Patterns of Over-Giving in Relationships

Over-giving is hands down one of the most common relationship patterns that I see in the women that I coach, and it shows up all over the place in all kinds of relationships.

Over-giving is the relational pattern of consistently giving more than you are receiving in a relationship, to the point of your own depletion and detriment.

For women, this runs deep. This goes wayyyy back to the fact that women were *property* for millennia, and their only worth and value was considered to be how much they gave, how well they took care of others, and how many children they could have.

Of course, we have moved well beyond this (praises be), but many of these insidious mindsets are still passed down to women today.

What Over-Giving Looks Like

In a partnership:

It’s common for this to show up in one of two ways–

First, it looks like doing an unfair share of the household chores or domestic load.

Secondly, it can look like doing more of the emotional labor in the relationship (consistently being the initiator of difficult conversations, compromise, growth-oriented activities, etc.).

At work or in your business:

This can look like having no work boundaries and working overtime, working on weekends, having your work bleed into your personal life, taking on any project your boss asks you to do even if you’re already overloaded, over-giving to your clients (always going above and beyond what they paid for, leading to burnout)

In friendships:

Always being the initiator of texting or hanging out, consistently putting in more time, energy, and effort into the relationship (beyond it just being a phase), giving more than you receive to the point of resentment.

In families:

Taking on family members problems as their own in order to “help” or “fix” the situation (enabling) while the family member doesn’t put the same amount of effort into their own problem.

Why Do You Over-Give?

There are two common reasons that I find women over-giving in their relationships:

  1. To Give Them a Sense of Worth/Value

If you feel shaky about your worth/value, over-giving allows you to over-compensate by trying to “prove” your worth/value to others by how much you give.

Of course this is likely subconscious, but the internal subconscious thoughts tend to be something like, “If I give enough, then they’ll know I’m valuable”.

In actuality, over-giving is an attempt to control or manipulate another person’s perception of you so that you can feel better about yourself.

I know that last line may feel like a hard thing to swallow, but I think it’s some hot truth, so I’m going to say it again:

Over-giving is an attempt to control or manipulate another person’s perception of you so that you can feel better about yourself.

And what sucks is–it doesn’t really make you feel better about yourself, it just leaves you depleted.

2. Perfectionism

Perfectionism is very different from healthy striving.

Healthy striving is trying your best, while also accepting that set-backs and failure are a natural part of growth, learning, and life.

Perfectionism has no tolerance for anything less than the absolute best 100% of the time, and often ties your worth/value to how “perfectly” you do things.

High achievers are often (not always) perfectionists, and let’s be honest, that perfectionism has it’s perks and is largely rewarded in our society.

Perfectionism *can* in fact help you achieve a lot and get a lot of praise, especially in the work world, but it comes at a high cost.

The downside of that perfectionism is what leads to the over giving–

a rigid insistence that *you* do it better than everyone else, insanely high standards and expectations for anyone else to do it *exactly like you*, critiquing what someone else helps you with + being dissatisfied with it, and making them feel like what they do to help is never enough.

This perfectionism pattern leads to you not wanting anyone to help you, and no one else wanting to help you either because of your impossible standards.

How To Break The Over-Giving Pattern:

Heal Your Relationship With Yourself

It’s through healing your relationship with yourself that you no longer will feel the need to control or manipulate someone else’s perception of you in order to feel better about yourself.

Healing your relationship with yourself looks like consistently speaking to yourself as you would your best friend, treating yourself like your best friend, honoring and accepting your emotions, honoring your capacity/energy, supporting yourself, learning to trust yourself, giving yourself acceptance and compassion instead of constant criticism and critique.

Cultivating this type of relationship with yourself takes *time* like any other relationship, but it shifts every other relationship you have.

Your relationship with yourself is the foundation of all other relationships.

Let Go of Toxic Perfectionism

I know you may not want to hear this, but this requires getting comfortable with discomfort of not having it done “just so” or to your regular perfectionistic standards.

This requires wanting to receive help more than you want things to be “right”, and learning to thank people for helping rather than reflexively critiquing what wasn’t done just the way you may like.

It also may require you to JUST LEAVE IT and NOT DO IT, already. (Ask me how I know!)

I used to get so upset at my husband for not doing the dishes, and told myself that he wouldn’t do them if I just left them because I’m a “put them away as soon as they hit the sink” kinda gal.

He’d always tell me just to leave the dishes, and he’d do them later when he had time, but it drove me crazy to see them sitting in the sink, so I’d cave and do them.

It took me letting go of my immediate urgency and time frame and being willing to be a bit flexible to be able to receive the help I wanted and needed.

Learn to Receive

You may have lots of Stories about what receiving help means:

I’m weak. I’m incompetent. I’m insufficient, etc.

Sometimes people have attached all sorts of not-necessarily-true-at-all meaning to receiving help, and it’s made them close down to receiving all together.

Learning to open up and receive is a practice that will likely feel uncomfortable at first.

Start with small things that feel less triggering, and work up to bigger things that feel like a much bigger ask.

Like anything, this is a muscle and a skill that you can learn to build!

Healthy Boundaries

Know where you begin and others end. Understand what you are responsible for, and what you aren’t.

Knowing what your boundaries are and being able to convey them with kindness is a way of respecting yourself and making sure that you are honored in your relationships, as well as the other person.

Knowing your boundaries starts with understanding and being aware of your own internal states, and being in touch with your own capacity (think of this as what you have energy for).

When we are out of touch with ourselves, we don’t know what to draw a boundary around, likely until we are already depleted or we are angry and resentful.

Until we have healthy boundaries and can give from overflow, we will likely always have an empty cup.

These are the areas that I predominantly focus on with my clients when they have patterns of over-giving, specifically tailoring it to their needs and life circumstances, with phenomenal results.

If you see yourself in any of the above patterns, I want you to know how common this is.

As women, this is the way that we are socialized (it’s not your fault) — and it is our responsibility to break these patterns if we want them to stop with us.

You are worthy of a *reciprocal* relationship where you give *and* receive.

In order to be *in relationship*, there has to be *two* of us, not only one person attempting to carry the entire load.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on patterns of over-giving, your own experiences, and how this landed for you. Please feel free to comment below and let me know.

Much love,

Kim

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kim Kimball

Life coach helping ambitious women have thriving relationships with partners, friends, family, + coworkers by healing codependency. www.kimkimballcoaching.com