Like most things in life - marriage, relationships, parenting and family all start out with the best of intentions. Everyone involves has rainbow vision, clearly expecting a colorful and magical life to come believing that the white picket fence and cast of characters will evolve as peacefully as an episode of Leave it to Beaver. No one wants to hurt their wife, husband or child – but eventually these characters begin to feel that they are being taken for granted.
It begins with frenzied excitement. When we first embark on any relationship whether it be romantic or with our newborn child, we have goals and ideas for the future. Maintaining our ‘future’ becomes the focus. First, we put our all into our spouse. We give and give and give never feeling resentful for the time and effort we put in to the other person. After all, they are our world. Often, this is reciprocated in the best way that our partner knows how and all is well. Then, children or other family members may come into the picture. All that giving and effort becomes turned towards the children and the relationship that bred them is often overlooked.
Parents become indulgent, rightfully so and become so involved and overwhelmed with love for their child that they think of them first – even before themselves and always before their other relationships in life. Again, a perfectly natural beginning to a new relationship. This hot period of relationships where our passions and attention are held so deeply by this new person (either spouse or child) is caused by a proven chemical change in the brain. The stage that comes after is called the “98.6” degree of life and is where many people begin to feel taken for granted, unappreciated and resentful of the way that their life has unfolded. This let down of sorts is similar to coming off a high, and the cravings for more passion can sit silently within our hearts waiting to creep to the surface at any time. When we hit this 98.6 part of our life, we often lose our passions and our feelings that were so hot, heavy and thrilling before become balanced and normal. This too, is natural and is actually a good and common sense way to live.
The problem with a balanced and comfortable life is that man and woman becomes deeply rooted in habitual behaviors. For instance, dinner may be served at 6pm every night. Monday through Friday is essentially the same routine and two people who were once partners begin to take on roles and responsibilities without discussion. It’s as if life takes on energy of its own and without discussions or dialogue – people just continue to do what it is they always do. It starts out innocent. Perhaps mom stays home with the baby, reprieving herself from work for a while and starts doing all the laundry and cleaning. She doesn’t mind, after all she is home all day. The husband goes to work, taking on extra hours to support the new family and comes home exhausted and much too drained to participate in the household chores. Suddenly, these two people who were filled with such intense feelings and passion before are residing in a clearer state of mind and they begin to resent all that they do for others in their life feeling as if they are unappreciated. Next they begin to take one another granted just assuming that the way things are is acceptable.
Being taken for granted in the larger scope of things isn’t about someone victimizing you or draining you of resources simply because they know they can. It isn’t a form of malicious behavior and normally has no intent at all. It just happens. The problem is that while you may feel you are being taken for granted by someone you love, you also have a large piece of the responsibility pie. People treat you how you teach them to treat you. Maybe you constantly doing everything without speaking a word about your disdain for cooking; or maybe your working like a dog to make ends meet goes unnoticed and it seems to the other person in your life that you don’t mind a bit. One of the biggest mistakes of married couples is that they think the other should be able to read their mind. They can’t! And you can’t read your spouse’s mind either.
Being taken for granted of is a result of life taking over. You do what you do and he or she does what they do and neither have the time or inclination to give nods of appreciation or expressions of gratitude. People become too wrapped up in their own needs and feelings to realize that their spouse may have similar ones. The same is true when it comes to friendships. If you are always offering to pay for lunch because you know your best bud is broke, eventually you will feel as though you are being taken advantage of when the truth is it is a behavior that you have taught them to do.
No matter what happens in your life, you have to be able to stick up for yourself. This doesn’t mean causing an argument or saying hurtful things to a beloved friend. It means being honest about you feel. If you begin to feel that you are taking on too much whether in the hierarchy of your family or friendships; you need to take proactive steps to open up dialogue. Another aspect of you being taken for granted is also YOU not appreciating others enough. Beneath feelings and words of gratitude is a raw emotion that can come full circle, meaning that as you learn to recognize what others do for you and what they mean to you – you will be recognized your self.
It may seem petty to ask that others notice the extra steps you take every day to make their lives more comfortable. Even the noblest deeds are done with the hopes that someone else will appreciate your efforts. Many people talk about doing good for others and that being enough to satisfy the soul, however there is a longing in the human spirit to be thanked and noticed. It isn’t always enough to just feel good about something. In relationships, this is even more important.
