The Importance of Give and Take in Relationships

That’s a guest post by the Couples Clinic, an organization of Winnipeg relationship therapists (www.winnipegcouplesclinic.ca).

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“Give and take” is a mechanism inherent to all personal relationships – you cannot expect to receive something if you don’t offer on your own turn. Once the balance between give and take is broken, difficulties arise and partners feel they are not getting too much from their relationship. The real problem is, in fact, not giving enough – you reap what you sow, as the biblical saying puts it.

Have you ever been in a relationship where one person did nothing but give and the other only received selfishly? In some cases, those who give all the time don’t allow themselves to receive anything in return – this problem needs to be addressed as well.

Let’s consider an example:

Joe and Sarah are a married couple. Sarah does the housekeeping by herself, runs errands, and makes sure Joe has everything he needs, from preparing his breakfast to ironing his shirts. She also joins him at sporting events and action movies, even if she doesn’t really enjoy them. One time, Sarah asks Joe to join her at a play she wanted to go to for ages, but he refuses. Sarah feels very disappointed and starts complaining about all the times she never received anything in return.

In other couples, the situation is slightly different:

Alice has had a very busy week: one of the children got sick, she had to finish an important project at work, and her friend asked her to take care of her dog while she was away from town. Her husband, John, offered to clean the house for the weekend, but she refused replying that he would not do it the right way. On the other hand, Alice is so tired every evening that she falls asleep as soon as she jumps into bed and they never have time to talk to each other or spend time together.

In both cases, “give and take” doesn’t function well; in the first example, Joe needs to become less selfish and learn how to give, while in the second story, Alice should stop being a perfectionist, delegate some of her work, and learn how to receive.

Is your relationship similar to one of the two cases? Here are some ways to fine-tune daily interactions with your partner and achieve a perfect balance between give and take:

5 Ways to Improve Your Relationship

1. Conversation.

Conversation is not just about exchanging information; people talk to each other to share feelings, to get relief, and to re-assure themselves when they are dealing with problems. Common mistakes in a conversation are talking only about yourself and not being an active listener. Speak about your problems and concerns, but also offer the other person the chance to talk as well and really listen to them, instead of interrupting and focusing again just on your person.

2. Mutual help.

Has your wife prepared your favorite dish last week-end? If she asks you to help her buy a new dress, join her and be patient while she tries on every outfit. A relationship where one partner does all the efforts and the other always refuses to provide help to the same extent is misbalanced and unfulfilling.

3. Giving compliments.

Compliments are a vital part of a healthy relationship. Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – on top of the pyramid we have self-actualization. Oftentimes, your partner needs you to observe their personal growth and recognize their achievement or qualities. From telling your spouse how great they look before going out to dinner to showing your admiration for their results at work, a well-thought and honest compliment every day can make wonders in your relationship.

4. Accepting flows.

Nobody is perfect, that’s for sure, but some people react more negatively to their partner’s mistakes. Each time you get angry because your spouse left home this morning without washing the dishes, think about a similar situation where you didn’t meet their expectations either, but they reacted less violently. Is the fight worth it, after all?

5. Giving space.

Being involved in a relationship doesn’t mean you should be together 24/7 and not accept your partner’s decision of spending time separately. Understand that people in a relationship can have their own hobbies or do activities with other people as well, and also enjoy your time alone – it will do both of you good!

Putting these pieces of advice into practice may be difficult in the beginning, or make you feel awkward. But, if you feel your relationship needs improvement, doing things the same way as you always have won’t make a difference. Find your missing part of the equation and learn how to be both a giver and a receiver!

References:
Covey, Stephen R. (2013). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Principles of empathic communication 263-270
McLeod, Saul (2014). Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Lidiya K

Lidiya K

Author, blogger and podcaster in the fields of self-improvement and life hacking. Creator of Let's Reach Success.
Full-time freelance writer. Lifestyle designer.
Lidiya K

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