Are You Really Ready for Love? The Importance of Balance
- Friday, February 09, 2007
“I’m the one always giving in this relationship,” Sarah exclaimed to me recently during a counseling appointment. “It seems like the more I give to my boyfriend, Todd, the more he takes. I don’t get it.”
I nodding my head in understanding.
“And what don’t you get?” I asked.
“I don’t get why I have to be the one to always be the giver, while he is always the taker.”
I didn’t want to be rude, or condescending, but persisted with my question.
“Sarah. What don’t you understand? You keep giving, and he keeps taking. It sounds like an oddly balanced relationship.”
“Well,” she snapped. “If this is a balanced relationship, I sure don’t want an unbalanced one.”
“Well, remember I said oddly balanced. You give – Todd takes, creating an unhealthy balance. I didn’t say it is a healthy, balanced relationship, and there is a big difference.”
“Help me understand the difference,” Sarah said, obviously frustrated.
“The difference between an unhealthy, balanced relationship and a healthy, balanced relationship, is that in a healthy relationship both partners are giving to each other, meeting each other’s emotional and spiritual needs. There is a quality of reciprocity – there is a give and take quality. Does that make sense?”
“Sure it makes sense, but that doesn’t happen in my relationship with Todd. For as long as we’ve been dating he has been the taker and I have to be the giver. I get frustrated and resentful.”
“Sarah. You are making several very important points that we need to explore. You feel like you have to be the giver – that isn’t true. You choose to be the giver. And secondly, you give when you don’t want to give, and then resent it. That isn’t healthy for you.”
Sarah and I began to work on the next quality needed to determine if you are really ready for love – the ability to create balance and reciprocity. It was not easy for Sarah to see how she was setting herself up for resentment. She had several beliefs that got in her way. She had grown up in a Christian home, believing:
- You shouldn’t ask for what you need
- You should always meet others’ needs
- When you give, others will naturally give back
Sarah had trouble initially with some of our work. She had difficulty seeing that “balance and reciprocity” is not a tit for tat kind of thing, nor is it something like we did as kids, measuring out the number of French fries to make sure things were exactly even. Rather, it is following the scriptural mandate to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
Another scriptural guideline may be helpful to you. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, encouraged them to “carry each other’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2) However, just a few short verses later he says, “each one should carry his own load.” This can be quite confusing unless we understand that he is encouraging us to help those with burdens they cannot bear alone, and not to enable others by carrying the burdens of those who should be managing their own load. It means being clear about meeting needs appropriately in your relationship – not meeting needs that your mate should be responsible for meeting themselves.
I want to offer a few extra words of caution. Too often the relationship balance can be upset when the partner who needs the other less tends to put in reduced effort, becomes less giving and even exploits his or her partner. Another danger is when the partner who needs the other more tends to submit to, and perhaps invite this unevenness and exploitation. The key will be paying attention to your feelings. There will be inevitable imbalances and you must choose whether you will be upset with every little inequity, tell yourself the imbalance is okay while ignoring evidence that you are filled with hurt and resentment, or feel comfortable with the amount you give and receive.
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