In order to get more of what you want in relationships, it’s important to recognize that there is a “choreography” to good relationships. When relationships work well, each person has the sense that they are getting a lot (of companionship, understanding, fun, etc.) from the relationship and neither feels overburdened by what they have to give or the costs of being in the relationship.This is also known as the “give and take” of relating. It’s kind of like a dance that takes place where two people alternate stepping up and giving with being able to step back and receive.
This back and forth dance that happens in healthy relationships can take many forms. Here are a few examples of what this giving and taking can look like in a relationship:
This week we hang at my house, next week at yours
I’ll pay this time, you can pay next time
You cook tonight and I’ll cook tomorrow
Let’s see your relatives for the holiday this year, mine next
While it isn’t helpful to keep score, it is important to have the sense that things are not overly one-sided and that there is close to equal sharing taking place overall when it comes to who is most often doing the traveling, spending, compromising, etc.
There are many reasons why this relationship choreography doesn’t always work out so well. Issues that can interfere with a healthy give and take in relationships include:
Insecurity and Self Esteem Issues: Where one person feels they have to do the lion’s share of the giving in order to be loved.
Inability to Receive: Some people find it difficult, even painfully uncomfortable to let others do for them or to accept any kind of gift (the gift of love, of attention as well as tangible gifts).
Guilt or Shame: If a person has done something or acted in a way that they feel very guilty or ashamed of, it can make it impossible to accept kindness or generosity from someone else.
Imbalances: Sometimes one person is less interested in the relationship or in maintaining a connection than the other. This can lead them to be less generous, less flexible, and less attuned to how much giving each of you is doing.
Unspoken Anger or Resentment: If one of you isn’t speaking up about something that has upset or hurt you, these feelings can bubble just underneath the surface and interfere with the natural rhythms of give and take. It’s important to find a way to talk about how you are feeling so that old hurts and resentment don’t contaminate the new experiences you can have together.
The good news is that all of the above obstacles to getting what you want in relationships can be addressed and overcome. Talking with a Massachusetts licensed psychotherapist or skillful relationship coach or couples coach can help you to iron out the wrinkles of your relationships and enjoy the benefits of more give and take in how you relate.
Are you getting enough of what you want in your relationships? Let us know how you are doing as a couple by leaving a comment below.