It’s amazing how much your perspective can change with some good conversation and a plate of manicotti. I was having dinner last night with a good friend of mine and we got to the subject of ‘giving and taking’ in a relationship. In that context we remarked how so often what is obvious to those outside a situation is not so obvious to the people involved. In particular when it comes to behaviors that are self-defeating no matter how much advice, counseling or ‘hard knocks’ come their way.
I mentioned to her, my friend, how I’d just heard earlier on the talk-radio a woman who was calling in for advice about what to do with an ex-boyfriend. It seems this boyfriend had treated the woman badly while they were together, so she left him after several years. He later asked her to move in with him, so she did. Two months later he simply took another job in another state and left her behind to pay the bills herself. After this he then asked her to move to the other state to live with him there. And she went.
After a while in the new state, he had another change of heart and was unfaithful to her. So she left and went back to her home state. Now, as she was calling in to the talk-radio counselor, she said this same boyfriend had called again and wants her to come back. But the surprising, and frustrating, revelation was that not only was this woman wondering if going back was “the right thing to do”, but each time the counselor told her, “He has no respect for you, move on.”, this woman proceeded to make abundant excuses for this boyfriend! It soon became obvious she hadn’t called with the intention of getting, or hearing advice, but rather hoping this counselor would support her predetermination to return once again to this abusive situation.
And so my friend and I commented on how long it takes for some people before finally, “..the light comes on.” At this point I felt comfortable asking my friend a question that’s been bothering me for some time. I said, “I’ve had three serious relationships in my life, each of which have ended. As I look for some common denominator in each of these women the one outstanding characteristic is that each of them were very temperamental, hard, ‘cutting’ type of women. I don’t find that characteristic appealing, so why would I have chosen such women to get involved with?” We mulled that around a bit and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t those qualities themselves I wanted, but with that sort of character it made it easier to determine how these women felt about me. When they were loving towards me, I knew it was because they made a conscious decision to be so. For when they had no inclination to be loving, they didn’t hesitate to become cold or harsh. So at least I knew where I stood with them at any given point in time.
As I had another bite of manicotti, we got back to the issue of ‘giving and taking’. I said, “Doesn’t it seem strange though, that by being as ‘giving’ as I was to each of these women, instead of it softening their heart they only became more demanding and critical?” This is when I was about to find it was my turn for, “the light to come on”. She told me, first of all, that not everyone in life is a ‘giver’. But that even among those who are ‘giving’ people.. when in a relationship you can’t just give to the degree that it becomes imbalanced. At the beginning of a relationship, she said it actually causes people to want to ‘back off’ because it sets an expectation upon them that they be ‘giving’ to the same degree as this person approaching them.
She gave the example of a man she’d met who just fell head-over-heels for her. He sent her flowers and persued her incessantly. Every week he sent her flowers though he really didn’t know her that well. Not only did the flowers lose their meaning in that they were predictably on-time, but it made her feel the necessity to let him know she had no intention of giving as much attention back as he was pouring out on her. In an already on-going relationship she said there is still the need for balance in both partners being equally ‘giving’.
When one partner is “too giving” it not only makes it very tempting for the other partner to just lean back and receive, but it also provides less opportunity for that partner to be giving in return. Again she gave an example of how she has wanted to give to people at times, but often ‘held back’ because they were not making use of opportunity to be giving in return. To balance out the relationship, she needed to make it clear that while she was more than happy to give, they needed to take some initiative and be giving in a fairly equal manner.
Being the good friend that she is, she then looked at me directly and said, “You’re a very giving person.. but you’ve got to realize giving too much just makes a woman want to ‘back away’. You can’t just keep giving and not give them the chance to give back equally when they are ready. That’s what too many of us women do.. we think that if we just love our man more and more he’ll change his ways and give like we do. But it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t.”
That hit me like a ton of bricks. In a good way, but it hit. Instantly I realized that at -least- five different women over the last several years have told me exactly the same thing, give or take a few words. And each time these women told me this, few of whom had ever met each other, I listened and even responded.. but I never really “heard” it deep down. Even up to my incident last week with the woman in the article, “Timing and Disclosure”, I’d repeated the same mistake of rushing forward with ‘too much, too soon’. These were the parting words from my last girlfriend, the warning words from the beginning of a relationship several years ago, the echoing advice of friends and confidantes who all told me to, “Give it time..”, “Let her come to you..”, “Take it slow..”, “Don’t rush into anything..” and so on. Just like the woman I’d heard on the talk-radio station, I’d listened but didn’t really hear. The light just didn’t click to “On”.
I don’t know exactly what it was that made the light turn “On” last night. Maybe I had to experience all the prior ‘hard knocks’ to finally be open to hearing. Perhaps it is because I respect this friend’s words and took them with weight and sincerity. Maybe I was just caught off guard as I enjoyed the manicotti. Whatever it was, suddenly all the internal “movement and flurry” has come to a standstill. There come times in your life when you know you just gotta stop the whole show, get a correct grip on things and move forward.. one step at a time.
Someone once defined insanity as, “Repeating the same methods hoping to achieve different results.” I think we all go through those times of insanity in different areas of our life. But if we truly do want change, and are willing one day to stop, listen and actually observe, “Hey, you know… this isn’t working. Never has.”, then I believe we are all that much more closer to the moment when ‘the light comes “On”‘.
Henry Velez is a writer, traveler and vlogger currently living in the Philippines. He has written extensively on social issues, relationships and travel.