There is a famous quote by the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus that goes like this:
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…” — Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5
So, the chief task of life is to figure out what you can control and what you cannot, and only spend time and energy on what you can control. Worrying about things outside of your control gives you nothing in return and is a recipe for stress and anxiety. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it.
What is not as obvious at first glance is what this means for relationships – romantic or otherwise: That the only thing you actually have control over in a relationship is what you give into the relationship. Yet, we tend to focus a lot on what we want to get from our relationships – what the other person should do for you.
Yes, I do realize the main objection to this is that there will be times when people take advantage of you and won’t give back; and yes, I do realize that this can become unsustainable in draining your time and resources, but perhaps this is not a signal to stop giving, but a signal to reconsider the relationship. This may sound a little harsh, but I do think that you ultimately want to be in relationships where you become the best version of yourself, providing value at the edge of your ability. And where the people you choose to keep around you do the same.