“A relationship is a privilege, not a chore.
Love should be appreciated, not taken for granted.”
– Trent Shelton
You know something is wrong when you feel like part of the scenery of your partner’s life.
Perhaps conversation is limited. Maybe he or she doesn’t notice you or seek you out. It seems that no matter how you try to draw your partner to you, they just behave as though you’re just another box checked off in their life.
Does the most important person in your world act as if you’re important only when they get to you? Why aren’t they making you priority one on their “to do” list?
It sounds as if your significant other may have forgotten how significant you are. To be certain, consider these additional tell-tale signs that you are being taken for granted, and some ideas for what you can do about it.
1. You go the extra mile, but your partner can’t seem to even meet you halfway
Essentially, your efforts are being used against you. Your special dinners, romantic gestures, thoughtful notes, and considerate planning are treated dismissively. Your partner acts as though they are entitled to such treatment. Not as though such loving behavior should be reciprocated and cherished as special relationship-building activity.
What to do?
Accept that you’ve done too much with too little return. Your partner is used to getting what they want without putting in any relationship work.
To turn things around, they must sense that there is a consequence for their lack of effort. They must feel compelled to pull their portion of your relationship’s weight.
You can expect respect, and require it from your partner. Pull back. Say “No” more often. Require mutual responsibility for your union.
2. Your value is diminished by lack of appreciation or celebration
Does your partner compliment you, praise you, or thank you for loving them so well? Do your best qualities, attributes, or gifts receive any attention?
You’re being taken for granted if your partner spends little time making you feel special.
What to do?
Determine why you have allowed this to go on so long. Do you believe you are worthy of your partner’s appreciation? Remind yourself of your own worth. List or name what you bring to the table. Appreciate yourself first, then remind your partner that you are a good partner and why.
Communicate that you would appreciate more time spent mutually admiring each other. If he or she refuses, consider such lack of respect as a sign that you likely need to reevaluate the relationship.
3. Your relationship is marred by power imbalances and unfair relationship rules
Do you often find that attitudes or behaviors your partner finds unacceptable for you do not apply to him or her? This is both a sign of being taken for granted, as he or she doesn’t believe you’ll address the inequity, and controlling behavior that could lead to abuse. He or she is more parent than lover.
What to do?
You must not tolerate inequality or powerlessness in your most intimate relationship. Free will and autonomy are important factors in any healthy relationship. Seek to remove any hint of manipulation or hypocritical interaction by challenging the dynamic directly. Invite your partner to meet with a couple’s counselor to help iron out a more balanced relationship. Exit immediately if the relationship seems unsafe.
4. Your presence isn’t important
What function does your presence serve in your relationship? Do you get the sense that you are expendable or might be easily traded out with any other fond friend without much trouble? He or she may be too comfortable and much too unaware of what life would be like without you.
What to do?
You may need to test that theory. Put some distance between yourself and your partner. Take a step back to work on fulfilling your own emotional needs, and allow your partner to go it alone for a while.
5. They never initiate or engage
Communication is central to your relationship. Without it, trust, intimacy, and deeper connection can’t occur. Are you the one who constantly seeks to engage in meaningful conversation or pursues communication on important topics? Does it seem that your partner could take or leave such key interaction?
It’s difficult to believe that someone really cares if they won’t even work up the energy or initiative to engage in regular conversation. You can’t keep the relationship connected by yourself, and it isn’t fair to live “lonely in love.”
What to do?
Relationships are give and take. Ask yourself whether your relationship would endure if you stopped giving so much and expected more interaction and engagement. Propose couples counseling as a means of improving communication between you. If they refuse, again, know your worth. Communication is a basic expectation for any relationship.
Without common ground there, you may do better to pursue a healthier relationship with a more emotionally available companion.
All in all, being taken for granted is not something to tolerate.
It’s okay to stand up for yourself and seek a balanced, mutually satisfying union. Talk about what matters to you. Share how you feel. That is the only way to know whether your partner is willing to make the changes necessary to nurture both of your relationship desires.
Whatever the outcome, prize the potential of cultivating your best life and healthy, respectful relationships. Even the best relationship for you right now is the one you have with yourself.
Devote your time to those who deserve you. You needn’t convince anyone that you are worthy of their attention, friendship or love. Someone who truly loves you will jump at the chance to show it.
Take the first step…
If you’re ready to take a step toward changing your life and relationships for the better, I would like to help. Please contact me by phone or email so that we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT