Why You End Up Giving More Than You're Comfortable With

Sep 19, 2020

Megan was a sweet woman that I worked with in another setting many years ago. I walked into her office one day and asked how she was doing. Immediately her eyes welled up with tears, and she began crying. At first she tried to hide it, but then she spilled her guts. She was feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work that she had to do, fearing that she would never get it all done.

Although I was not her direct supervisor, I knew what her responsibilities were and it did not seem to me that they were past her abilities. I could not understand the reason why she was cracking. So, I told her that. Then she revealed more. It was not her work that was killing her, it was the work of one of her co-workers. It seemed that this person was always asking her for little favors, “could you drop this project off for me?” or “can you finish these proofs for me and get them to the printer’s?” And being the “sweet Megan” that she was, she always said “yes.”

But while her behavior was saying yes, her heart was screaming “leave me alone.” I have heard the same stories from single women who were having sexual relationships that they did not want to have, but were not being direct with their boyfriends. I have heard it from friends who were being drawn in to being someone’s entire support system in time of need and getting burned out in the process. The contexts are different, but the issue is the same.

Are you giving more than you feel comfortable with and not telling the other person? Have you asked yourself “why?” I think there are several reasons people do this:

Fears of facing conflict
Fears of not being liked
Fears of being abandoned and rejected if they do not comply with another’s wishes
Fears of being perceived of as “selfish” by God or others if they say “no”
A history of controlling relationships

If you can identify with any of these fears, you have to address them first. But even if you get past the fear, there is still the problem of communication. There is no problem with your saying “no,” and having a limit on what you want to give to someone. The bigger problem is saying “yes” and meaning “no.” It is that point that we have lost integrity in the relationship.

The sad thing about most of these situations is that the person on the other end “just didn't know.” That is what they often say: “Wow, I never knew you felt that way. Why didn’t you tell me?” If that is their reaction, then you have finished the circle of communication and they accept your limits, like a good friend should. If they don’t accept them, and begin to get angry, you have another problem. At that point it is not a communication problem; it is a problem of freedom and control. And you probably should stop giving altogether until that issue is faced.

But, that is for another day. Until then, “let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ ” Then both of you will know what the truth is in the relationship. And, painful as it is sometimes, the truth will set you free.

I want to be your boundaries coach and help you get past the fears associated with boundaries. I'd love to have you join me! Start right here.