Love me, and I’ll love you back. Be sweet to me, and I’ll be sweet back. Do everything for me, and I’ll do everything for you. Buy me flowers, and I’ll buy you–wait, what?
Reciprocity is everyone’s goal in a long-term committed relationship, or whatever you want to call it. Another way to describe that would be the oozy-gooey feelings of sweet lovey-dovey when you feel a deep connection to someone. Maybe that’s just me–and Bruno Mars.
A relationship built on love and trust motivates each partner to reciprocate the other’s actions. When your actions are not reciprocated, no matter how big or small, you notice. The love you have for your partner keeps you in the relationship. But if there are too many instances of unreciprocated actions, you’ll have two questions: 1) Does this person love me? and 2) Am I asking for too much?
The False Promise of Reciprocity
The promise of reciprocity is false when you expect the same from your partner, but haven’t really earned it. When you think that because you put a roof over her head, she should automatically love you. You don’t expect to receive flowers back from a girl. Gifting her flowers is a charming gesture that can show her your appreciation of her, but without earning her trust, those flowers, that roof you put over her head, it might not matter as much as you think.
A woman can give you a child. Are you going to give her one, from the adoption center perhaps? She wouldn’t appreciate that. As you can see, reciprocity isn’t always equal. You have to have an instinct to know which actions your partner or fling-to-become-partner (if you’re a modern confused American) or crush-to-become-partner is willing to reciprocate.
Because the bigger your actions, and the less your return on investment, the less loved you will feel. Don’t you want to feel loved? And don’t you think that your partner reciprocating your actions would give you that feeling?
The False Promise of Reciprocity applies when one misunderstands how the other views them. Have you ever done more for someone you were romantically involved in than they did for you? And outside romance, have you ever done more for a friend, or a stranger than they did for you? Not feeling appreciated isn’t easy. With a stranger, or a friend, we like to say ‘it happens.’ Maybe our job entails that we help people who feel entitled to our help, and we go unappreciated. But when your heart is involved in a more romantic way, we can’t just say ‘it happens.’ We think to ourselves that we are broken.
Why did you do more for them than they did for you? Why did you tolerate so much poor behavior from your partner? Obviously, it’s because you were involved with them, and wanted to keep the relationship working. You should of course. Maybe you were married to them, and getting out isn’t the first thing you’re thinking about.
Or, you tolerated it from the very beginning, because you didn’t respect yourself enough to demand better. Or, you did more than you should have. More than the other person needed and wanted. And these extra actions spoke nothing meaningful of your character. They were completely worthless and of no value. These actions did not come from the heart, and your partner knew it.
The Broken False Promise of Reciprocity
The promise breaks, because it was false in the first place, when you expect more in return than you should. So what’s the problem? The problem is in the expectation. Why did you expect so much?
One of the main reasons is likely because you want something to work and aren’t letting it “just happen.” Love “just happens” some say. It’s true though. Chemistry, the initial sparks, an emotional connection, and then logistical planning–these things cannot be forced. It’s why many arranged marriages do not work out in India. People end up with partners they don’t really love. But it’s also why years of casual dating lead to failed relationships as well. Too much liberation is a bad thing. Too little exploration can pose problems as well.
So if you try to make it work, and so does the other person, but the foundation of chemical glue bonding you together, which is the universe, or God if you’re into that, telling you guys you’re a great match, isn’t there. You can reciprocate but deep down it’s just not there. Clearly, reciprocating just to reciprocate is also worthless, unless it helps build the glue bonding you two together.
But then why can’t you do that with your dog? You can’t just receive cuddles, licks, and smiles all day from your dog and marry your dog? Or your best friend, unless you’re gay?
Reciprocating may work in many instances in building glue because the foundation was already there. Beyond the foundation (meaning a man and woman being opposite and therefore attracting each other) are the little things that make you unique. Intelligence, humor, empathy, and other traits. Let’s just call it compatibility.
When you have strong compatibility, reciprocating becomes the most natural thing in the world. But it breaks down quickly if you mistook compatibility for initial chemistry and “sparks.”
And this is why reciprocity should be understood early on in the relationship. The feeling that your partner will do as much for you as you do for them, and may even try to out-do you, gives you a feeling of warmth and togetherness. It’s not that she’s also going to put a roof on your head, or that you’re also going to buy him flowers, but that you will trade your partners actions with equally valuable actions.
If this breaks down in a relationship, you have a sign that something isn’t working. If you never experienced it early on in the relationship, you asked for trouble, and didn’t value yourself enough. Maybe you were trading up too high, or put your partner on a pedestal. Or you were just desperate.
Demand respect, by respecting yourself. When you do this, you will never experience a broken, false promise of reciprocity.