Stop Doing Most Of The Work In Your (Dating) Relationship

Reciprocity is the key to any healthy relationship. Straight up.


A few months ago, a musician friend of mine and I were discussing our ideas of what a perfect song is. One of the songs that I gave him was Michael Jackson's "Workin' Day and Night". You've got me working, working day and night. I'm so tired, tired now. Lawd, y'all. Some of us can totally relate. I know that, once upon a time, I definitely could.

Listen, doing a lot of work in a marriage is its own article. Today, though, I wanna tackle the topic of those who may find themselves workin' day and night for a man when it comes to dating. And by "dating", I mean anyone who you aren't living with or engaged to (because those bring forth other dynamics too). The season of dating is about getting to know someone better. It's about seeing how well you both gel. It's about getting some insight and clarity on if you desire the same things or not—including one another.

That said, if during this season, you're the one who is putting forth most of the effort in order to make it all work or last, something is very wrong with that. For one thing, relationships are supposed to be based on mutuality (more in a sec). Secondly, when someone is really into you, you shouldn't find yourself worn out from dating them anyway.

If you've read enough of my content on here, you know that I think a lot of answers are found in asking certain questions. And so, if you know that you do way too much in your relationships, here are five foundational questions that, hopefully, can help you to get down to the root of why.

1. Who Taught You to Act That Way?


I will definitely raise my hand in this class and say that I used to be the kind of person who did, at least, 70 percent of the work to keep my relationships afloat. If it wasn't emotionally, it was financially. If it wasn't financially, it was when it came to literally moving things forward. After a lot of self-work, pondering, journaling and unpacking, I think several factors played a role. For one thing, I watched my mother "carry" her second husband in a lot of ways. The insecurities in that relationship taught me how to be codependent and/or controlling. Nothing much more than that. Also, I'm a survivor of childhood abuse. Pick a category.

When you're young, you're innocent. And so, when love isn't given to you in a healthy or consistent way, you tend to think it's your job to do any and everything to compensate.

SMDH. Ever heard the saying "hurt people hurt people"? Yeah, oftentimes what happens is they attract people who are wounded too. That was my next issue. I have some great qualities; I also used to have some really broken areas. The same thing went for the men who I was drawn to. So did some of the people who I considered to be my friends at the time. And so, what was modeled to me, pretty much from every angle, is that love required being always doing the absolute most. By yourself. IT. DOES. NOT.

So yeah, y'all. If you're someone who finds yourself doing most of the work in your relationship, most of the time, the first thing that I recommend you do is pull out your journal and do some self-love journaling. While you're doing that, remember that the very root of the word "relationship" is relate. To relate is to "establish a connection". A connection is something that is a bond—and a genuine and solid one consists of mutual interest and effort. If you can't honestly say that this is the case for you, why is that? Your "why" can be the start of many breakthroughs. If you allow yourself to revisit your past and answer some potentially difficult questions, that is.

2. Is It a Pattern of Yours?


A poet by the name of Tuli Kupferberg once said, "When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge." Lord, ain't that the freakin' truth. The reason why this point is super valid is because, while some of us sometimes do most of the work in their relationships with multiple people, others realize that this only happened once or rarely. The reality is that sometimes, we get so caught up with—or is it consumed by?—a guy that we think that we can't love them—or give to them—enough.

Unlike a lot of people who felt this way, got hurt and now think that anyone who lives like this is toxic—or delusional—AF, I personally don't agree.

Giving your all in a relationship isn't a problem. Giving too soon, giving to someone who doesn't reciprocate, giving without some sort of real commitment being established? That is where all of the challenges typically tend to arise. You are precious. Someone who gets to receive you in abundance needs to treat you as such. What comes with that is them offering up a pretty even exchange. Not you wishing that they would. Them doing things in a way where you see evidence that they do.

If that is not the case for you because you have no idea what reciprocity even looks like, first, let me extend a virtual hug your way. Take it from me, when you are used to doing relationships a certain kind of way, it can be hard to break the pattern—not because you don't know that you deserve so much more. It's because you are simply used to receiving so much less. The best way to pinpoint if this is the problem is to reflect on (at least) your past three relationships.

If you were the one showing up more for all of them—why were you so drawn to that individual, what ways did they show up for you at all and what ultimately caused everything to come to an end? Once you recognize your patterns, you can start putting together a plan to break them. Starting with not getting in too deep with ANYONE who is not responding to the effort that you put into the situation, right out of the gate.

