Why Unrequited Giving Doesn't Keep a Relationship Together


You think you're a generous person and no one appreciates that. The truth is that you're wrong.

Many people are “relentless” givers. They give and give to another and when it is not appreciated, the giver becomes upset and indignant. How can you treat me like this after all I’ve done for you?

Are you someone who goes into relationship after relationship giving and giving and receiving nothing, not even appreciation, in return?  Do you always find yourself saying,  “I’m such a good person. I’m so generous. I’m so kind.” But the truth is that you're not as generous or compassionate or "good-hearted" as you think you are.  There is a method to your madness. You are taking people hostage with over-the-top giving. You are trying to make yourself indispensible.  You are trying to make someone comfortable and for them to credit you with that comfort.  But what actually happens is that the other person becomes uncomfortable—whether consciously or unconsciously—with the manipulation that is inherent in unrequited giving.

Giving without getting anything in return is not about love or generosity. It’s about insecurity. You refuse to just be yourself and let someone accept or reject it. Instead, you try to raise the odds in your favor by giving and giving. When the giving doesn’t pay off, you’re upset. You were rejected despite all of the “great things” you did for this person, despite what a "truly loving, kind" person you are.  You say, "But I love to help people!  Why does this always happen to me?"

You may give materially or monetarily.  You may give too much time (or always be “on-call” for your partner) or expend energy trying to save someone from their addiction or problems.You make excuses as to why he or she can’t give. He’s going through a rough patch. She’s never had someone take care of her. He just needs to focus on himself right now. She is in financial trouble and I want to help her out.

Each of these excuses can be valid on occasion or in a relationship where the other person has shown you similar generosity. Each of these excuses can be valid when there has been a track record of give and take. A true partnership is about being there for each other when times are tough.  But if it's a one-way street, these are just excuses to keep thowing good money after bad, not testimony to what a great person you are. If you're not getting, just giving, then you are manipulating someone and holding them hostage with your “generosity.” The other person feels it and that is why they back away, which leaves you sad and unappreciated. How many times does it have to happen before you stop?

You think it is unfair for a person to treat you this way. But, the reality is that it’s unfair for YOU to act this way. All good relationships need to happen on an even playing field and if you think you have to give and give to be loved, it’s not a level playing field.

Unrequited giving happens when someone is afraid of being him or herself in a relationship. They hide behind a wall of “Here, let me do that for you…” and hope that they become an indispensible part of another’s life. But that rarely happens. And if it does happen, it still doesn’t make it okay. Instead of a partner, you have found a user, a leech, a freeloader, a child (and usually a badly-behaved child at that). Healthy people will not let you give and give without reciprocation. If you have someone like that, they're either ready to run or content to stick around and suck you dry.  You don't want either.

A healthy relationship can only exist when both people bring equally to the table. A healthy relationship means bringing yourself, your real self, and not just your bank book to the table. A healthy relationship is about caring for each other, not one person carrying the burden.

Learning to be healthy in relationships starts with giving to yourself. You learn what you like and don’t like. You learn to kick the habit of overspending, overdoing, over-fixing. You may always feel a tug to do more and more, but you learn to keep it in check. When you start to give, you ask yourself if you’re doing it from insecurity or from your heart. When you start to give, ask when you last “got.” Giving works only in reciprocal relationships.

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When relationships are “even” in how much time, money and effort is given, everyone feels better. Put your credit card away and learn to bring you to the relationship and know that is enough.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.