Are you losing yourself? Do you feel like you're giving too much in a relationship? This guide will tell you the signs and what you can do about it.

"I'm a giver. I give until it hurts".

Have you said those words? Or thought them?

Have people said that about you?

But sometimes, you feel like you've given it all away and gotten nothing back.

It's possible to give and feel good, and get things in return. But if you're giving too much and to the wrong people, it can leave you empty.

Here's how to understand if you're giving too much in a relationship and what you can do to break the cycle.

Giving too much in a relationship starts with you

Before we look at the signs and how you can fix it, it's important to understand a few things.

If you're giving too much of yourself, chances are you're doing it in other relationships, too. It's not strictly related to your romantic involvements.

Do you have a friend who always needs something? And you find that you give it, and never receive even a thank you?

That can also be true of your family members.

While we can choose our friends and partners, we can't choose our family. But we can choose how we allow them to treat us.

Part of that is also knowing what a healthy relationship is (and isn't).

And when thinking about what a healthy relationship is, be careful not to ascribe to common relationship myths which include the beliefs that happy couples never fight, do everything together, have amazing sex all the time, and that basically, everything is blissful 100% of the time.   

So, how'd this happen?

Figuring out if you're giving too much starts with understanding yourself. Sometimes, especially in a new relationship, you aren't thinking about things clearly.

If it's a romantic relationship, that's especially true.

Your brain is flooded with dopamine and other "feel-good" chemicals. The sky is bluer and the birds sing more sweetly.

And just like you're in Vegas, all of a sudden, you're going all in. Before you know it, you're heart-deep in a relationship.

But as time goes on, something doesn't seem quite right. You may not think about it all the time, but sometimes it hits you.

You feel drained, tired, maybe a little sick inside. And then you may start feeling resentful.

You're giving away all the best parts of yourself and not getting much (or anything) in return.

So, are you giving too much in a relationship?

Here are the likely symptoms, and what you can do to change it.

The signs of being an over-giver

Just like driving your car, there are signs along the way that you're giving too much in a relationship.

Some are subtle and some are more like the flashing lights at a train crossing.

Learning to read the signs is half the battle.

1. Helping no longer feels good

Many times, helping someone that needs it just feels good.

Even the simple act of holding the door for a stranger whose hands are full can feel nice.

But is there someone in your life who you're always helping? Because they always seem to need it?

It may even be to the point you feel like they don't do anything for themselves. If it's too excessive, you could be entering the dangerous waters of co-dependency.

If you think that could be what's happening in your relationship, it may be time to seek professional help.

Otherwise, if you're helping and getting nothing in return, you may be giving too much.

2. You feel bad about yourself

If you feel like you've been giving too much in a relationship, you may start to blame yourself.

That it's your fault someone else is taking advantage of you. That is partially true: no one can take from you what you're not willing to give.

But, feeling bad about yourself deepens the spiral of unhappiness and resentment.

Feeling burned out can also be a sign that you might be giving too much.

3. Giving has no limits

We've mostly been talking about giving and how it feels.

But giving too much in a relationship isn't just restricted to your heart. You're likely giving your time, and possibly your money.

And when you're giving too much of your time away, you may find that...

4. You've lost other relationships

When you are giving too much in a relationship, other areas of your life begin to suffer.

You don't take the time to hang out with your friends anymore. It's even possible that they've confronted you about your behaviour, so you've stopped seeing them.

Both are signs that your relationship may no longer be healthy for you.

What you can do about it

Now that you understand the signs of giving too much in a relationship, what can you do about it?

Don't immediately throw the baby out with the bathwater, as the saying goes.

It's possible things may still be salvaged.

Here are some ways to begin to repair and get back on the road to a healthy relationship.

1. Communication

People often say that communication is an important part of a relationship.

It's actually the entire relationship, not just a piece. From what you say to how you act, you're constantly communicating with your partner.

Now it's time to be more conscious in your communication.

You need to explain how you're feeling, and what you'd like to do about it. This isn't about all-out confrontation.

It took time to get this way, it will take time to repair it.

Here are 8 tips that can help improve your communication skills.

2. Take time for yourself

There might be things that you used to love to do but gave up so you'd have more time for your relationship.

And yes, that happens in a healthy relationship as a natural progression.

It becomes unhealthy when you've given everything up, though. Get back into your favourite hobby, or learn a new skill or sport.

A little distance and time for yourself will give you some perspective on things.

3. Be the kind of person you want to be: to yourself, first

We all want to be the type of friend/lover/family member we want to have.

Kind, patient, helpful, giving. Always there if someone needs you.

The same holds true in the way you treat yourself. We are often our own harshest critics.

Helping others in a healthy way begins helping yourself first.

I would love to hear your comments or answer any questions you might have about this post.

Yours sincerely,   

Dr. Carissa Coulston, Clinical Psychologist

BSc(Hons), MPsychol(Clinical), PhD, MAPS