Every relationship needs give-and-take between two people to truly be a relationship. “Give-and-take” in a relationship simply means both people invest into the relationship and both people get something back from the relationship. The relationship here is what I call “us” (you+me). If one person is doing all the giving and the other is doing all the taking, then that is not a relationship, at least not a fulfilling one.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t give more than you are receiving. No relationships is one hundred percent 50/50 give-and-take. In most relationship one person is always giving a little more. In others, one person gives more this time and the next time, the other gives more. Never hundred percent 50/50 give-and-take.
But when giving threatens your sense of self or affects your self-esteem so much that you don’t feel worthy of love, or you find yourself constantly complaining, or angry about giving and not getting anything back, the giving has become toxic. The relationship is toxic.
Giving who you are to the extent that you empty yourself onto the laps of others only makes you insignificant and invisible in the relationship. And when there seems to be only one person in the relationship, a disconnection happens. This disconnection is felt as “distancing” or “something is missing”. It’s not just the giving person who disconnects, the receiving person disconnects too. Even when the giving person does not complain or ask for anything, the receiving person feels “Well, I am getting all this, what is the catch?”
Verbally this comes out as “I need space” or “I can’t give you what you want” or “You deserve more than I can give you” or “I don’t think I am good enough for you”.
When you allow yourself to be drained of all you can possibly give to a relationship, the relationship becomes hard work. Hard work because you are giving way too much of yourself to extract even a small amount of love (affection, attention, support, etc). And when that relationship ends (most do), you will have less to give to a deserving man or woman, and may find yourself passing up good men and women because of the experiences of your past.
It’s not easy to just stop toxic giving to a relationship if you’ve been doing it almost all your life. I could go on and on as to why you give too much, but you can find a lot of that information on the internet. The question is how do you stop it. More importantly, if are with someone who gives less to the relationship, what do you do to bring back the balance to your relationship without driving the other person further away.
First of all, as mentioned above, giving is a good thing. Giving more than you are receiving is healthy. And when it comes to trying to get back your ex, giving more than you are receiving especially in the initial stages is normal. In fact you should expect it and accept it. So don’t stop giving. But you also need to:
1. Ask for what you need and want.
Many of us are either too afraid to ask or don’t know how to ask for what we want. When we ask it comes off as demanding, complaining or nagging.
For example: “I’ll be working a little late tonight. Do you mind picking up the laundry?” is asking. The problem for most people is when the other person says “No”. We get upset and emotional.
- “Every time I ask you to do something you say “no”
- “I can’t do everything”
- “Why can’t you ever help”
- “This is the third time…”
Now you are demanding, complaining and nagging. Good asking gives the other person the option or right to say “No” without putting up resistance.
2. Learn to say “no” sometimes.
Most people will take what they’re given, and nothing wrong with that. But there people who’ll take far more than they deserve. People who take and take from you and give nothing back in return. People who like and love you only for what you give. People who ignore you until they want something. People who have no problem taking the last breathe off your mouth just in case they will need it later on.
Saying “No” sometimes doesn’t make you less loving. Saying “No” sometimes is being someone who respects themselves enough to have boundaries. (See my article: It’s Okay in a Relationship to Say No Or Enough)
In most cases, a give-and-take- imbalance in a relationship is due to lack of communication, misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Negotiating the give-and-take dynamics of your relationship should start from the very beginning of the relationship and continue thought the relationship.
4. Recognize when you are with someone who is incapable of giving.
This is not the same as does not want to give because they don’t want “pressure” from you. This is about someone who just can’t give, period. Believe it or not, there are grown up men and women who’ll burst into tears because you asked to share their sandwich. You can’t teach someone like that to give.
You either accept that that’s the person you love and stop trying to squeeze “consideration” out of them, or cut your losses and choose better next time.
But before you walk away, make sure you’ve done a good job at 1, 2, and 3. Sometimes it’s easier to blame all the problems in a relationship on that selfish, narcissistic ex, when the problem is that we are no better at being good partners ourselves.