Recently I wrote the article Are You Playing the ‘Giving to Get’ Game in Relationships? about a tactic some of us unconsciously use in relationships.
What is it? It’s an unhealthy way we act in relationships if we believe we have to do something in order to earn the love of others. It’s ‘giving to get’ something in return; an expectation of being loved or cared for if you do the right thing or say the right things or act the right way. It’s a basic belief in conditional love.
Why do you need to stop it? It’s a set up for disaster. It leaves you disappointed and feeling taken for granted while you are angry at the other person for doing all the taking. But you set it up that way: you did all the giving.
From the original article: Reciprocity (give and take) is built on the concept of mutuality; with both people participating. Bwut when you’re playing the “giving to get” game, it’s far from mutual. The game is borne out of a feeling of lack, and it ends in emotional pain. That lack is that you might feel needy, unimportant, not feel “good enough”, unlovable or unworthy exactly as you are.
The great news is that we can stop this cycle, all it takes is some awareness and practice. And by practice, I mean consistent relationship practice. Those old patterns may still pull at you but with consciousness you can recognize your triggers and stop yourself from acting out in it.
Here are 8 tips to help you break out of the cycle if you’ve suddenly realized it’s something you do!
Realize you are enough. Just exactly as you are, right now. You don’t have to be anyone different or do any of the right things to be a better person. In fact, believing there is a right way, perfect thing to say, or exact stuff to do can leave you trapped in this thinking. If your partner doesn’t give you what you want in return, you’ll feel taken for granted. (I often ask my clients, “who’s at fault for that? You were doing all these wonderfully nice things and they never asked. Not once. Yet when they didn’t show you reciprocity you got mad.”)
Watch for your patterns. Look at the ways you over-give or over show up in relationships. Most people have commonalities in the ways they over-give. Look for the themes. The best way to out them is to think of things you’ve done that you didn’t feel were appreciated.
Stop giving all the time. You’ll feel that pull to give, give, give but it’s a trap. Learn how to breathe through that need to give. You don’t have to fight it but you do have to become aware that it’s there. Your partner is a fully capable human being who can also ask for what they want from you, and you can choose what to give. When giving comes from a place of lack, it has strings attached. And you have created a cycle that love depends on doing, what you get is conditional love.
Start asking for what you want. First you’ll have to ask yourself to start thinking about what you truly want. All of your energy may have been focused so much on the other person that you never stopped to think that you had needs too.
Believe that a partner will meet your needs. After you realize you have needs, you can ask for them to be met. It can be a scary thing, you face being disappointed. But start from a place of believing that partner, the right partner for you, will work kindly toward making your needs a priority: just like you’ve been doing for others all this time.
Love yourself enough to create boundaries. I think we can fill ourselves up with any of the love we were missing as children. Love starts within, and while it’s a catchy saying to put on meme: it’s true. Notice when you’re getting drained. Notice when you’re over-giving and draw boundaries. I work with clients daily who are learning how to break this cycle. Be kind to yourself.
Get support. Write in a journal. Get a coach or a counsellor. Learn boundaries from a qualified teacher and understand that setting limits for yourself is just as important as what you let yourself do for others. Take notice of the things you do that make you expect to be loved, and the ways it shows up in your life. Forgive yourself for having stepped into this cycle, it’s more common than you realize.
Give love to get love. Give your heart, and be loving without trying to do things or become someone else. If you’ve been conditioned to earn love by doing, you’re going to learn how to be loved by loving.
There is one thing you can give. When you start giving away your heart to get love, that’s a whole different ballgame. When you give without the expectation of getting anything in return, or you give to others that are also giving back to you: bingo. You won the game of love.
Photo Ben Kerckx/Pixabay