If You’re Nice to Me, I’ll be Nice to You

Communication, Relationships
Giving to get can never make you happy.  We are wired for reciprocity but only when it’s through genuine care.

Giving to get can never make you happy. We are wired for reciprocity but only when it’s through genuine care.

It’s that time of year again, the festive season. Families get together to celebrate, partners negotiate how to deal with competing needs.

Let’s consider how we may consciously or unconsciously give to get – instead of just giving from our hearts with no need for anything in return.

Relationships are often built on agreements of what is “right or wrong”, what can be spoken about or needs to be “swept under the carpet” and ignored, and what one must do to get what they think they need.

A Different Way

We would like to propose a different way: give just to give and let getting take care of itself. If both partners are truly in a space of giving than getting need not be worried about.

If we are really honest with ourselves, and look deeply at what motivates us, then we may see that often giving has motivations tied in with it that we may have been overlooking. For example, we may give in the hope that others will like us more, we may give to diffuse an argument, or to make us feel safer in some way. All of these essentially are giving to get.

The deals we think we have to make in a relationship can be killers of intimacy. Even if our partner is ok with a deal, it’s still a deal, coming with its set of agreed rules. The rules determine the field of play, limiting the action to what’s been agreed. And if either party breaks the rules, there’s usually a price to pay.

What Will I Get?

Wanting to get at the material level is one thing, but wanting or needing to get at an emotional level is quite another. A truly loving relationship is impossible when based on demand, either subtle or obvious. Such pseudo-love is merely a bargain: “You be nice to me and I’ll be nice to you, but, if you cease to please me, I may go away.”

Giving Up on Getting – The Law of Love

Spiritual traditions see it another way. A Course in Miracles, for example, states it plainly (in the Workbook, Lesson 349):

… thus do I obey the law of love, and give what I would find and make my own. It will be given me, because I have chosen it as the gift I want to give.

To give up on getting can be a huge relief in a relationship. And it takes only one person to start! Then, to actively practice giving can be a powerful next step, and a further cause for relief.

Let Getting Take Care of Itself

We’re not talking here of giving as a strategy for getting – that’s still getting! We’re asking: Can I find a way for my focus to be on giving as a primary practice in my relationships? And can I be happy just with that?

Giving to Yourself

Don’t forget to give to yourself! We are often seeking something from another that only we can give ourselves. It may be approval, a deep sense of love and acceptance, or understanding. No one else can get it right for us all the time.

When we start to notice that we are giving in the hope of getting something back we can explore how we might give to ourselves. And from that place of having what we need, it is easy to give. In this way we can let any subsequent giving take care of itself.

We wish you, our readers, a peaceful end to the year. Thanks for checking out our articles.

(Cartoon: Bernie Wiseman, New Yorker Cartoon, 18 April 1953)