Paying Attention Bill McDonald’s
October 2007 - Volume 07, No. 7
Givers and Takers in Relationships Part 1 of 4 - Introduction
This month’s newsletter comes in
four parts - published weekly through this month. The overall topic is
Givers and Takers in Relationships
Recently, I’ve been hearing these words, givers
and takers, more frequently than usual. A divorced client characterized
her previous marriage by saying: “I’m a nurse, he was a doctor
- I’m a giver, he’s a taker. At first I thought there could
be a ‘balance’ - but then I realized it was ‘abuse.’
So I finally had to leave.”
Another client (also female) told me her mother’s warning at the
time of her marriage - “It will never last - you’re a giver,
he’s a taker.”
A third female client, coming from a severely dysfunctional family, told
me of babysitting for a good couple - and asking the woman how they got
along so well with each other. The woman said to her simply - “Well,
we’re both givers, that’s the only way it can work.”
Each of these examples are from a female. However, once
I began to explore this subject, I found numerous couplings where the
male is a giver and the female a taker.
So why do givers often feel like they’re “going crazy”?
It’s frequent that a new client will complain - “I give and
I give - and when I want or need something back (from that person, or
from ‘anybody’), nothing comes, there’s nothing there.”
The common outcome, at least eventually, is anger and depression - which
is why they’re in my office in the first place.
A standard therapeutic response is “You must stop giving away so
much of yourself.” It seems so simple to us on the outside - if
what you are doing is hurting you, then stop doing it! And yet I’ve
often felt I’m doing some sort of subtle violence to my client by
advising him or her in that direction - even though in the immediate situation
it’s necessary advice.
Giving - and the purpose behind it
One of the developmental tasks for children is that we
teach them to share. The purpose of this lesson is the ability
to functionally exist in community with others - where giving
and taking is a necessary social balancing. When I have, and someone else
is in need, we come to learn that it makes sense to share - if for no
reason other than when the tables are turned, others will share with us.
As Lucy would say in Peanuts, “it’s basic fourth grade economic
theory.” And it’s evident that children who are not taught
to share, lack the capacity to interact well in social situations. Home
Schooled children are frequent examples of this lack. So apparently it
is not natural for a person to share, it’s the task of
the culture to instill it. But then again, once it’s taught, it
seems to become natural (like toilet training).
But there’s a poison that easily creeps in. Deep
inside each of us is as an insistent belief (false, but powerful) that
we aren’t good enough. So, if I give enough to others, then hopefully
they’ll see me as good, and then I can see myself as good (self-justification).
As some psychological language says it - if I can get enough conditional
strokes from others (i.e. strokes for doing), then I can make
up for a felt impoverishment of unconditional strokes (such as
strokes for being - from really good parents). So we learn to
give in order to get - approval, validation, to get at least something
for which we feel needy. When the preacher quotes Acts 20 before the offering,
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” it can be little
more than a soft way to say “pay your dues” and therefore
become “blessed.” The IRS is more blunt although the “dues
payment” pattern has similarities.
Psychological research tells us that those who give are
generally happier people. It satisfies a sense of caring compassion inherent
in the human heart. Yet strangely enough, it’s the churches that
panic most whenever there is discussion of eliminating the charitable
giving tax deduction. So we are taught to give and get a deduction, so
we “win both ways.” It’s faulty logic, but it seems
to work. And it works better than the same faulty logic that tells us
if we give enough, we’ll be able to justify ourselves into being
good people. Do we give because we feel good about ourselves, or do we
feel good about ourselves because we give? When we don’t feel good
enough about ourselves to begin with, the broader formula doesn’t
work. I’ll be nice to you, so you’ll feel nice about me, even
if I can’t feel nice about myself. Which is my answer to the original
question up above in the 5th paragraph.
In the next weeks, I’ll continue, speaking about
- The Taker - what’s going on inside - How to recognize a taker (before the wedding) - The differences between givers and over-givers. - Possible resolutions or ‘fixes’ for these relationship imbalance problems.
So until then, Pay Attention!
Please rethink your comment about homeschooled kids!
Food for thought
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