Am I being Selfish?
Have you ever felt as though a relationship is beginning to bog you down? It feels that you both are not 'at the same level'?
As a therapist, I see this happen with many people in different relationships (friendships, family ties, romantic relationships, marriage, etc.). Especially when they are in their process of healing.
I have often experienced clients express: 'I don't feel like the relationship is serving me any purpose, anymore'; 'My needs or capacity to provide in the relationship has changed, and I don't know how to communicate that.. It feels selfish and weird on my part... Continuing the relationship in the ongoing pattern feels like a burden, and I don't want to carry on like this, anymore.'
Have you ever wondered why is it so? What to do about it?
It inadvertently leads us to judge ourselves. Let’s explore this phenomena, and also some ways
to navigate it.
Often as we grow and mature in life, our relationships: the needs, the expectations and our contribution in the relationship also changes. For instance, between a parent-child, in the growing years of childhood, the child wants constant care, contact and learning from the parent. However, when the child enters adulthood, the relationship changes a lot, where the parent’s constant involvement in the child’s life reduces to a large extent. The role becomes more of being present when needed, and of a friendship. The space for privacy, and for other relationships increases.
The relationship undergoes a change from the parent’s end also. Where the parents do not want to be teaching and rearing the child, rather share certain responsibilities with them; where they do not want most of their day and life being consumed in caring for the child. The parent and the child can take their individual time and effort to be conscious of the change in the nature of the relationship and their role in it.
When either of the Beings is not ready/unable to adapt and change, the relationship often comes to a standstill & begins to be left behind.
This is true for all relationships.
Transition and change in all relationships is inevitable, because we as individuals grow and develop. With the phases in our life, our needs, expectations and roles in the same relationship also change. In terms of our contribution, what we are receiving from the relationship and the respective individual as well.
This becomes apparent more so, when one is consciously working on their transformation.
Often when the transition in relationships is not organic, or acceptable to either one, it can lead to friction, and a lot of harbored feelings. It can bring in the feelings of resentment, abandonment, and also the guilt for feeling this way. This often happens when the relationship doesn’t align with their Being(s) anymore.
It leads to one feeling as though they are being held back, when they want to move ahead into the next phase of their life. The other partner, on the other hand, might feel as though they are having to try hard to hold the individual in the relationship and where they are at, in the present. It feels like a constant tug of war for both the individuals in the relationship.
It can also feel very uncomfortable or confusing for the individuals to understand or communicate their feelings of what is happening.
Thus, if one is already taking therapy, it may be a good idea to also process the same with your therapist.
For those, not in therapy, here are some pointers that might help to understand the changed dynamics yourself. Also, ways you can communicate with the other individual in the relationship.
1. The change in your needs from the relationship
It’s a good idea to first notice yourself, what you need at present from the other individual and the
relationship, at present. Explicitly putting them down, in your journaling, or on paper is a good practice to have a clear understanding of it yourself.
So noting what you have been receiving from the relationship so far, can also then help note which of those needs do you still have from the relationship, and which of them has changed.
Conversing with the other individual regarding your needs from the relationship and theirs can help bring a consensus, and for the relationship to evolve as well.
2. The proportion of combined efforts, presence, contribution, etc.
Noting what the ratio of yours and the other individual’s contribution in efforts, being present, and involvement in various responsibilities, etc, can be possible or is desirable to achieve can allow both to feel heard and satisfied.
For instance, in a friendship, right now you feel you can only be present relatively 40% of what you have been till now, and mostly be present for listening, and you want to put the rest of your energy and contribution in other aspects of your own life. In a romantic relationship, you might feel that till it is 60-40, and now you want it to be 30-70, and choose to be more present in financial contributions, but not be as much for their emotional support, or house work.
3. The role of both in the relationship
Often in relationships, we assume certain roles that are definitive of certain characters or figures. For instance, the most common is assuming the role of a parent figure to our partner/ friends when caring/looking out for them.
Thus, noticing the role you have been playing and receiving till now, and what role you would want to play.
Also identifying the role you want the other individual to have in your life and in the relationship.
For instance, you feel like in your romantic relationship, more than being a mentor for your partner, you want to be more like friends to share and encourage each other in your paths. Or that in your friendship, you want the friend to be a mentor for you in a certain endeavor of your life.
4. The decision to continue the relationship with the changes and conscious efforts, or to
dissolve the relationship
In the process, you or the partner might not want or be ready for the changes, to put in the effort towards the change. It can be for various reasons. It is then to decide how to continue the relationship if at all. In the sense of the priority or relevance of the relationship in both your lives. Or, it may also lead to a hard, but needed decision to dissolve the relationship.
This leads to clarity, and for both of you to process your feelings, and experiences with regard to each other and the relationship. For which, again, therapy is a safe, and appropriate space to seek support from.
Thus in reflection, it is OK to acknowledge and accept your needs and priorities with regard to the specific relationships changing and evolving, as you do so in your personal life. Along with that, it's also OK if the relationship or the individual is not willing or ready for the change you need. Vocally and authentically, processing and moving ahead with whatever the choice be, is crucial.
For further queries, and to book a session:
- Purvi Balasaria