verbal or nonverbal, are small gestures, cues, or expressions of a person’s need for attention, validation, or connection,” she explains.

Tom describes asking for a hug which is an attempt to connect both physically and emotionally, but these attempts are repeatedly rejected or ignored.

The Gottman Institute has conducted extensive research and identified the importance of “turning towards” bids for connection in relationships,” Alderson adds.

When someone responds positively to these bids for connection it creates a sense of safety, security, and validation within the relationship. “When partners consistently engage and respond to each other’s bids, it fosters emotional closeness and, ultimately, a stronger bond,” she says.

What should we do if we feel like our partner isn’t reciprocating the effort we give them?

The first thing you should do is try expressing how you feel. “Talk to them about how their behaviour makes you feel and let them know that you think there is an imbalance in the relationship. Try to use “I” statements as much as possible to avoid sounding accusatory or confrontational,” Alderson explains.

Though it’s not easy, try to listen to your partner’s perspective because it can be helpful to understand the root cause of their behaviour. Perhaps they have a different love language or they might not fully understand your needs.

“While someone’s actions are what they are, understanding their underlying motivations can help you decide whether to stay in the relationship and try to work through it,” Alderson says.

She continues: “Gaining clarity around your partner’s thought process can also help you to work together to find a solution. For example, a lack of reciprocity that stems from fear of commitment is a different scenario than one that stems from a lack of awareness.”

Make sure you give clear examples of the behaviours you would like to see your partner take in order to make the relationship more balanced, such as giving compliments or spending more quality time together.

What practical advice would you give the reader?

Alderson says the way Tom handles this situation depends on the level of commitment they have to the relationship and whether or not they are willing to work on restoring the connection.

“If Tom wants to try to salvage the relationship, the first step is to open up a dialogue with their partner and express how they are feeling,” she explains.

“Communication is key in any relationship, and even more so during times like this when one partner feels neglected. It is important for the reader to be honest and clear about what they need from their partner in order to feel loved,” Alderson adds.

Maybe your partner wasn’t aware of the imbalance in the relationship, and spelling it out in this way can help her to understand the emotional impact of her actions.

Alderson believes that “approaching the conversation with a mindset of understanding and compassion will lay the best foundation for the couple to work together to heal the relationship.”

However, if his partner isn’t willing to make any changes, then it’s unlikely that the relationship will be fulfilling for him in the long run.
“In this case, it may be best for Tom to take a step back and re-evaluate whether it’s worth continuing the relationship,” Alderson says.
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Rebecca Zisser/HuffPost UK