Here's How To Deal If You Think Your Partner's Not Putting In The Work
Relationships are a team effort, y'all.
A while back, I was confronted with the question, “What does it mean to make a man work for your love?” There was a woman who felt like she had done all of the work in her past relationship and didn't receive the same in return as far as effort. They were in a long-distance relationship, but she was always the one flying back and forth, cleaning his place and doing a multitude of other things without much in return. It made me wonder, how much effort should a man make in a relationship? And is there a one-size-fits-all answer on how to make him work for your love?
Licensed clinical psychologist and bestselling author Alexandra Solomon says that — in order to properly answer these questions — we need to first acknowledge that dating can be stressful AF, and feeling like we are putting in more effort than our partner can be a vulnerable position to be in. “Because dating is inherently anxiety provoking, we often look for concrete ways to track how it's going. We will measure the length of our text versus the length of their text or look for metrics that indicate the amount of effort they're putting in,” she tells Elite Daily. “When we're dating, we are assessing the degree to which we're each into each other, and it feels vulnerable to be the one who feels like they like the other one more.”
Through communication, taking back some power, and asking for what we deserve, we can become comfortable putting in effort for someone while also recognizing when we need them to step up their game. So, although there’s not one full-proof method on how to ask your partner to make you a priority, there are certainly a few moves to try on your minimal effort guy or gal.
Communicate How Much Effort You Need From Your Partner
Hear me when I say this: Making a partner work is not about controlling them or forcing them to be with you. That will never give you the results you desire. Instead, it's about you communicating clear and reasonable expectations from the beginning. It's about choosing and being with those who are ready and willing to put in the effort. In other words, your SO should make the conscious decision to put in the effort for the right person at the right time. They should be willing to go above and beyond to show how serious they are about the relationship. That is not just any relationship, but a meaningful one built on love, trust, communication, compromise, and mutual respect.
If you feel like your partner isn’t putting in enough effort or is making you feel insecure, Solomon suggests initiating the conversation with something called a “constraint question.” “Rather than saying, ‘Why didn’t you plan a date?’ a constraint question would be, ‘What is keeping you from planning a date?,’” she says. This is an effective way to seek clarity and get to the root of the issue without pointing fingers at your partner.
A lot of guys have told me they want a challenge when it comes to settling down and being truly committed. In other words, they like when a woman makes them work for it… and I'm not just talking about sex. Some of them don't mind working hard for the right person. However, we have to keep in mind not every person you run into will always be ready to take this step. When my husband and I started dating, there were ladies he was still talking to or involved with. Then, when he decided to take things to the next level, he knew I wasn't going to play “second fiddle.”
Eventually, I had to sit him down and tell him exactly what I needed from him. I wasn't nasty or rude about it, but I was firm and he knew I meant what I said. Shortly thereafter, he did what he needed to do to prove to me how serious he was about the relationship. That's when I learned how important it is to communicate your reasonable expectations toward the beginning. I clearly communicated to him how I wasn't the least bit interested in playing games or dealing with nonsense from a minimal effort guy. There was a time when manipulation and “pillow talk” were enough for me, but this time was different. I expected more from him and for myself.
While we should totally set our standards high and expect nothing less than love and respect for ourselves, Solomon says to avoid outright claiming, “I expect more from you,” when having this conversation with your partner. Not because we don’t deserve the world and more, but because men may not be the most responsive to this language. “Men deeply fear being disappointing to a woman,” Solomon says, “which is why I want us to be careful about saying, ‘I expect more.’ What it sets off is a cycle of ‘She’s disappointed in me, and if she’s disappointed in me, I panic, I freeze, and I flee.” Instead of pointing out what he hasn’t done, draw attention to what you may want more of, like good morning texts or thoughtful dates.
