How to Give to Your Relationship When You Are Maxed Out
We all have times when we feel like we are maxed out and have nothing left to give to others. You are exhausted from work, kids, family obligations, and all of the things. The last thing on your mind is your relationship. You feel like you are doing so much, so why give any more, right?
On the one hand, this makes sense. That stressed feeling initiates our primal state of fight, flight, or freeze. When we operate from this primal state, we are focused on creating a situation in which we will best survive - on our own. This is great when you need to survive, but being in survival mode does not create intimacy.
The fight or flight response will pass; but it is in these stressful times that we get an opportunity to stretch outside of our comfort zones and grow. When we are growing, we are living at a higher level.
The Three Levels of Relationships
The first level of participation in relationships is self-centered, as described above. You may be thinking, “why doesn’t my partner give to me when I do so much?”. This ranks low on the relationship-participation meter. Each partner is focused on fulfilling their individual needs alone.
The second level of participation in relationships involves the other partner but in a give-and-take fashion. “I will do this for you if you do that for me.” At this level, you only give when your partner is giving back. Both level one and two are low-level relationships. There is no growth or intimacy
When you raise the level at which you participate in your relationship to a level three, you prime your relationship and life for greater satisfaction. At level three, both partners are committed to giving to each other unconditionally. They each feel responsible to the other to support that person.
It is when you give beyond yourself and contribute to others that we move into our higher-self and a higher relationship state. It is from this place that we will feel the most fulfilled in our lives and relationships.
Up-leveling Your Relationship
If you are doing all the giving in your relationship and are not open or comfortable with receiving, eventually you will feel depleted and even resentful. If you are taking but not giving, you will feel the relationship has no meaning and want to leave. Relationships are meant to be reciprocal: you need to give in order to receive.
In order to up-level your relationship, you need to put yourself in a state of love - and this can be hard when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed as it is. Yet when you find this loving state, it becomes easier to give and receive the love that you desire from your relationship. And so, during those stressful times, you will have the support and understanding that you need.
So how do you find a state of love when you are running on empty?
Find a State of Love, Even When You Are Depleted
Start by loving yourself. Giving love unconditionally may seem out of reach when you are challenged, but I would ask why are you so burnt out? What are you not doing for yourself? Do you need to ask for more support? Do you need time for yourself? Consider whether you have been loving toward yourself. Giving love is not just about providing others with this gift - it is also about giving love to yourself. Loving yourself creates a deeper connection to self, and in turn, allows you to have more meaningful connections with your partner.
Embrace vulnerability. Research shows that true connection and intimacy with others comes from a willingness to be vulnerable. I always say we are perfectly imperfect human beings. Showing up in your relationship means revealing who you are, what you desire, and with honesty. If you can’t share that you are needing something, then you are withholding from your partnership and the relationship. Connections are built during times of sharing common vulnerabilities. It helps others to know you are human - it makes you relatable.
Practice mindfulness and presence. We live in a busy world and often walk through life in a trance, doing what needs to be done hypnotically. When you take moments throughout the day to breathe and be, you can create a calmer state for yourself. Try this by setting a timer on your phone to remind you to breathe (my Apple watch does this!). When you are more present and aware, you are more likely to handle challenging situations better.
Practice gratitude. Gratitude can help you to feel more positive emotions, build self-esteem, and improve your happiness. Although I do believe that contrast in life allows us to get clearer about what we want, I also believe that being in a negative state more often than not can have devastating effects on our mental health and relationships. Being in a place of negativity keeps you in your own world and disconnected from love. Try to practice gratitude the moment you wake and throughout the day; feeling grateful helps you to see things from a more positive perspective.
Build your relationship skills. Relationships can be challenging, especially when you get caught up in the emotions involved. It can be difficult to step outside of the relationship and see things for a broader perspective. Without perspective, we can get stuck in dynamics that are not serving the relationship or yourself. But when you learn how to communicate with greater skill and navigate the dynamics common in relationships, you will be able to better handle differences and meet your partner at a higher level.
I am the first to admit that some of these tasks are easier than others, and they all require practice. Sometimes we need help to get out of internal and relational sabotaging behaviors. But with a commitment to growth and responsibility to yourself and your partner, you will land in a place of unconditional love, and be able to give and receive in harmony - no matter how “maxed out” you are.