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In an otherwise schlocky gossip piece within The Week, there was a quote from actor Terrence Howard that struck me. He's talking about how his father and uncle both influenced his dating habits, having instilled into him the following philosophy:

"They taught me that in every relationship, the person least interested in maintaining it is going to dominate it. So you have to always maintain that position of least interest, and you'll always control the relationship."

Now, at first glance, these two sentences repulse me on many levels. The concept of a mutual partnership in a relationship is certainly out the window when taking into account the above philosophy. So is honest communication - this entire concept smacks more as game playing than healthy relationship development. And Terrence agrees:

"It was unfulfilling because you never give, because you never need to. And then the other person goes onto a happy life because they were able to give and cry, while you never opened up."

Well, yes, that is where my mind went too. I can't imagine happiness out of such an arrangement.

But then I got to thinking. When in a relationship, I always make sure to give. It's what I do naturally - I give sometimes until it hurts, to coin a cheap cliche. And yet, I have also been the person who gave and didn't get it returned. Where there was a feeling of disinterest coming back. The statements of desire have been there, but they sometimes felt empty.

When those relationships ended, I was left being the one who was unhappy. The one who gave was the one who got hurt. Because the one who didn't could just walk away from it all without losing too much in the way of an emotional investment. At least, so it seemed from my viewpoint. I recognize I could be completely wrong, but that feeling was there.

And what he said about "dominating" the relationship is so true. When one person is doing the giving, and the other is not, an unbalance is created. The giver keeps trying to give more to somehow overcompensate for the lack of balance, and winds up taking the lead of the other. The non-giver does get complete control of the relationship. Its almost a fucked up version of D/s, this time subtle and not necessarily consensual, yet not necessarily not.

I am most intrigued by the line "goes onto a happy life." All of the giving I have done has generally left me the pained one - not in the happy life.

I have often felt I am too nice. That I am too giving. That I let down my walls so far, thus guaranteeing emotional pain at some point or another. I have thought about trying to be the more reserved one... the cocky one.

I actually tried that once. It didn't work at all. In fact, it probably fucked up something really good.

Where am I going with this? I don't know. I guess there are questions in my mind, theories that I will never disprove because I can only be who I am, and no one different. And this certainly has been a topic that has been discussed in this journal before, always to the same conclusions. I will always be the person who gives. And I will certainly find myself in many more positions where I am given little back. But that's OK.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 24th, 2007 05:12 pm (UTC)
Always. Always. Always. Really, think about that.
Aug. 24th, 2007 05:31 pm (UTC)
I SO feel you here.
Unfortunately the biggest downfall of my life came from being the one who gave too much.
That was a lesson I didn't want to learn.

I don't like this philosophy either. It repulses me too. Unfortunately, sadly, HORRIBLY...it is all too true.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 24th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)
This is what I came in here to say. The problem is being more emotionally connected than the other person. Typically it manifests in doing more, but there are many out there that can be emotionally disconnected and give gifts to manipulate.

The only thing that stops these imbalances from happening is two people who are honest, know themselves, and have good lines of communication.
Aug. 24th, 2007 05:45 pm (UTC)
I want to be the person that says "there are those people who are emotionally disconnected, not necessarily from just others but from themselves even, that are capable of giving and not doing it to manipulate".

Because it is true.
Aug. 24th, 2007 05:53 pm (UTC)
It is true. But if they are disconnected and the other person is trying to be emotionally connected to them the relationship is going to still fail and the one who was emotionally connected is going to hurt the most.
Aug. 24th, 2007 05:55 pm (UTC)
If they could bottle that ability, I'd sell my soul for it...
Aug. 24th, 2007 05:51 pm (UTC)
for a person who gives way more than the average it can be tough because you feel neglected and stuff in a lot of relationships. And it's not even necessary that the other person(s) are neglecting you, they just operate at a different place in the give/take spectrum. I haven't been in many relationships where the give and take was pretty well balanced, until now. I think it makes a ton of difference for me. It's just another trait to look for in a person, but it's one people rarely think about.
Aug. 24th, 2007 06:05 pm (UTC)
Something I've learned the hard way -- it's not necessarily whether or not you're giving... it's what you're giving.

