10 November, 2008

Giving and Receiving

This story is about giving and receiving in relationships. And about which is harder, and which is easier. I've been in relationships where I have given much more than I have received, and I have been in relationships where I have received much more than I have given. I am sure I have probably been in ones where the balance has been just about equal. And in the interest of punctuating the anonymity, let me point out that it is not in any way obvious to the outside observer which was necessarily which.

There are plusses and minuses to both extremes. When you give a lot more than you get, you can feel like you're a good person. You can feel generous. You can feel like you're making the world a better place. You can feel like the karma of the universe is tilted entirely in your favor.

When things are good...

When things are bad, that often turns around into feeling like you're being taken for granted. Being tired of always being the one making the sacrifices, pulling the load, trying hard to make things right. Giving... giving... giving... and there's resentment. And there's jealousy of other people who are getting more.

Somewhere in the middle, neither good nor bad, there's "self-righteousness". I am not sure if that's a positive thing or a negative one. It can make you feel good, because it is validating, but it can also bite you in the ass because it can become justification for transgressions, dishonesty, and who knows what sort of other things, because you have the upper hand, being the one who's got all that karma stored.

The other extreme is the "getting more than you give" end of the spectrum. Well, the upside of that, of course, is that you get a lot! Having someone rain down love, caring, nurturing, gifts, kindness, support, assistance, and all those other wonderful things can certainly make you feel really good. How could there be a downside to that?

Well, leave it to human kind to find the shit lining to the silver cloud. Guilt. Well, if you aren't willing to, or can't give as much as you get, then you feel guilty. It's human nature. You know you're being treated really well, and you feel like you don't deserve it, so you feel guilty.

Being the one who is receiving more is actually a very "malleable" place to be, compared to the other way around, however. If you are receiving more, you can do lots of things. You could decide to give more! That's in your control, and would have a positive impact. You could decide to give less, and to take advantage, which would yield obvious selfish, short-term benefits, but would ultimately result in hurt, guilt, and (for the other person's sake) probably a certain end.

Being the one who is giving more is a bit harder of a place to be. Because your options are fewer, and none are really as fabulous. You can elect to give less. That probably isn't your nature, and will probably result in you detaching and finding some new person to give to, or maybe it will just amount to some type of resignation. You can keep giving more and more, hoping the other person gets the hint, and becomes inspired to reciprocate. More likely, however, is that they might start to feel guilty. Alternatively, you could ask them to give more, but then you'll probably feel bad for having asked for things.

It's a really bizarre dynamic, the givers and the takers.

The givers, I think, need to find someone else to direct their attention onto, to avoid themselves. And the takers, I actually think have some sort of self-punishing pattern of wanting to feel bad about themselves, and thus not doing the simple things that could make them feel good.

And interestingly, there can be weird situations where there is a perfect balance though the things that each person gives are radically different such that one person gives a whole lot of "A" and the other person gives a whole lot of "B" and it might be impossible to measure/compare/reconcile/believe in the conversion units between A and B, and yet somehow they're there. And that raises the interesting question... maybe there is ALWAYS a perfect balance of giving and receiving, but many times the A and B are completely different and incomparable. A might be entirely tangible, and B might be largely intangible. If the key factor is "Do they stay together?" then perhaps that answer hinges upon this complicated equation of A = B. So maybe the interesting thing to do in each relationship is to try to figure out what A and B even are!

I don't know. Maybe I don't know anything about relationships.


  1. why is there a vertical line in the middle of your blog?

  2. ...I think you know more about relationships than you give yourself credit for. But sometimes Knowing isn't everything. :) There are some creatures who Know and there are some creatures who do not Know, but all the creatures give and receive. Some just give things like puke and filth, while others give things like chicken. And fresh water.