Recently I wrote about how too much giving to others could have a negative impact on you and your relationship. This week I want to focus on the importance of giving to your relationship. We tend to think about giving as something that we do for others, which is very important. But I want to talk about the importance of ‘giving’ to your relationship.
The first question that we need to answer is – What is the difference between giving to each other and giving to your relationship?
Let me share a personal example. I enjoy cooking. I always differentiate between cooking and making dinner. Cooking is an enjoyable hobby, but there are times when I simply have to make food to eat, and there is no real pleasure involved! That’s what I call making dinner. For me, I cook on the weekends so that I can enjoy an evening with my husband. Here’s the picture: I’m in the kitchen making a well thought out meal that I know both of us will enjoy. My husband might be upstairs working in his office, or he is relaxing while watching TV. The delicious smells permeate throughout the house. He can’t resist! He comes in to the kitchen to comment on how good everything smells, sometimes he will taste test and almost always give me a hug. Both of us are anticipating an enjoyable meal. He sets the table, turns on the outside lighting and asks if I would like music. We sit down to eat, outside if it is a beautiful evening, crack open a bottle of wine and share a lovely evening together. AND he cleans up the kitchen, which is never a pretty sight!
Compare that story to one night last week when I threw something in the slow cooker for dinner for him. I always work very late during the week so I just eat something light and I had been feeling badly that he was eating so much take-out during the week. (When he ran out of leftovers from the weekend!) My husband doesn’t cook and never expects me to cook, not that I have time to do so during the work week.
The experience that both of us create on the weekend is an example of ‘giving to our relationship’ while putting dinner in the slow cooker is a giving that I did for him, and I know that he appreciated it.
Why is this difference important? Giving to each other without question will enhance you as a person and, therefore, your relationship. But giving to your relationship can deepen your connection with one another. Some time ago I read a book about relationships, based on workshops that were conducted with couples. The presenters (husband and wife) started the workshop by asking the couples to ‘introduce their relationship’ to everyone. I remember my thought while reading, ‘how unusual and brilliant’. The reason they did this was because they wanted to move out of the ‘he does this, and she does that’ finger pointing. By introducing their relationship, it allowed each person to explore what it was they had created together.
So ask yourself, what is it that each of you does that nurtures your relationship? What is it that creates a deepened connection with one another? Recently, a couple that I work with shared with me that both of them took the day off from work (kids were at school) and they spent the day together, relaxing and enjoying one another. AND, it was not easy for either one of them to take that day off from work. Bravo to both of them! This clearly was something that they did to connect and invest in their relationship.
Connection can be fragile. Believe me, there have been many times in my marriage throughout our 27 years together when disagreement and hurt resulted in disconnection and we don’t have the lovely evening that I described! There may be times in your relationship that your connection is even more fragile due to life’s challenges, and there may be times when it is stronger. At the beginning of a relationship, our connection appears to be strong (obviously for many reasons) with one reason being that we nurture our connection with one another. We might send a text during the day to let the person know that we are thinking of them. We may share what it is that we enjoy about the person. These things are ‘giving’ to the relationship because they are attempts to stay connected with one another. And all of us may have differing ideas of what giving looks like in our relationship. Sometimes it is doing a task together, especially in your home because your home is an investment (emotional) that you are making together. Or it can be going to an event (e.g. a play) for your child, and you share in your pride of your child together. It can be volunteering together or planning something/anything together. It can be an unexpected hug, compliment, or a moment of looking into each other’s eyes with love. It doesn’t always need to take a great deal of time or effort (When we were raising four children we didn’t have time for the evening that I described!), just thoughtful gestures, moments, or togetherness that build and strengthen your relationship.
Try to differentiate between doing for each other (although very important) and doing for your relationship. Doing a load of laundry, making the bed, throwing dinner in the oven, fixing the car, mowing the lawn, putting the kids to bed … all of these things are necessary and important for connection and working together as a team. Doing ‘for the relationship’ as I suggested will deepen your connection and love for one another. As you build a strong foundation of connection, it will guide you through the more challenging times in your life together.
Recently I viewed a video called The Science of Love, I absolutely loved it. I think you will enjoy it! They didn’t use this language but what they are talking about is the importance of balance in giving and receiving to your relationship. It can be so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day busyness of our lives and neglect what is most important to us.
So I encourage you to give thought to what it is that ‘gives to your relationship’ but remember, this cannot be one sided. Meaning that one cannot do all of the giving to the relationship, it must be mutually balanced. Not that each of you will always give to the same extent as the other all the time. If one person is going through more stress in their life, the other may need to give more to the relationship on that occasion. However, giving to the relationship needs to balance out over time.
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Photo Credit: Samuel Hearn @flickr.comShare