What Does 'Giving & Receiving' Mean In A Couple?

Observing my own marriage and listening to the stories of many in my profession, I came to realise that the major cause for marriages to breakdown is the lack of balance between ‘giving ‘ and ‘ receiving’. We are often not aware of this crucial lack of equilibrium in couples! In fact there is very little education on the topic and lack of education leads to lack of awareness and ability to change.

In order to better understand the topic of lack of balance ‘in giving and receiving in couples…’ and what we can learn from this and its effect on marriages, we need to go back to the root of the problem.
Let’ s start asking : what is a relationship? And how many types of relationships do we have?

According to my experience and studying there exist 2 basic types of relationships: one between a superior and an inferior, such as the relationship between parents and their children; and one between equals, such as a man and a woman who become husband and wife, or agree to spend life together.

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hen we examine what goes on between a parents and child, we immediately see and imbalance: the child is dependent on the adult, the mother or father gives more and the child takes or receive more. In fact when we look at the difference between a child and and adult, what immediately is evident is that a child is relatively helpless and therefore does not have to bear responsibility, whereas an adult is because mature emotionally and intellectually,  responsible for what he does and chooses.

When we look at relationships between healthy couples, we see a balance, a reciprocation of ‘ giving’ and ‘ taking’ ( or receiving ) in which both partners play the roles of the giver and receiver in roughly equal amounts.

Between man a woman who choose to spend life together, the exchange of giving and receiving happens at all levels – material, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual – and is the sustaining force that maintains the relationship, deepening the commitment of both partners.

The more they ‘ give and receive/take ‘ from each other, the stronger the bond will be between them.

In the parent-child relationship the sentence we use to express this intrinsic dynamics are:’ Your are big and I am small; you give, I receive/take’. In a man-woman relationship it is more appropriate to say to each other: ‘ I have something that you need and I’m ready to give it to you; also, you have something that I need and I am ready to receive/take it from you…’

In the process of ‘giving and receiving’, a normal relationship between a man and a woman will swing between moments of imbalance and a desire to restore balance and any tension between partners is usually contained in this dynamic.

The problem starts when partners come together and more often than anyone can imagine, bring into the relationship whatever burdens they carry from their family of origin, so it is clear that parent-child relationship will have a strong impact on the man-woman relationship. If a person wants to ‘give ‘ to his parents, a situations which is an entanglement that goes against the natural hierarchy and order of a family system, then he may want to compensate by ‘receiving/taking’ from his partner, as if the partner is his parent. As a consequence, all is turned upside down and the situation gets, let’s say…..complicated!

What would need to happen to remedy the situation is that in relation to his partner he/she would need to grow ‘bigger’, learning to take responsibility and giving more, playing the role of an adult not of a emotionally immature child.

When one partner unconsciously asks the other to be a parent, or adopts a parental role, the balance between 2 equals is disturbed, upsetting the balance of the relationship.

What is required of a man and a woman who come together in a partnership is that they ask something from the other and are at the same time aware of what they owe to the other.

The real challenge is to take a position in the relationship where both partners give only as much as the other is willing to give back, or receive only as much as the other is ready to receive in return.

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Usually, imbalances happen without either partner being aware of what is going on; their overflowing ‘ giving’ , or they compulsive ‘ receiving/taking ‘, are normally built into their behavioural patterns by early family conditioning and often include a tendency to pull out of the relationship when the imbalance becomes too big.

In any relationship between a man and a woman as love partners, it is generally a healthy response for couples to make demands on each other, just as long as it is balanced by good-natured attempt at exchange and maintaining balance. 

Similarly , there will be problems if one of the partners continuously behave either like a parent or like a child. In both these situations, there will be an issue of imbalance within the relation and if such issues are allowed to continue over an extensive period of time, divorce frequently follows.

If we feel ‘small’ or act ‘ small’ in an adult relationship or we treat our partner like a child , then the relation is out of balance , due to something unresolved from the original family, or a previous partner. And this imbalance can be related to one partner and not the other, or both of them.

If we are going to maintain balance, we have to be a child to those who have given us life, an adult with those whom we have chosen to partner in a relationship and a parent to our own children.

In short: in relation to our parents we are small and they are big; in relation to our children, we are big and they are small; and in relation to our life partners, we are supposed to be both equals.

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