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The high psychological cost of giving too much for a relationship

The high psychological cost of giving too much for a relationship

June 24, 2021

When we are asked to describe what it feels like to experience love, most of us say, not without reason, that it goes far beyond words.

The infatuation comes accompanied by a hormonal torrent , and in a way, our brain reacts as if we consumed a drug every time that person is close.

But in the foundations of couple relationships there is not only a cascade of hormones: there are also expectations . It is a component of the affective life that can be expressed in words, since they are simple ideas, about how it is or how a courtship should be.

However, despite being in the realm of words, we often ignore our own expectations, and that is precisely what can cause them to become a mental trap. And is that expectations can transform us into slaves of our own relationship, to the point where the person who gives without receiving is always us .


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Asymmetric relationships and their effects

Before understanding the role that expectations play in all this, we can stop to see what it is that makes To try too hard for a relationship cause so much discomfort

If something characterizes asymmetric relationships, that is, those in which it is always the same person who strives and sacrifices himself, it is a mixture of fatigue, stress and impotence. Fatigue is due to the fact that, materially and psychologically, Making the relationship "work" always depends only on us . There is no one at our side in an experience that, paradoxically, has its reason for being in the fact of sharing something exciting.


This does not mean only that we will make efforts to face difficult situations, but that it will also be up to us to decide at all times what decision to make, to choose the least bad option so that courtship one step further forward without having solved the underlying problem and knowing that it will reappear sooner or later. It is this last that generates stress: the anticipatory anxiety of knowing that we have only achieved momentary relief.

Impotence goes hand in hand with despair , and in them there is a paradox: the expectations that cause these sensations are, at the same time, the lens through which we examine our love problem to see if we can find a way out.

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Why expectations can create an emotional quagmire

To understand what is the psychological impact of giving everything for a relationship, you have to understand that the expectations about a courtship will always be there . Having beliefs about what a commitment of this kind will be or how it should be allows us to make it gain meaning, to point in one direction. That means that asymmetric relationships in which someone is constantly sacrificed by the other person do not appear simply because of the existence of those expectations.


How is the problem born, then? People who bet too much on a relationship do so in part because they have a value system in which the pure sacrifice is seen as something good, dignifying . From this perspective, situations of constant exploitation and abuse of power by our partner not only do not warn us that we are in a toxic relationship, but give more reasons to continue sacrificing for it, to continue testing that ability of sacrifice without yielding to adversity.

In these trap-relationships the problem is that the long history of personal sacrifices made for the relationship to work is a reason to continue doing so indefinitely. It is a loop , a phenomenon in which the causes of this constant betting on the relationship are, at the same time, the effect of continuing to do so at the expense of our health.

Why do we sacrifice ourselves in this way for the relationship?

We have already seen that the asymmetric relationships in which one person gives everything and the other hardly strives are due in large part to the effect that certain expectations have on us: in particular, the expectation of continue forward despite adversity that can arise, whatever they may be and without thinking too much about their anticipation.

But ... what psychological mechanisms explain that we can behave in such an absurd way in one of the most important areas of our lives? Fundamentally it is one that is called "cognitive dissonance".

Cognitive dissonance and sacrifices that never end

Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of discomfort that appears when we have in mind two ideas or beliefs that contradict each other and to those who give importance. To make that feeling unpleasant (and that can become an obsession that occupies our attention constantly), one of the ideas must "win" to the other.

However, this battle of beliefs almost never comes to an end through the use of reason . In fact, we usually do odd jobs "to make the cognitive dissonance go away.

For example, in the case of asymmetric relations, these ideas are usually the following:

  • Real relationships do not end, and you have to sacrifice for them.
  • That discomfort that the relationship produces is avoidable.

In this belief struggle, it could be said that the second option is more attractive, since it offers a way out and is linked to a sense of well-being. And, nevertheless, many people opt for the first one. Why? Because it's the one that makes that our beliefs and our vision of things wobble less .

In case of assuming that a relationship in which another person does not put on their part is not a relationship that suits us, we would have to face many other cognitive dissonances, because our self-image would have been very touched: it would be demonstrated that this sacrifice for something that has formed part of one's identity has not made sense and we should build a new vision of things that allows us to feel good about ourselves and our decisions.

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The earlier you cut, the better

That is why it is important to detect situations in which our expectations act as a prison for our emotional life .

Even though relationships are a thing of more than one person, cognitive dissonance does let us be the ones who boycott us , transforming the discomfort produced by unhealthy expectations into a reason to keep betting on that source of discomfort.


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