Giving/Getting In Relationships

When I started dating again, many of my friends warned me to “make sure you get something out of the relationship.”  But that advice always felt weird to me. On the one hand, it makes sense because I shouldn’t pour my soul into a black hole of a relationship--especially as I was newly single for basically the first time in my life.  But on the other hand, aren’t relationships supposed to be all about the give and take?  Was my tendency to give so strong that my friends feared I would not benefit from my next relationship?  That I would let someone take advantage of my kindness?

As a child--even from a very young age--I tended towards caring for others.  I can’t speak to a tendency to play with babydolls, I don’t remember that--but I do know that because of my mom’s MS there were naturally care-taking roles that I found myself filling.  I never had chores growing up because my job was to help my mom with whatever she needed.  My role was never explicitly stated as a caretaker, but it most certainly was a trait that I took on.  I wouldn’t stay home and watch TV all day while she ran errands because she needed someone to come with her and put her wheelchair in the trunk.  My needs play second fiddle to those of others by choice, not compulsion.  It’s always been a part of who I am.  

However, over the years I’ve gotten so good at putting others before myself, that I can’t even recognize my own stress anymore.  The only way I know if I’m stressed comes from the physical manifestations in me.  When I’m extremely stressed, I feel like I have the stomach flu and find it difficult to eat.  But even knowing that, I’ve still felt this tell-tale nausea without having any clue as to what could possibly be stressing me out.  

So maybe my friends were right in warning me to make sure I get something out of this new relationship.  They know that I have the tendency take care of others to the detriment of myself.  And I won’t even realize that it’s happening.

While I understand my caring tendencies mean that I should be cautious in relationships, I still hesitate to look at a relationship as a means of “getting something.”   I honestly love to care for others; it’s a very fulfilling practice for me.  

So perhaps my friends should not have warned me to make sure that I “got something” out of the relationship.  Perhaps a better phrasing would be to ensure that I only give as much as I'm willing and able to give.  Because, yes, I do need to work on taking care of myself and putting myself first (which honestly is an entirely different post altogether).  But watching out for myself does not mean that I need to stop giving. Instead I just need to ensure that I set limits on how much I am willing to give.  

Yes, I need to learn to put myself first in all of my relationships.  I need to make taking care of myself a priority.  But that’s something I need to work on regardless of my current relationship status.  

I get something from giving all that I possibly can in my relationships. I don’t want to stop doing so, because that is a trait that is almost definitional to who I am.  

Earlier in this relationship I tried to make sure I didn’t give too much.  I tried to make sure that I got what my friends felt I deserved out of my burgeoning relationship.  But I didn’t like feeling so selfish.  I felt insincere and fake.  My friends were good to point out to not let myself sit on the back burner, but as long as I’m healthy, that is where I enjoy being--someone else can be the star of the show.  And often I’ve found that if you give yourself to care for someone else, they will quickly return the favor.  

I promise it pays to be kind.  


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Meet The Author

I'm Madysen, born and raised in Nebraska but now living out my dreams in New York City. I moved here to go to Columbia, but living in New York has become so much more to me. This blog is a space where I can share my experiences of reconciling my midwestern upbringing with the life I live in the city. But even bigger than that, this blog serves as a space where I can try to understand where I fit into the larger social world, where I want to go in life, and how I want to go about pursuing all of these endeavors.

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