3. Is Going Above and Beyond More About Fear or Control?


This point right here is a really good one. Some of the people who modeled doing-the-absolute-most-in-a-relationship, I know that it was all about fear. Fear of what? Fear of abandonment. Fear of remaining alone. Fear of failure. When it comes to relationships, doing things out of fear really isn't the best idea or strategy. I mean, even the Bible says that "perfect love casts out fear". Know what else it says? It says that "fear is torment" (I John 4:18). That'll preach.

Putting yourself in the position where you choose to constantly go above and beyond for someone who shows—through words and/or deeds—that they have absolutely no interest in doing the same? I don't know too many more things that are mentally and emotionally more tormenting than that. And again, because Scripture says that the opposite of love isn't really hate but fear, if fear is motivating you to do most of the work, isn't that already a huge—HUGE—red flag?

As far as control goes, a motto that I made up that I personally go by, now more than ever, is "love is a gift, not a bribe." Some folks out here? They like to play the constant victim, acting like all that they do in relationships is based on genuine altruism when it's really about trying to control another person—or at least the narrative. Look at me. I did all of this for so-and-so and they did give me what I wanted in return? Uh-huh. Listen, did you do, whatever it is that you did, because you truly cared about them or because you wanted to guilt them into feeling obligated to reciprocate? That can be an "ouch," I know, yet it needs to be put out there.

Love shouldn't be about fear. It shouldn't be about control either. If you are doing so much because you want to manipulate someone into owing you, not only is that toxic, you'll still ultimately find yourself becoming resentful because, deep down, you know that what you're doing isn't right. Or fair. And building in that kind of space can cultivate a kind of karma that you may not truly be prepared for.

4. Do You Get That Men Really Do What They WANT to Do?


While I'm not the kind of woman who thinks that "real men chase women down" (that's another article for another time), what I am very much sure of is the fact that men do what they want to do. They will make time for it. They will prepare for it. And when they are really interested, they will show all the way out. Not because they've got anything to prove—it's simply that they are just that invested.

And here's the thing. Some of us will go on and on about wanting a man who leads the relationship and yet, because we're fearful and/or controlling and/or IMPATIENT, we don't even give them a chance to do just that. Y'all, it took me more years than it ever should have to accept the reality that sometimes, my "overdoing it" was actually emasculating the object of my affection and devotion at the time.

While I thought that the more I did, the more convinced he would be to give in return, oftentimes it either made him feel uncomfortable or even incapable of giving me what I needed. And because I listened to more of my girlfriends say stuff along the lines of, "Girl, there is nothing wrong with you, he's just a jerk," instead of heeding my guy friends when they would say things like, "You do know if he truly wanted to, he would…right," I remained exhausted and disillusioned, far more and longer than I ever should have.

My takeaway point here isn't that you should be entitled (entitled people are the absolute worst) and selfish. It's that you should resolve within yourself that if you feel like you need to fill someone's cup to the point where they feel like they can't breathe because they are damn near drowning (let alone do anything for you in return), scale back a bit. Give him the chance to put some time, effort and energy in. He just might surprise you (if he's interested in you, he definitely will!).

5. How About Getting Still…and Knowing Your Worth?


There's a woman I used to know named Molly Secours who once said something to me that has remained with me since it came out of her mouth. One time, when we were discussing the season and stage that we were currently in, she said, "I dunno. I'm just being still and seeing what comes to me." That'll preach a billion life—and time—saving sermons because a lot of women—single and married—will be out here, straight up pissed, and it's because they feel like their partner isn't showing up for them when they're not getting still enough to let them or they don't take the time to do less so that they can remind their own selves what they are truly deserving of.

Are relationships about giving? Absolutely. Do they require effort? No doubt about it. Yet never forget that, in order to truly relate to someone else, there needs to be investing done on both sides. And while sometimes this may mean that one puts in more work than the other, this shouldn't be a constant.

Both individuals need to show up—or it's not the kind of relationship that is headed anywhere good. And it's definitely not the kind that a good woman is deserving of.

Again, as someone who used to relate to all of what I just said, I promise you that relationships become so much richer and fuller when you stop doing all of the work. You're calmer. You're clearer. And your connections are so much better. Stop "pulling a Michael Jackson" for that man. Let him catch some of the slack.

That's what relationships—healthy relationships—are truly all about, sis.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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