Ever been in a relationship in which you find that you are investing much more of yourself than the other person is?
In a friendship, this can be troubling. Eventually, you will begin to question the strength of the bond and may end up drifting apart. Much more alarming, is when you are in a romantic relationship and realize that there is a significant relational imbalance. Your partner isn’t present and engaged to the same degree that you are. I’m not talking about minor differences here. This is to the degree that it is glaringly obvious.
If you come to this realization, the temptation will be to tell yourself that you can make up for the other person’s lack of effort, thinking that you giving 175% will balance out their 25% investment, and everything will be okay. It won’t, and you need to be brutally honest with yourself about this. One person can never fix a serious relational imbalance by compensating.
Let me illustrate this with something you can picture in your mind. Think of a rowboat floating on a lake. You and your lover sit side by side on the seat, each holding an oar. To achieve forward motion and move ahead in your journey, each must row in synchronization, and with equal effort. If you do this, the rowboat will glide forward through the water. If, however, there is an imbalance between the rowers, the boat will move in a circle, rather than making true progress. The greater the imbalance, the smaller a circle traveled. Your trying harder will not solve the problem. It will only perpetuate it.
The same is true in relationships. If one person is investing themselves far less, instead of a joyous journey forward into an ever-deepening connection, you will find yourselves circling over and over through the same arguments, conflicts, and disappointments. The only way this can be resolved is for the person who is less invested to find it within themselves to “pull their weight.”
The realization of a significant relational imbalance needs to be addressed directly though respectful, honest communication. If the other person acknowledges the problem and wants to work on it, then by all means, seek out resources and skilled help in resolving the imbalance. If however, they are not open to working on it, it would be wise for you to consider whether the relationship has a future.
You cannot row a boat using an oar on one side only, and no amount of extra effort on your part can make up for a lack of effort on theirs.