I remember my starter relationships. I was determined to be the best girlfriend ever. If there was going to be an award show for girlfriends, I wanted to win the Academy for it. And in hindsight, I probably could have. I’d read every everything on how to be an awesome girlfriend and tried to put it all into action. I’m not saying I was perfect but my intentions were great and I tried really really hard.
However, even though I might have been girlfriend smart, early on, I was relationship stupid about something very fundamental. I gave my then boyfriends the world and what I got in return was exhaustion and emptiness. Back then, I’d always defined and prided myself on being an altruist – someone who got a high from giving to others so I thought that I never wanted anything in return. I considered myself Miss Independent before Kelly Clarkson did and saw needing anything from a man as a sign of weakness so I thought I didn't need anything. And sometimes when little pangs of desire crept in, I thought that if I gave just a little more, he'd notice and I'd get a little something in return to keep me going. But eventually I always found out...
IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY.
A relationship (at least one post the Ward and June Cleaver days) is in part (a very important part) BUILT on equitable give and take. You can’t just be an A+ rockstar girlfriend fulfilling all your man’s needs – you need the same in return. Reciprocation needs to be woven into the fabric of the partnership right from its inception. If it’s not, resentment is cultivated and spreads throughout like a nasty virus It’s hard to cure. Very very hard.
Whether you are in a relationship now or not, you can and should evaluate how you perform as a contributor and a taker in one. It is important to be able to play both roles equally well. Being the most generous partner in the world, unable to receive, can be just as destructive as being an all out taker.
Get out a piece of paper. Down the center, draw a large “T.” On the top left, write “WITHDRAWALS.” On the top right, write, “DEPOSITS.” Using your current or most recent relationship, in the left column mark down everything you do/did for your man – EVERYTHING. The things you love/loved doing to the things you do/did out of love. From listening to him bitch about work to cooking breakfast. Everything. Now on the right side, write down everything your man does/did for you. Be fair here – include everything! Make sure that you don’t fixate on a certain period of time in your relationship where you may have overcompensated, as it is natural for relationships to go through stretches where due to circumstances the scales are tipped seemingly unfairly – for the purposes of the exercise, look at the relationship in its totality.
What you have created is your relationship balance sheet (not to be confused with a score sheet. If you are viewing it as a score sheet, you have already entered the resentment zone). Judging your entries by weight of effort, not by number of entries, do your columns seem relatively balanced? Do you look at the sheet and feel good about it?
If your answer is YES: Your relationship is balanced. Your ROI is very sound. Go home and wrap your loving arms around your man as he wraps his around yours in return. Your relationship stands strong with a foundation of reciprocal respect. You scratch his back, he scratches yours. Do not take this for granted and continue to give with love and receive with ease. Nurture this valuable part of your relationship structure as it is an essential dynamic for lasting, loving love.
If your answer is NO: Your relationship is unbalanced. Whether you are giving more (the withdrawal column outweighs the deposit one) or he is, one of you is over-functioning in the relationship and will eventually go bankrupt. No different than if someone kept taking cash out of your bank account but didn't put any in to replace what was taken out - eventually you will have a zero, or worse yet, negative balance. It is inevitable. Here's the thing, relationships run on emotional fuel. The fuel is the gifts we give each other and they come in many forms (intellectual stimulation, sexual satisfaction, listening, helping out, being supportive, and so on and so on). If one of you is not providing for the other, the receiver’s deprivation will lead to feeling empty tanked. An empty tank results in a lack of desire and sometimes literally the ability to give anymore to the relationship, and such begins the end of it.
In a relationship, aim for what is called “healthy dependency.” A notion whereby partners blend intimacy and autonomy. They reach out to each other for what they need which makes them feel strong, not weak and ultimately brings them closer together. They achieve a proportional give and take model. They look out for each others needs but also are capable of tending to themselves (i.e. they are not each other’s “other half”). When healthy dependency is reached, a couple feels in sync; they feel balanced.
Giving comes from the heart. It shouldn’t be begged for, forced or demanded. If it is, it won’t sustain because it won’t be pure. Seek a partnership in which your give and take balance sheet is equally weighted, not for score’s sake, but for heart’s sake - because you give to your partner because it feels good and you take because you are comfortable being cared for. That’s healthy dependence, that’s healthy love.
Live and love largely,