Give and Take of Relationships

            I have spent some time thinking about what makes relationships successful and what makes them fail. The principle of “give and take” is applicable to both romantic and platonic relationships. This may sound sociopathic to some who believe in loyalty to friends under all circumstances, but I hypothesize that healthy relationships require a relatively equal amount of give and take. One should receive about as much as one gives in a relationship. Conflict, abuse, and resentment arise when the balance is tilted dramatically to one side.

            Lack of equilibrium may take place for a variety of reasons. Some people are naturally more giving than others. These people may tolerate a higher threshold of takers; however, this can and often does lead to abuse and manipulation. Family is another exception because one should not be so quick to throw family members out of one’s life. I would argue the threshold of give and take is, and likely should be, higher between family members. However, too much of a discrepancy is still be highly problematic.

            Self-perception is another important variable especially in romantic relationships. I have written earlier about the importance of having comparable self-perceptions between partners in romantic relationships. If one’s self-perception is lower than that of their partner, they will tolerate a large amount of taking. When one partner’s self-perception is far greater than that of the other but they are receiving a lot from their partner, they will likely stay in the relationship longer than they want to. The other partner may be blinded by love and willing to give everything they have even if they are not receiving it back. This will result in a vicious cycle where appreciation for the giver continually dwindles, the taker continues to demand more, and the admiration the giver has for the taker prevents them from extricating themselves from a toxic relationship. To a lesser extent, unequal self-perceptions can result in a similarly problematic dynamic within platonic relationships.

            In order to avoid both abuse and resentment from those around you, I believe it is important to frequently evaluate your relationships. Are your demands causing those around you to distance themselves from you? Are you fed up with people who keep demanding more and more from you? If you are involved in a potentially unequal distribution of give and take, I believe this should be communicated as quickly as possible. If the problem persists and become unmanageable, extricating oneself from a relationship isn’t a bad idea. Tolerating abuse from a taker only communicates to them that their behavior is acceptable and will not benefit that person in the long term.

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