Is Marriage a “Give and Take” Relationship?

By Arlene Kahn Therapy • June 22nd, 2015

When asking seasoned married people, “What’s the art of a successful marriage?,” many would say “Marriage has to be a “give and take.”  What that implies is that  one gives sometimes and at other times, he or she can take.  It brings to mind a process similar to going to the bank.   I put in 20.00 and at a later time, I can take out 20.00.   Unfortunately, it’s the kind of expectation that too often breeds disappointment, hurt, anger or resentment.

First, what works better is something more like “Give and Receive.”  What’s the difference?   Well, you  can really never take from another person, no matter how much you’ve given. (Maybe your mother is a kind of Giving Tree, in which case this theory would not hold).  But most relationships are not made of Giving Trees.   You give because you want to give. and you  give what you’re able to give.  Likewise, the other person also gives as he or she wants to give, and what he or she is capable of giving.  This means, you must be ready to receive what is given—if you want it. It means appreciating the effort even if it isn’t exactly what you gave that you wanted back.    For example:  I gave you a surprise 40th birthday party, but you didn’t give me one!”  Maybe you’re capable of making such a party whereas your partner is overwhelmed by that idea. So you may never get a surprise party, but you may get a lavish dinner out.  We can’t take what we want, we can receive what we get — and we can want that.

Some people have a lot of trouble giving, others have a lot of difficulty receiving. The art of Give and Receive is to appreciate what’s given to you, and give what you can and as freely and lovingly as you can give it.  This is often an important aspect of lovemaking.  Often, it’s frustrating to get what the other person likes.  He or she may like a soft touch, but you may want a harder or a little rougher stimulation.  To receive that softness, won’t work well for you.  Here’s where communication comes in.  You can ask, or demonstrate, but it doesn’t mean you will get it.  To be rough might be anathema to your partner, so it never comes out just right.  If you perceive h/her attempt as an unwillingness on his or her part, or not listening to you, you might get angry, ultimately it may lead to an affair or other hurtful alternatives.  If you perceive it as she or he is doing the best s/he can, you may be able to adjust your expectations differently and in a way that ultimately feels more satisfying.

See if you can notice the subtle expectations, hopes or desires you have in your relationship, i.e. specific ways you would want your partner to be more giving.  Notice also, the things your partner has asked you to do, whether it’s in the realm of daily chores, like doing the dishes more often, or in more intimate areas like kissing him or her when he or she comes home.  Can you start the ball rolling, by making the first change?  Sometimes, when one person pushes their own limits to meet their partner’s needs or desires i.e., gives something that’s hard to do, it helps the other person make more of an effort, too.

Comments to this post would be welcome.



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