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When Giving’s Not Good For You…Or Your Relationship

February 6, 2009

Generally giving is good for us. It makes us feel good, generous, and lifts our spirits because we’re involved in another’s well-being. But sometimes it’s not good for you–or your relationships. Consider the wife who puts her own needs second after her husband and third after her kids, fourth after her aging parents. She’s so used to being in a caretaking role that she doesn’t even know how to identify what she wants–but now she feels shortchanged and mad.   Eventually her very giving has turned to resentment. Or the husband who imagines himself a wonderful provider, giving more than he’d like to please his wife…until the day he doesn’t get back what he expects in return for all his generosity, and now thinks of his wife as selfish.

These givers need to take a long hard look at their motivations for giving, and an even harder look at what the “deal” of their relationship is–what they expect in return. Because after all, it’s not really a gift if you expect back (but don’t name it). It’s not really a gift if the receiver doesn’t know the deal. It’s not really a gift…if it has the string of an unstated expectations attached.  

Let’s face it–marriages  aren’t altruistic. You can’t always be the giver. Everyone needs a balance of give-and-take. No one should too often find themselves on the seesaw in either the giving or taking position. Because then the seesaw won’t be fun…someone will want to get off.  You want a generous balance where you give in trust that when you need a turn you’ll get one. So please, don’t pride yourself too much on giving, unless you have also really stated what you need too.  That’s only fair—to yourself, and your partner.

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