Are you giving the other person what they need or want? ...or are you giving them what you want them to want? ...or what you want them to give you?

In one relationship of mine, at the end, when things were fraying... we were both trying to give to each other, but we were each trying to provide to the other what it was that we ourselves needed. Thus, neither of us was getting what we needed.
Aug. 24th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
This reads to me like you're giving away things that you'd rather not be giving, and telling yourself that it's the price you pay to get what you want, except maybe the other person in the relationship isn't a party to the contract in your head.

You're worthy of being loved, and you don't have to buy the love through being an endless source of emotional giving. And in fact, lots of people in your life care about you deeply, even when you're not capable of giving anything. We care just because of who you are, not because of what you can do for or give to us.

Time for a re-read of the ethical slut - you're not being ethical if you're not letting your emotional output stop at a realistic or healthy level for you.
Aug. 24th, 2007 06:36 pm (UTC)
No, I like giving what I give. It's the problem of not getting it back.
Aug. 24th, 2007 07:14 pm (UTC)
What I'm saying is that you're giving it with an expectation attached, which means that when the expectation isn't met, you feel let down. As opposed to giving it without expecting anything back, because you have it to give and you want to.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 24th, 2007 07:23 pm (UTC)
It's not about lowering expectations, but rather giving what you have to give, and letting the other person give what they have to give, and understanding that no one relationship can meet every need a human being has, nor should it try.

The healthiest relationships I've been in haven't been set up quid pro quo. That's not lowered expectations, it's different expectations.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 24th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
It's tough stuff, all of it. Give and take, expectations, getting needs met. The prize of being deeply emotionally connected to another human being is worth it in my book. Still, it's a lot of f-ing work! *g*
Aug. 24th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
This is going to sound very simplistic, but giving and expecting-in-return because of the giving is a surefire road to disappointment.

I share your sense of chagrin at putting yourself wholly into a relationship in ways that aren't reciprocated. It's experience that teaches us to distinguish those relationships where the paths of both/all partners are mutual, and this has a lot to do with developing better communication and being more self-aware.
Aug. 24th, 2007 08:55 pm (UTC)
May I recommend a book called "Passionate Marriage" by David Schnarch?


It deals with the concept of creating "diffentiation" within relationships. It's an excellent read and I think you'll get something valuable out of it. If you want a copy I think Sue and I have two.
Aug. 24th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
Somewhere in my twenties I got a clue that it was totally great to be a giving person, as long as you paid attention to the dynamics of your relationships. When it's two people with open hearts, giving, you have in the works an amazing and probably long lasting friendship. When a situation evolves where one person endlessly gives and the other only takes, then (in my opinion) termination of the connection should occur. All relationships flex and shift, but if the balance is seriously off, and stays off, then I question it's value and health for long term connection.

It's great to be able to give. It's equally important to be able to receive with grace. Naturally being open to giving to others is a HUGE gift to be born with.

I would consider you blessed.

Aug. 25th, 2007 05:05 am (UTC)
Toward the tail end of my (cynical) 30's, Guy Baldwin said something to me that entirely changed my perspective. I (describing what had been a devastating heartbreak)said to him: "The one who cares the most loses." He cocked his head and pondered that for a few seconds, then said, "No. The one who cares the most gets to the truth the fastest."
Aug. 27th, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
Interesting idea. I'm not sure I come to the same conclusion, but I am certainly on board with disagreeing with the statement, "The one who cares the most loses."
Aug. 28th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC)
An interesting read. I am wondering if there isn't at least a little snippet of wisdom to be found in this. In some of the psych texts I have been reading they approach the idea that opposites attract. There is even a personality test to see where you fall on a scale that pretty much represents your tendency toward "giving." It also states that your partner will be the mirror image of you on that scale. I am not sure how well this holds up in a poly relationship, so far it seems each relationship has to be evaluated seperately. But my point is, that if the people fall near the middle of the scale, then they tend to get along well. Those who fall hard on the ends tend to not understand each other. Furthermore, if you make an effort to understand your partner and move more toward their direction, then they will naturally tend to move more toward you as well.

I make no statements as to the veracity of this, but it is an interesting theory, and so far it seems to hold up with my current girlfriend who was is serious need of learning to open up emotionally.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )