“Hope for love, pray for love, wish for love, dream for love… but don’t put your life on hold waiting for love.”
~ Mandy Hale
The foundation for a healthy relationship is built on mutual trust, respect, clear and healthy boundaries as well as healthy communication.
We all come from an array of different family of origins (the family we grew up in) and therefore see our relationships through that lens.
For instance our family rules, roles and rituals may be in stark contrast to that of our partners.
This will show up in many different ways within the dynamics of a relationship.
These differences need to be discussed and worked through so that the couple can create their own relationship roles, rules, and rituals that are complementary and unique to that particular couple.
So what happens when you do not feel like you are a priority in a relationship or everything seems to be on your partner’s terms? What are your priorities?
I have given some simple suggestions to help you navigate through these important relationship questions.
Your partner’s terms
In order to feel as an equal in the relationship; compromise is essential.
With that said, there may be times when one person gives more than the other or makes more decisions than the other and then down the road this is reciprocated by the other partner.
However, if every decision is the result of one person in the relationship, resentments will emerge and that unhappiness will eventually contaminate the relationship.
Having a conversation with your partner about how you are feeling can ease the tension and help your partner understand that you want to be included and share in the decision making process.
You are putting in all the effort
One person putting in all the effort can be draining and is not sustainable over the long term. It is necessary to take a look at why you are putting in all the effort? This is where healthy boundaries come in place.
Healthy relationships are give and take.
If one person is putting in all the work; it doesn’t allow their partner or the relationship to grow. Sometimes we need to take a step back from doing all the work and allow the other person a chance to step up and contribute to the relationship.
Coming first in a relationship develops over time. In the beginning stages of any relationship you are developing the foundation discussed earlier and it may be unrealistic to expect to be the priority during this stage.
As the relationship grows and matures; the expectations begin to shift and each of you needs to reprioritize your outside relationships and their influence on the romantic relationship allowing your partner to become the priority.
It is important to examine what your priorities are for a relationship; and then discuss them with your partner.
Relationships take time, effort, forgiveness and compromise.
One of the most effective ways to resolve issues is to exercise open and honest communication about even the most difficult topics.
Normajean Cefarelli, PhD, LMFT – www.balancewithinllc.com
Many of the women that I work with struggle with the thought that they’re not a priority in the relationship.
This can take the form of feeling like other friends, family, hobbies or work is more important to their partner or feeling as if they’re the only one putting work into the relationship.
You might be struggling to figure out what to do with a problem like this.
I find that often this experience is related to women being too passive or anxious about asking for what they need or sharing their experience with their partners.
For example, a partner might say, “Hey, I’m going golfing all morning Saturday” and that statement might prompt sadness or thoughts like, “I wish you would stay home.”
The response; however, is often something like, “Okay, have fun.”
This makes it difficult for partner’s to know how their partner really feels and can lead to avoidable misunderstandings.
Helping women identify more effective ways to respond, such as saying something like, “Oh, that’s disappointing! I was looking forward to spending time together. Could we plan for a date Saturday night?” can improve relationship functioning.
If you’re clear about your reactions, you’re more likely to get your needs met.
Similarly, many women are too passive in their relationships.
They struggle to make clear requests or say no, and instead hint or rely on mind reading.
Often, this is because of fear that if they ask for something it will lead to an argument. Ironically, sacrificing your needs (not asking) for the relationship (avoiding conflict), erodes relationships over time.
Hinting makes it easy for partners to not notice, or not understand requests, which can lead to resentment or thoughts that you’re not important.
Working to increase the intensity of requests to a gentle, but effective level can lead to more equitable, balanced relationships.
There is a whole host of skills designed to help you improve the quality of your relationships.
These skills are called Interpersonal Effectiveness skills and are part of a therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
If you feel like your relationship is unsatisfied, imbalanced, or that you’re not important to your partner, these skills might be able to help you. Having effective, satisfying relationships is essential to having a life worth living.
Jenell Effinger, PhD – www.frtc.ltd
Feeling that you aren’t a top priority to your partner is often a source of conflict in romantic relationships.
If your partner invests more time and energy in other parts of their life outside the relationship, it can be easy to assume this means they are less invested in the relationship than you are or that they love you less.
While it may be easy to jump to these conclusions and feel stuck, this article proposes two important steps to moving through this problematic relationship dynamic in a way that will hopefully feel healthier for you.
Step One: Examine your own Relationship Expectations and Know your Bottom Line
One common trap we often fall into is having unspoken expectations about what a healthy relationship looks like.
Our assumptions about healthy ways of being in relationships may come from our family of origin, our past romantic relationships and the broader culture in which we live.
Because our relationship expectations often don’t line up perfectly with those of our partner, it is important to explore the expectations we hold and relationship needs we have more deeply.
- It may be helpful to take some time to reflect on your family of origin dynamics and your relationship history and attempt to identify patterns that may or may not have worked well for you in the past.
