“This is the hardest of all: to close the open hand of love, and keep modest as a giver.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
I want to talk about something that has caught my attention lately.
And I don’t just mean givers in general – those who give their slightly used products to Goodwill instead of throwing them away; those who give an extra dollar every time the cashier asks if you want to donate to this or that charity; those who graciously give little presents here and there whenever and wherever they can. Yes, those people are awesome (go team!), but no – that’s not what this blog is about. I want to be a little more specific. I want to talk about the givers in relationships.
To be even more specific, I want to talk about the givers in one-sided relationships.
[Now in this blog only (and I do apologize for this because I don’t usually do this kind of thing), I want to specifically talk about the woman in this kind of relationship. Yes, I know that one-sided relationships can go either way – sometimes it’s the man giving their all while the woman does next to nothing to contribute (and sometimes it can happen within a same sex couple, which really throws a wrench into my theory here) – but as the author of this blog, I can only talk about what I know. And what I know is what I’ve witnessed and what I’ve experienced. In that experience, limited though it may be, I have seen that the giver is usually the woman. I promise I’ll explain why I think that is soon.]
So. One-sided relationships. Oh boy, have I been there. I also know a few friends who have been there, and I know some friends who are there now. Not following what I mean exactly by one-sided relationships? Ok, let me set the stage for you.
You’re with this guy and you just absolutely adore him. He’s cute, he’s charming, he’s loving (well, most of the time)…man, you think you’ve hit the jackpot with this one. So, you’re going to make absolute certain that you don’t screw this one up. You’ve been known to screw things up in the past, so this time is going to be different. First order of business? Make sure he knows that you’re not one of those “needy” chicks that expects the man to pay for things when you go out. Oh no siree, not you, Miss Woman of the 21st Century. You are independent and self-sufficient and he needs to know it. So, on the first couple of dates, you pay for yourself. Nothing wrong with that, right? You feel good about it – he seems impressed – win/win. But then, as time goes by, you start paying for a few more things here and there – you start buying both of your meals. You not only want to show that you’re independent, but you want to show him how much you care. And we know how much a man loves food, so let’s buy him some. Well, eventually, that doesn’t seem to be enough. You don’t feel like he knows that you care. And if he doesn’t know, then he might not stick around, right? Better do a little bit more. Let’s start buying him gifts. Yeah – that’ll do the trick. First, a little gift here and there. No biggie – it’s sweet, right? Then, those gifts start getting a little larger…he’s into cars? Let’s buy him some car accessory we saw him ogling. He likes a certain movie? Let’s find the special collector’s edition DVD of it and give it to him for no good reason. He likes a certain book? Ok, never mind…I’ve went too far. We all know men don’t read books….
So, you catch my drift, right? Eventually, somewhere along the line, the idea has entered your head that you can earn this man’s love. Now, I don’t mean to emphasize monetary gifts, per se. Sometimes it may just be cooking him dinner, or making him something, or writing him notes…whatever. The point is, you are doing a heck of a lot more than he is.
Why is that?
Ok, well, I can hypothesize on this all day, but I’ll try to narrow it down. There are so many possible reasons why women feel the need to do this, but first and foremost is this: we were raised this way. Now, I know that times are changing and women are much more independent than they were in times gone by. But at the heart of who we are is the need to nurture. We are the ones who bear the children, we are the ones whose bodies produce the milk to feed our young, we are the ones who are taught from an early age to keep the peace, to keep our loved ones happy. It’s just the way it is, like it or not. And honestly, I’m cool with that. The role we women play is a pretty important one, a necessary one, and we should be proud.
But here’s the problem with that. We sometimes may tend to transfer that over to our romantic relationships. And then when the relationship doesn’t work out, we think we didn’t play our role correctly, so we try harder the next time. And if that one doesn’t work out? Try even harder the next time.
You following me?
Because of our nature, we think that we have to give, give, give in order to be loved. Check out these snippets of lyrics from the song “Little Miss” by Sugarland:
“Little miss checkered dress
Little miss, one big mess
Little miss, I’ll take less when I always give so much more…
Little miss, do your best
Little miss, never rest
Little miss, be my guest, I’ll make more anytime that it runs out…”
See? It’s who we are. There are even songs about it. And don’t get me wrong – like I said before, being this way is a good thing. It really, really is. But the problem is that sometimes we end up with men who take advantage of that. Now, am I blaming them for that? No, not really. As much as I like to blame men for everything, I’m not sure I can put this one on them. Much like we were raised the way we were, they were also raised the way they were – as the recipient of this nurturing. Why wouldn’t they accept it? It’s natural to them. They’re thrilled with it – who wouldn’t be?
Well, I’ll tell you who ends up not thrilled. Us.
Over time, we start feeling like we are the only one doing anything in the relationship. Like we are the only ones keeping it going – we are the only ones busting our butts to make sure the relationship is happy and fulfilling, while the man just reaps the benefits. We give, they take. My coworker Tina, who is always filled with words of wisdom, has said this phrase to me many times:
“You teach people how to treat you.”
We have taught them that this is the way it is. That the relationship will continue without any effort on their part, because we have it covered. No worries, Mr. Man, we got this. We’re women, we’ll take care of everything.
But you know what? That’s really not cool.
And when we start realizing it’s not cool, and start realizing that things are one-sided, we start to feel resentful towards the man. We start hoping that he will change. But guess what? He’s not going to.
You know who has to change? You.
Again, like I’ve said many times in my blogs, I certainly don’t have all the answers. I’ve been through my share of failed relationships, and I’m sure I played a huge personal role in those failings at times. I’m no different than you are. The only thing I’m hoping to do here is shine a light on something that might be wrong in your life that you have the power to right. Don’t stop being a giver altogether, I’m not saying that. But maybe you could just try not to give quite so much. Maybe you can try not to control so much and have a little faith. Let things happen on their own, without so much forced effort. I don’t know – just try it for a while. See what happens.
Hey, you never know – the man in your life may just be waiting for the chance to show you he cares, if you’ll just leave him a little room to do it.
And if he doesn’t? If he doesn’t rise to the challenge and the relationship falls apart because you are no longer in the driver’s seat? Well, then I guess you know that little instinct you’ve been ignoring has been trying to tell you something, hasn’t it?
Relationships, man. This crap ain’t for the faint of heart, I’m tellin ya….
“Yeah, I’m a giver. I’ve learned to be selective of the people in my world, because if I love someone, I will give them my blood, whatever they need. In doing so, one can end up with little left for themselves.”