If you feel you have been taken for granted by someone in your life there are a few steps that you must take. First, take a long, deep and honest look at what others do for you. Certainly, you can find a mother, brother sister or aunt who is a strong force in your life, who is always there supporting you or helping you whenever you are in need and who goes out of their way to make you feel special. Next, thank them. Tell them how good it makes you feel to be loved in this way and how much you appreciate all they do. Recognize the big and little things that they do which make you feel grateful for having them in your life. Send a card, an email or a simple note. If you feel like there is nothing that you can do to repay or show them just how much you love them, you are wrong. Thanks and hug can often do the trick. Now you can spread those same feelings to others in your life.
The next step is to talk to the person you feel is taking you for granted. Whether it is your boss, your spouse, your children or a close friend – resist the urge to be passive aggressive. What many people do is make the decision that they will no longer “be available” in the way that allows others to take advantage of them. This only fills you with anger and can confuse others involved. Just because you assume they already know you miffed with them don’t assume that they know why. Instead tell me. Also resist making them feel guilty. Many people, especially in their romantic relationships try to be the one always “doing the most” so that they constantly feel as though they have the upper hand. If you are an ‘outdoer’ try to understand why you are this way and realize that it isn’t someone else taking you for granted, it is you trying to play the victim. Choose your words and talk the situation out rather than rely on assumptions.
As you talk to the person, make sure you underline the fact that their friendship in your life is important and that it means the world to you. Understand that while your way of being a great friend or spouse may not be the same as someone else’s. The next thing is to realize how others, in their very unique and personal ways, make strides to do for you as well. Eventually what you will find is that you are being reciprocated. The trouble may be that you do everything for your spouse and assume that if they loved you they would do the same. Their everything may be entirely different than yours.
If you are a parent, chances are high that your children are taking you for granted every day of their little lives. The older they get, the more they take you for granted. Yes, it can be heartbreaking to be so fully supportive of your child only to find that taking out the trash or picking up their dirty socks as a favor to you is a huge imposition on their lives. Remember that they are children and that on some level you taught them to do this. Rather than rant and rave, moan and gripe – try to teach them the valuable lesson of being grateful for others and to learn how to reciprocate good will. Help them to understand that you do for them because you love them and want them to be happy and that you try to make their lives simpler in many ways so they can enjoy themselves more. If they fail to understand the lesson due to immature selfishness; then do them a big favor and show them how things could be for a while. They may not thank you entirely until they are in their 30’s, but it is your job to teach them about appreciation and giving back to others.
The Easy fix for being Taken for Granted Lies Within
Being taken for granted is a tricky subject. On one hand, you may genuinely feel that you aren’t getting the praise or attention that you deserve. Then you feel ignored or hurt. But on the other hand, life has taught you that in order to be worthy, lovable or secure – you have had to have praise. When you were in kindergarten, you may have got stickers when you did good work. When you had a good report card, your parents felt proud and may have paid you. When you work hard at work – your boss gives you a reward. In fact, there are rewards for all sorts of things in life and by the time you are an adult you have come to expect them. Then you suddenly find out that your reward book is no longer filling up with stickers and ‘adaboys.’ In order to thrive in your life you have to take a step back and realize that your good deeds must feel good to you. If you are doing things for others just so that you can stand on the pedestal for 5 minutes that makes you feel important, the time has come to change the way you live as a whole. This goes back to one of the first statements in this article – others can’t make you feel something you don’t want to feel. Try to unravel why it is so important for you to feel neglected. Try to understand why you need this praise from other people in order to feel loved. The bottom line is that you have to live your life the way YOU want to live and be happy irregardless of how others respond. If you feel you have taken for granted chances are you aren’t being true to living life in a sense that empowers you. Start doing things that you want to do, rather than doing things in the hopes of getting noticed. If you cook, clean and save money in order to please your spouse – make sure it what YOU want and not what you feel is silently is expected. This way, you will be enjoying your life and feeling good about the things that you do for others – without having to wait for a pat on the back. Eventually, the pat will come – but in the mean time at least you will be in a place where you can feel good and confident with who you are and how much you mean to others.