What I’m about to discuss is one of the most important components that will keep a marriage happy and healthy. But first let me share a brief story that prompted me to write about this topic.
I was working with a teenage boy recently who celebrates Christmas, and I asked him: “What question is most often asked of you after Christmas”
He quickly responded: “What did you get”?
I said, “Yes” and then I shared my thoughts.
I suggested what we might rather ask is: “What did you give”? He agreed and lit up with excitement and said I should do it! I agreed and asked him if he would do it as well. He was super-excited to do so because he believed that people would be shocked if he posed this question. Furthermore, he believed that they would still hear the question, “What did you get?”
It’s an interesting thought – don’t you think?
But then giving is an odd thing, isn’t it? It is during the holidays, whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, that we focus more on the concept of giving and receiving. But in reality, It is the component of ‘giving and receiving’ in our relationships that is the most crucial element for happy and healthy relationships. However, the concept is surprisingly complicated.
Ultimately it is necessary to be aware of ‘giving and receiving’ in your relationships throughout the year. Not in a checklist sort of way but rather in a mutual giving and receiving kind of way. Think of it more like the “Balance of Nature”. We know that when nature is imbalanced something negative will happen to bring it back into balance. And I am the first to admit that it can be challenging to find balance of ‘giving and receiving’ in relationships. I’m not referring to monetary giving; rather I’m referring to various types of giving and receiving in relationships.
In my life, I have discovered that many people are simply giving people, meaning that they find pleasure in giving. They tend to be in care-taking professions such as teaching, nursing, counselors and so on. BUT, this does not mean that others are not giving. It can mean that their way of giving may go unrecognized and therefore unappreciated.
I know that I am a giving person. That’s quite tricky because I also realize that we need to balance giving in all of our relationships. For example, I give less to a certain few in my life because it is not reciprocated and I don’t want to resent them. For this reason, I balance just the right amount of giving so that I don’t feel resentment and can enjoy my relationship with them. I can assure you that if there is an imbalance of giving in a relationship you will eventually feel resentment. ‘Giving less’ literally preserves my relationship with these certain few people in my life.
People with giving attributes often say that they feel selfish to expect others to give back to them in return. I share with them that a balance of reciprocity of giving and receiving is necessary in all relationships. Remember, it’s worth repeating; if there is an imbalance of giving in your relationships you will eventually feel resentful. And, you cannot demand that someone give to you in return. You can be aware of the amount of giving that you do so that resentment does not build. Or you can request what you need from others. However, this does not mean that that others will necessarily respond to you. It can become a conversation of negotiation, which can be hard.
My question of “what did you give” is meant to encourage giving, but in a balanced manner. And it is meant to encourage awareness of giving and receiving. When we pose the question to children, “What did you get?” we encourage them to think in a state of receiving. But it is equally challenging if we go in the opposite direction to encourage only giving. The best approach is to encourage ‘balance’.
But here’s the thing about being a giving person. You must learn to receive as well. Givers do not always enjoy how they feel when someone gives to them. They feel guilty for a variety of reasons. Some feel that they are not deserving of receiving. I encourage ‘givers’ to allow others to feel that wonderful feeling of ‘giving by receiving’ from those who desire to reciprocate giving to you. View it as a different kind of giving. You are giving the gift of allowing someone to feel the pleasure of giving to you.
“Keep in mind though that in marital relationships, giving and receiving may balance out over time”
For example, care- taking: there may be times in your relationship when one person in the relationship may require more care-taking due to illness. Eventually, balance can be restored when you need extra care for a variety of reasons.
In marriage, giving comes in many, many forms such as providing emotional support, accommodating your partner in joining them for an evening out that they will enjoy maybe more than you, or accepting something about your partner that you would rather not accept. Further examples of giving: enduring the temperature in your home a bit warmer than you would prefer, and not complaining at the end of a hard day because you may not want to impact your partner’s good mood or providing your partner needed quiet, alone time… the list is endless. All of these examples show giving and while some of these may seem silly, this is giving to your relationship.
The truth is that we don’t often recognize many forms of giving in relationships. Sometimes we refer to giving as “putting up with,” but these are things that we give to each other and to our relationships. Often, they are there and simply not recognized as quite simply, giving.
I am sure you can see why it is necessary to balance giving and receiving in your relationships. Apart from anything else it is important that resentment does not build and that our needs are met in our very close and loving relationships! And we all need to try to recognize and define aspects of our partner’s intentions to us as giving.
Thanks so much for reading! As much as I hope to give something to you in my writing, you give back to me by reading! I am very appreciative of my readers, so I thank you so very much!
Happy New Year! Make it a great one.
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If you want to learn more about relationships – I wrote this for you “Ten Essential Things I’ve Learned About Marriage & Relationships” I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope you find it helpful. Let me know!
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Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
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