Posted by: Marie | August 19, 2010

(382) Reader Input: Give and take

Post #382

Solicitation for Reader Input

Recently, one of my posts brought up the topic of give and take within relationships.

I’d like to dive a bit deeper into this topic . . . I’d like to find out how each of you handles the give and take in relationships.

Do you think you are more of a giver or a taker? Does it change, depending upon the relationship at which we are looking?

When there is conflict about who is giving more or whose turn it is to carry more of the weight, how do you determine if you are carrying your fair share or if the other is shirking? Does a difference in love languages play a role in this determination?

How do you ask the other to give more in a specific situation? In general? Has your way of asking been effective?

How long do you stay in a relationship before you determine your needs are not going to be met and it is time to leave? Do you tend to keep trying to work it out longer than you should?

I really want to hear your thoughts!! Please send me your comments!


Responses

  1. “Do you think you are more of a giver or a taker? Does it change, depending upon the relationship at which we are looking?”
    I tend to be a listener. This has lead to the expectation in some cases that I will always listen but that others don’t have to reciprocate. Sometimes I voice this frustration, other times I accept that’s the way it is and find other people who will listen to me.
    In most relationships I think I am more of a giver but this calculation gets complicated. How much cooking equates to 2 hours of listening?

    “When there is conflict about who is giving more or whose turn it is to carry more of the weight, how do you determine if you are carrying your fair share or if the other is shirking? Does a difference in love languages play a role in this determination?”
    I haven’t found a way to figure this out. It is complicated by preferences. Is it fair for both to do the same amount of washing up if one hates the washing up and the other loves it? And one partner often ‘sees’ what ‘needs’ to be done and the other doesn’t.

    “How do you ask the other to give more in a specific situation? In general? Has your way of asking been effective?”
    It depends for me. Sometimes it is about some specific task or way of doing things. Other times a general dissatisfaction. When general I think the first thing to do is to try and get clearer about it (otherwise it is difficult to reslove the issue).
    When specific I think it is best to state what you are unhappy about and what you want, simply and clearly (and without personal denigration – stick to behaviour).

    “How long do you stay in a relationship before you determine your needs are not going to be met and it is time to leave? Do you tend to keep trying to work it out longer than you should?”
    I stayed in my first marriage years too long. But then I’m a fairly stubborn/persistent (take your choice) person. I keep trying different things. Since my divorce I voice things sooner and/or more insistently.

    I and my partner have never been able to figure out equality in these things. It has come down to what we are happy or unhappy about. If one of us loves to cook and wants to cook all day then the other doesn’t need to. But they need to be able to say that the want the cook to do other things to perhaps. The goal has become happiness not equality.

    • Hey, Evan –

      It seems that you and your partner are both aware of what you need/want, what is important to you . . . and it seems you are able to communicate well which creates an organic method of balancing the giving and the taking.

      It seems that both partners would have to be committed to carrying their own weight in the relationship in order for that to work. Otherwise, one would end up always carrying more of the weight.

      I’m glad you have found a way to make it work!

      – Marie

  2. My answers are probably similar in a lot of ways to Evan’s answers. Until my wife (who I have been married to just over 2 years and together with over 4 years) I had never had a very good relationship.

    I spent most of my 20’s sleeping around and engaged in short-term, unsatisfactory relationships. For me, 3 or 6 months with a woman was like an eternity.

    I tended to be very mean, unromantic, and had little to no understanding of a woman’s needs. I had a lot of big ideas about relationships–mostly cynical ideas–that were all pretty much b.s. that helped me rationalize my behavior.

    Then I met my wife.

    I will say that over the years I did a lot of work to try and be a more open, kind, communicative person. But Lauren really showed me what a true relationship is.

    As far as give and take, based on our relationship, I’d say it only matters how the 2 people involved feel about it. Lauren and I both feel completely taken care of, and there are most definitely times where one or the other of us picks up the slack.

    For instance, if Lauren is on a book deadline (she’s a writer), or if maybe she’s feeling stressed, I might run to the store for her, rub her back, get her drinks, and generally just make her feel loved and that she doesn’t have to worry about the small stuff.

    But for awhile at the beginning of us living together, she was doing like 90% of the housework and cooking. She said she didn’t mind and it was fine. Recently neither of us do much housework and so our apartment is a disaster!

    My point is that for us, we don’t have a ton of predetermined things that each of us do. I tend to make all the phone calls because Lauren doesn’t like making calls to strangers. She tends to handle a lot of the online bills, etc.

    It works out because we either communicate about it or because we just “vibe” well. We naturally fit and naturally work as a team, that’s always best.

    Not to say we don’t run into issues. We communicate constantly all day long, tell each other we love one another ALL THE TIME. It would make someone sick to hear it. But we love it, we make sure to stay close and connected on a day to day basis.

    It’s the best thing I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve told her–and it’s true–that until we met 4 years ago I’d never really experienced sustained happiness. But since meeting her, I’ve generally been happy in my life.