- Therapy can be incredibly helpful in the process of gaining insight around relationship history.
- Journaling and talking with close others can also be helpful in building insight into our own relationship expectations and needs.
It is healthy to question what we consider to be “normal” in a relationship and how things we have assumed are universal may actually be specific to us and our own experiences.
Not only will you be gaining insight around your relationship expectations and needs in this process, but you’ll also likely begin to recognize where your bottom line is in the relationship.
Your bottom line is knowing what you absolutely cannot compromise in a romantic relationship with someone else, regardless of who they are. These are things that, if they persist in the relationship without change, you will feel resentful or perpetually dissatisfied.
No one else can tell you what your bottom line in a relationship is.
This is something you have to discover for yourself and often this process takes time, ongoing self reflection and intention.
Step Two: Talk it out with your Partner
If one of these expectations in your relationship is around how much time to spend together as a couple or how much energy to invest in the relationship, it is important to recognize that just because your partner has different expectations around these parts of the relationship does not inherently mean they love you any less or are less invested in the relationship.
It takes some mutual work and exploration to find out what is at the root of this relationship dynamic.
A process of conversation and negotiation
After doing your own self understanding work, it is important to talk through your expectations with your partner and clearly communicate your relationship needs with them. You may invite them to participate in the process of understanding their own expectations in relationships more deeply.
If your partner is willing to engage in this process with you, these conversations are often inherently connecting and joining for both you and your partner.
You will likely learn a lot about one another as you find ways to navigate through your differences such that both your relationship needs are being considered and respected as important.
It is also possible that in this process you may find that your partner responds poorly or is reluctant to engage in this communication process with you.
It is important not to see this as a sign that you have done something wrong in trying to communicate your relationship needs and expectations with them.
Perhaps they are not in a place of readiness to do their own self understanding work or are avoidant of relationship conversations. You may also find during this process that you and your partner have relationship needs that are incompatible and your bottom lines in relationships conflict with one another.
Both of these outcomes are painful and difficult to face, but it is important to bring these core relationship struggles to the surface so that you can make a decision about the future of the relationship that is best for you.
Doing your self understanding work means that you will likely be more confident in your ability to make decisions about the relationship that are healthy for you regardless of the outcome or how your partner responds to this process.
Ultimately, knowing ourselves and being aware of our bottom line is the first step in creating a healthier relationship with a partner as well as being more honest with ourselves and others about our relationship needs.
Chelsea Twiss, Ph.D. – www.drchelseatwisscounseling.com
- Do you feel like your guy is your priority, but a lot of other things in his life come before you?
- Is he more focused on work, friends, having a good time, or even engrossed with his phone or video games than he is on your relationship?
- Do you feel like you’re doing all the work, and he doesn’t seem to notice?
You may really want to be the most important thing in your guy’s life, but you’re feeling like he’s not as focused on your relationship as you are.
This may indicate that he’s really not ready for a serious relationship, and he’s more into exploring his options in the world—partying, hanging out with friends, or really absorbed in finishing school or building his career. This may be the right time for you to move forward as a couple, but it may not be for him.
Do you feel it’s worth waiting in the wings until he’s ready, or is it time for you to move on to someone who is ready for a commitment?
If you decide to hang in there, then this is a good time for you to focus more on your own life, friendships, career, or even travel, hobbies, or new enterprises. Make some distance by putting some of your attention elsewhere and see if he misses you.
It’s always worth talking with him about how you’re feeling.
Just don’t start out complaining and blaming. Tell him you’d like to spend more time with just the two of you together and offer some suggestions that you’d both like to do.
Having things to actually do together besides just “hanging out” can give you both an opportunity to connect more and get a better understanding of what you each like and enjoy and what’s important to you.
Share your values, your dreams for your own future, the places you’d like to go and your personal goals.
Too often women still try to conform to their partner’s dreams and goals rather than really reaching for what you want in your own life and finding a man to match you.
Find out what his relationship role models were.
If he was raised in a home where his parents shared everything and he felt enmeshed, he may try to keep you at arm’s length. If his father was passive and his mother ran things, he may take on that same role with you.
If he never saw his parents in a cooperative relationship, he may have no clue how to do that with you. Counseling can really help in these situations.
If he’s willing to make things better, the two of you could learn better ways to communicate, interact, support each other, and share more intimacy with some professional direction.
Finally, also look at your role models and past relationships.
- What expectations and fears are you bringing into this relationship? And how realistic are they? Do you expect to do everything together?
- How much trust do you have in men?
- Have you been cheated on or lied to?
- Were you expected to give in and take care of an emotionally disabled parent or sibling growing up?
Do an internal assessment of what you really want in a relationship and what you’re contributing to the closeness or distance that you’re feeling. Every relationship teaches you about yourself, the other person, and what you really want in your life.
Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT – www.margalistherapy.com
You may not, except with express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.