The Give And Take Myth

“In a good relationship you have to give when you may not always want to. You should also expect to be able to take as much as you give. It’s not a one way street.” That quote was one of the answers at for the question: “What is your definition of give and take in a relationship?” The owner of that answer, sexykelowna, (love these internet handles!) says that she is “a female married for 16 years”- that was 7 years ago. Now I’m not sure how her marriage is now or how it was when she responded to that question, but I can imagine that there’s a good portion of our society that agrees with her statement. In fact, there are many well-intending people who give the “Give and Take” advice when it comes to marriage. Most people, like our friend sexy seem to suggest, believe that balance is required in a meaningful relationship and that balance can only be had through the aforementioned option. Though balance is truly essential for happy marriages, the idea of give and take is actually a farce! It is a myth. “Not so!” you may say. Why do I believe that?

Let’s speak of it!

1. Let’s look at the words “give” and “take”.
Give” has 16 definitions as per Miriam-Webster online. All of them alludes to my own definition which is: “the act of taking what belongs to me and making it yours without anything in exchange”. Does that sound about right? Now let’s have a look-see at the word “take”. “Take” has 20 entries as definition from the same Miriam-Webster online resource. As a whole, the word means to receive/acquire something from someone willingly or by force. When you bring these two words together in a phrase like “Give and Take” and apply them to relationship, at least for me, there is a sense that someone is being shafted – either from the one who is giving (who is getting nothing in exchange) or by the one who feels like they have to take (who is the receiving end or the forcing end). I believe and have seen that “give and take” does not give a sense of balance but of feelings of forfeiture or feelings of being abused. There is only balance when everyone is willing to give.

2. In the “give and take” approach, a barter-system is created.
In the ancient world there is a method of commerce where an item is exchanged for something of the same value. For instance, if you want to get a chicken from me, then you have to produce something that I like that I think is of the same value as my chicken. This system in known as the “Barter-System”. In today’s society we use money in exchange for goods and services. (If you’re an economist reading this, please give me some leeway! I’ll get to my application quickly now.)  The problem that arises when we apply this system to marriage is this: someone becomes a customer while the other becomes the provider. This dynamic leads to the “pricing” of goods or services rendered within the marriage. (Can you see the problem this may cause?) Your relationship is no longer based on marital commitment but now on economic values of what you do within the relationship. When one of you do not feel you’re getting the proper “exchange rate” that person will feel short-changed or taken advantaged of. If you don’t want your actions weighed or “priced”, then you must close the barter-system. Your marriage is not made up of goods and services. It’s made of love and commitment to each other’s joys and happiness. If you do everything out of love and commitment, then the feelings of being abused or misused will not even come to mind.

3. Give and Give.
If you’re looking for true balance and fulfillment in marriage, the effective approach is the “give and give” method! That’s right! No one in a healthy marriage should ever feel like they need to take something from their spouse. If one of you feel like you have to “take” something from your spouse in order to feel loved, appreciated, fulfilled, or satisfied with your commitment; then your marriage will be clouded with frustration and hurt. A healthy, happy marriage have two people who are willing to give to their spouse whatever it is that is needed. Because there are two people who are giving without exchange, a barter-system is not created, the feelings of consumer and provider is not generated, and there are no “prices” for what is done within the marriage. There are no demands which stirs up the atmosphere of taking; people give – without expecting an equal exchange.

If you’re reading this and you’re just getting into a relationship, watch out for the feelings of “give and take”. A true love relationship will not suffer the feelings of being abused or taken advantaged of. If you feel like you need to take something from your other half, I suggest you find another “other half”. Now, if you’re in a give and take marriage, I suggest you evaluate your love for your spouse and vice versa. The issues of reciprocation is not based on what you or he/she give or take, it’s in your love affair. Love gives. Love never takes. Love does not barter. Give and give is the best of all! When both of you are giving then everyone wins and you just may experience a happily, daily after.

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