    She’s shown me so much and I am grateful to her.

    As for when to get out of a relationship, I think in the past I always got out when I felt myself wanting to be with or envisioning myself with a different woman. Fantasizing not just sexually, but even in terms of just having a better connection, with another person–that’s a BAD sign.

    I think if I don’t want to be in something, then it’s just not worth it. Nowadays I think about all relationships in a similar vein. If my gut is telling me to go, then it’s time to go. Maybe it’s not always that simple, but many times it really is that simple and I just need to listen to myself.

    And god knows I like to talk!

    • Hey, Aaron –

      I hear you saying that neither of you holds stong expectations of each other . . . maybe you have found patterns that work well, but you don’t get upset when the other doesn’t hold to that pattern. That seems to be a good way to go if it can work for you.

      On the staying/going thing . . . do you think there are times that you want to leave just because it is tough? Are there times it would be healthy to stay and work through the tough times?

      – Marie

  3. Hi Marie,

    Yes, it takes both partners to make it work this way. We are both such resolute individualists that no other way would work for us. (I do think defined roles can work if both partners like them – but this way isn’t ours.)

    If one partner does too much that they don’t like for too long – they run out of energy (story of my first marriage).

    I know it’s a cliche but it really is all about communication (and having a way to communicate that is shared is really helpful for this).

  4. The relationship I’m currently in, with the amazing woman to whom I affectionately refer as The Amazon, has caused me to redefine giving and taking in the context of partner-relationships. I find that rather than thinking of it in those terms, I now think of the relationship, and whether it is working, in terms of direction, aspiration, and goals.

    This has worked really well for me, and it’s been interesting to look at it in the context of past relationships. My “needs” frequently weren’t met in past relationships because my partner and I didn’t have the same direction or the same goals. It wasn’t really a case of her not wanting to give me what I needed; it was a case of her not even understanding what it was. In my last relationship, my partner had, as her internally stated goal, that she wanted to retain the upper hand in the power balance of the relationship. This was incompatible with my goal of emotional intimacy.

    Putting it on this footing allowed me to move away from what either of us should or shouldn’t be doing, and away from blaming either myself or her. We had incompatible goals. That’s the end of the story.

    With my current partner, the majority of our goals are aligned, and therefore both of us find that most of the time, our most basic needs are met. There are times when one of us has more energy than the other, and puts more toward moving in the direction we want to go, but there is a shared understanding of what we are doing together and why.

    It’s been my experience that this principle works surprisingly well in a lot of circumstances. Need is a very … charged concept. If someone doesn’t meet our needs, we feel unseen, unheard, disregarded, disrespected, abused … but it might really not be that way for the other person; they might be so different from us that they simply can’t understand what the hell we’re talking about.

    • Hey, David –

      I’m hearing you say that you also use more of an organic method of establishing the give and take balance . . . like the two of you are ox pulling shoulder to shoulder in the same direction. (Okay, that’s not the most graceful analogy, but you know what I mean.)

      It seems like you are saying the two of you are more focused on where you are heading as a couple (shoulder to shoulder) rather than being turned in towards each other in a closed circuit. And, this is only possible because you are naturally on the same wavelength.

      I’m glad you have such a cool relationship!

      – Marie

      • Actually, that’s quite a good analogy.
        :-)

  5. Marie, you asked: “On the staying/going thing . . . do you think there are times that you want to leave just because it is tough? Are there times it would be healthy to stay and work through the tough times?”

    Well we are speaking about the past for the most part. With my wife and I, the early going was actually very tumultuous but we kept moving forward somehow. I’m talking about maybe the first 3-6 months. I think the fact that we somehow broke that cycle is pretty much a miracle.

    We broke a very tumultuous, unhealthy cycle, mainly because I got my shit together and made big changes in my behavior.

    I think we keep going sometimes when we know something is worth it. But sometimes we just keep going out of fear and apathy. Knowing the difference between something being worth it as opposed to just fear/apathy is difficult. But deep down, we usually do know.

    Staying or going is a tough thing. I believe that when we stay in something that we know isn’t good for us and never will be, we have a deep sense that what we are doing is just wrong. Eventually we get the message and end the relationship. The more clued in we are, the quicker we can make that move.

    Staying and working through hard times is of course hugely important. My wife and I work through hard times often. But we work through it together. We don’t set out to make each other’s lives more difficult. And that’s a big difference. We work on stuff together, towards a common end, and even though shit can still come up that is painful or hard, we aren’t adding to it by treating each other badly.

    I think it’s interesting that David Evan and my descriptions of our current relationships have some very similar qualities. Being on the same page, the same wavelength, and having good communication are all part of our descriptions and we’re all apparently quite happy.

    Maybe there’s something to it?

    • Hey, Aaron –

      I like how you differentiated between the times you know staying is for the best and the times you know leaving is better.

      I, too, find it interesting that all you guys have similar approaches in the give and take dynamic. There must be something to it!

      Thanks for all your input!

      – Marie


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