Ask Dr. Tracy

Are You Giving Too Much Too Soon?


"I gave him everything and he still didn't love me," is a story I've heard over and over again from women. I know exactly what they mean. I've certainly felt that way myself.

"I would give her anything she wants, but it just doesn't seem to do any good. She takes my presents, thanks me, tells me I'm a nice guy, but she doesn't love me." It's a story I've heard over and over again from men. He gives, gives, gives. She takes, takes, takes. And the other guy gets the girl.

At first, doing too much seems natural and even somewhat pleasurable. After all, when you're in love aren't you supposed to do lots for your loved one, and enjoy it? Aren't you supposed to give your all?

No. Not until your relationship reaches a certain point. Before that point, you will suffocate love just as it's starting to bloom, instead of allowing it to blossom naturally.

Giving too much too soon is by far the biggest relationship mistake made by both men and women. I will explain why it suffocates love, how love blossoms naturally, how to know when you're giving too much and what to do about it, and when it's OK to give your all. But first, let's start with the different ways of over-giving:


Over-giving -- Let Me Count The Ways...

Too Much Love and Romance Too Soon

By the second date you both say, "I love you." By the third date you're talking every night for hours. By the second week you're writing love notes to each other on a daily basis. So where do you go from there? Only down.

Beth and Tony fell in love instantly. They were inseparable after one date. He bought flowers; she cooked dinners every night. He read love poems out loud to her. She always put love notes in his jacket pocket when he went to work.

Then one time he forgot the flowers. Beth was crushed. Then she forgot the note. Tony felt unloved. Resentment intruded into perfect love, and their relationship never recovered.

Too Much Commitment Too Soon

Volunteered, one-sided commitment signals desperation in a relationship. Men will do this, but more often, it's a woman who will take this step out of some mixed-up fear of losing a man if she doesn't, even though he's made no commitment whatsoever. She's ready to forsake all others without even being asked, just to prove her love, hoping this gesture will somehow bond him to her. It doesn't.

Gifts Too Soon

When you bring the element of money into a relationship, you put pressure on someone. If you're a man, she may misread your intentions and think you see the relationship as transactional, gifts for sex. Or, rather than being bothered by the gifts, she may come to expect an ongoing flow of them from you and be very disappointed if they're not forthcoming.

One man told me, "The minute a woman starts giving me valuable things, I feel pressured. She looks like a needy woman who's trying to buy love. When a woman gives me something expensive, it makes me feel as if an alien element has come into the relationship -- the element of dollar value as opposed to love and caring. I also feel forced to keep up in some way."

Also, no man wants to live the rest of his life with a spendthrift. Giving him an expensive gift (even for his birthday or Christmas) will just make him worry about how you'll spend money if the two of you get married.

Too Much Information Too Soon

One way both men and women often give too much is by telling too much about themselves right away. Who wants to know how your mother or father mistreated you on the first date? (Or on the third or fourth date, for that matter)


How Over-giving Suffocates Love

It's like over-watering a plant. You're not sure how much to water it, and your instincts tell you to nurture it, so you over-water it and kill it. Here's how over-giving can kill a budding relationship:

  • You'll come across as needy and desperate.

  • You probably won't get enough back, so you'll feel cheated.

  • You'll be ignoring your own life to help the object of your affection with theirs.

He or she will take you for granted and expect you to continue to do more and more for him.

In the extreme (see my "Did For Love" case), doing too much can change who you are until the person he or she was attracted to in the first place is gone.

The worst part about giving too much is that the other person probably won't just drop you. At least then you'd be free to start over. Instead, they will keep you on a string and not take you seriously, and you find yourself in "crazy love" relationship.


Self-test: Are You Doing Too Much For Love?

How do you know when you're giving too much too soon?

You call them more than they call you.

You make all the plans, pay most of the time, or buy all the presents.

You are always doing something for them, and you feel cheated and angry because the giving is not reciprocated.

You sense they're beginning to take you for granted.

You feel desperate for their love and are worried about losing them.

Over-giving has already gotten to the "crazy love" stage if:

Your only happiness seems to be making them happy.

You pour yourself into helping them succeed, even to the point of ignoring your own life.

They're beginning to pull away, and you keep doing more and more to get them to stay.

Your friends say you've changed and they never see you any more.


First Aid For Overgivers

If you've reached the "crazy love" stage, the relationship is probably beyond saving. See the "Letting Go" Section of the Library. If you haven't gone that far, your relationship may be repairable.

If you've just slipped and said, "I love you" too soon, or you're a guy who's given a gift too soon, or a woman who's blurted out, "When are you going to call again?" by mistake, the relationship can be re-balanced with a little mid-course correction.

Again, think of the over-watered plant. All you can do is hold off on watering and hope. If you've started to smother the relationship, all you can do is step back and let it breathe.

Don't call. If you can, take a trip and send him or her just ONE postcard. If you can't leave, just throw yourself into your work for a couple of weeks. It won't hurt.

Give the relationship some space, allow some time to go by, and -- above all -- act happy. (See the bottom of "When He/She's Left You -- Coping" in the "Letting Go" Section of the Library for the secret of acting happy when you're actually miserable from missing your lover.) And be sure to read "How Much To Give and When."


Related Keywords: Giving Too Much, Love Strategies, Over-Romanticizing, Commitment, Love Addiction



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