DEAR AIDAN: Feeling Unappreciated in Relationship

Photo: Getty Images. In this week’s Dear Aidan column, Aidan Park says, don’t do kind things for your partner with the expectation that it be reciprocated!

Dear Aidan,

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I am in a relationship where I feel as though I am doing most of the work. I am emotionally supportive, understanding, and try to show my partner a lot of love! However, I am not feeling the same level of effort coming from her! I feel as though she is taking me for granted and is ungrateful for all the effort I put in. Shouldn’t relationships be a 50/50 and not just me doing all the work… It’s like I am paying a price to be in this relationship and she is not.

Dear Life is Unfair,

Okay, first question: Are you communicating your needs clearly to your partner? Often in situations such as this, the partner with the complaint has not communicated how they feel to their partner and upon further investigation says one of two things:

1 – “No I haven’t told her DIRECTLY what I need and how I feel, but she should know how I feel, since we are adults. So I am not speaking to her until she realizes what she’s done wrong”


2 – “Since she is not being appreciative, I have doubled down on my efforts to show her how much I care by getting us a trip to Aruba, getting her a gown by Versace and bought Kate Beckinsale’s half used lipstick from Ebay… and STILL no thank you! How Can she be so ungrateful?!”

People will often times do ANYTHING to avoid confrontation. Oftentimes, they will avoid the topic at all costs and attempt to communicate indirectly as seen in examples above. This will just lead to more aggravation as you attempt to control the response of your partner (yes, this is what you are doing) by behaving in a certain way  and/or withholding affection, which is a recipe for disaster!  STOP indirectly manipulating your partner to try and control them into being the person you want and actually tell them how you feel instead.

If you have already communicated openly, then you must realized that this person is NOT going to change! PERIOD. It’s like yelling at a Monet painting and asking it to be a Van Gogh. The lesson here is you cannot expect to change people, you must love them as who they are because having your happiness dependent on their behavior will only lead to dissatisfaction.

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If you look at the way the your question is phrased… this is exactly what is happening. While I am sure that your good deeds directed at your partner are mostly well intentioned, there is a definitely pattern of… “I did something for them so they should do something back” kind of expectation. Which (spoken out loud or not) adds a sort of “you owe me” type of tone, which I am sure your partner feels.

My suggestion would be this: Do NOT do anything for your partner UNLESS you are going to be totally okay without any kind of token of appreciation or thank you directed back at you. ONLY do things for your partner that will give you satisfaction without praise from your partner. In theory, all deeds should be done from the kindness of your heart, not for the satisfaction of acknowledgment or reciprocation from others, especially when it comes to romantic partners. After all, they are your partner – not your purse dog to train and control at your own whim. If your partner gripes at the dwindling affection… well then maybe they will see that they have been taking you for granted, but at least you will be keeping your side of street clean.

Remember there is really no “should” for your partner. Your partner will react they way they react and it is up to you to determine whether you want to play… your partner will not (and should not be expected to) change for you.  The only person’s actions you can change is your own!


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