Don’t Be Afraid To Make Your Partner Work For Your Love
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do things for our partner and making them feel special, whether dating or married. However, when we're dating, some of us make it so easy for men that we make it harder for the women who refuse to settle for less than what they deserve. We give ourselves and require so little in return that some men are immediately turned off by those of us who aren't willing to compromise our reasonable standards. And we don’t just see this imbalance in the dating world. Whether it be at work, school, or with family, women are constantly putting in more effort than their male counterparts.
“You see it in non-dating situations,” Solomon says. “When there are men and women working together on a group project, inevitably, it is a woman who has made the spreadsheet, who's delegating the tasks, who's following up.” It’s no surprise that when it comes to planning dates, women may be more prepared to take the reigns. While it may be tempting to just accept this as the way of the world in our professional or romantic relationships, we shouldn’t have to stay with a partner who makes us feel like we’re taking on more than our fair share. “I think that women have every right to assess and then walk if it feels out of balance,” Solomon says. There is not one answer to the question, “How much effort should a man make?” because it truly is about what feels good and right to you.
I can admit I was guilty of not requiring more from certain men I used to date. In the past, I tried to do everything in my power to please and keep a man even when he wasn't putting in half the effort. I constantly sacrificed so much of myself but didn't expect, nor require, the same in return. That's why I believe there are so many men today who will tell you, “I don't have to pursue a woman," or “I can do a whole lot less with someone else.”
While it’s not unusual or unreasonable for a woman to pursue a man, at times it’s possible we give away or do too much too soon without any reciprocity. That's why I also say, "Don't be a wife to a boyfriend." Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe anything worth having is worth fighting for — including a good woman.
Watch Your Partner’s Actions To See If They’re Making An Effort
I used to go from relationship to relationship thinking I knew what I wanted, only to later realize I was trying to fill a void that could only be filled through deep reflection and self-awareness. So, I took some time for myself and realized I deserved more. So, not only was I focused on his actions, but the same was true for my own. I used to tell myself, “I'm not putting up with this. I deserve better,” but then I would do exactly that: put up with the nonsense. I didn't require more and I didn't do anything differently. So, I made up my mind that I would no longer accept a minimal effort guy.
If he said he loved me, then I needed to see it in his actions. Gone were the days where I would accept repeated cheating, games or lies. Gone were the days when I would settle for mediocre just to say I had a man. Over time, I learned comfort and convenience weren't substitutes for love. Sometimes, when you're so used to things being a certain way you assume that's how it's supposed to be. But just because we're used to a certain way doesn't mean we don't deserve better.
“I think part of modern dating culture is that the person who cares less has the upper hand,” Solomon says, “and I think frankly that's a symptom of an unhealthy culture, to feel like you derive power from caring less.” This game playing won’t lead to a healthy relationship, something that relies on both people caring equally and fully. Just as we are allowed to want someone to initiate plans with us and put in the effort, we also should not feel ashamed or embarrassed for liking someone and wanting to give that effort in return.
The first nine months of my relationship with my husband was long distance, and he told me he was going to make the effort to come and see me. I honestly didn't believe him at first, but throughout those nine months, he did exactly what he said he was going to do. He drove nine hours every month (and sometimes more) just to see me and spend time with me despite his graduate school classes, midterms and finals. He did something that I never really required before or even expected from other guys before him; he put in the effort.
He was the initiator more times than not, which ultimately showed me two things: a) He was into me, and b) he was willing to put in the work. He showed me what it really felt like to be in love. Everyone is different, but for me this is what I wanted, what I deserved. Because his actions matched his words, it helped build my confidence in him and our relationship. Despite all of his efforts, he never felt like I wasn't into him just because he had to work for my love. Both of us were willing to put in an effort, which made the difference.
At the end of the day, no one — male or female — should feel like they're doing all of the work. If the partner isn't willing to put in the work, then maybe they’re not the one for you. Sometimes, when people say "no" to you, they're saying no to themselves because they're not ready to step up to the next level of the relationship. That's OK, though, because sometimes, you have to meet people where they are. And sometimes, you have to leave them there.
Alexandra Solomon, licensed clinical psychologist and bestselling author
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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