SOURCE: Taken from an article by Leslie Vernick
I want to talk about the importance of reciprocity in maintaining healthy adult relationships.
Reciprocity means that both people in the relationship give and both people in the relationship receive. Power and responsibility for the care and maintenance of the relationship are shared, and there is not a double standard where one person receives the goodies of the relationship while the other person does most of the work.
There may be seasons where one person gives much more than the other due to illness, incapacity or other problems, but when both individuals in the relationship are capable, reciprocity means that both individuals are givers and both individuals are receivers.
For example, John and Mary constantly argued about their budget. Mary required John to be accountable for every penny he spent, yet Mary did not hold herself to that same standard. She always had an excuse as to why her spending was more justified than John’s. John agreed that Mary was a better money manager than he was yet there was something fundamentally imbalanced in their marriage. Over time, he began to feel resentful and started acting out like a rebellious teenager, taking money out of the ATM without telling Mary. That caused more conflict between them.
John wanted some decision making power as to how they managed their money. He wanted to be a part of a “we” decision regarding their finances instead of feeling like a child being given an allowance. In order to rebalance their marriage, Mary would need to share the decision making with John instead of informing him of her decisions.
In another example, Amber felt frustrated with herself for always saying “yes” when she wanted to say “no”. She lacked the freedom to say no in her relationships because she feared that if she said “no”, people wouldn’t like her or she would lose their friendship. But as she began to evaluate her relationships, she realized that most of her friendships were very lopsided, with her being the giver and her friends being the takers. It didn’t surprise her that she felt afraid that if she stopped being such a generous giver, she might lose some of her friends. Yet she was tired of having friends who gladly took from her yet never gave anything back.
Amber realized that if she wanted to have healthier relationships with these people, she would need to start speaking up about her own needs and feelings in the hopes of rebalancing their relationship.