I (Christina) am not a natural, born giver. I learned from very giving parents to be a taker. It doesn’t happen on purpose, nor without deep gratitude. My parents have always given so generously throughout my life and it was only within the last few years that I have really begun to break my consistent- and- without -thought –taking.
The give and take relationship I have with my parents bumps into my co-dependency, never, in the past, saying even a polite “no, thank-you” to an offered item for fear I would hurt their feelings. It tended to work out well though, thus reinforcing my nature to take and not give. I would be offered home décor items at times the walls in our home were bare, or a hand-me-down couch when our previous hand-me-down couch was sinking to the ground. Clothes, jewelry, gas money, books, odds and ends; most of the time I was able to accept the gift and incorporate it into our home, never needing to address my co-dependency with my parent’s happiness.
Just a few years ago as I was working hard on myself in recovery did these chains of co-dependency start to break. I found myself, at first, quite bland and unsure of who I was. I felt like I had no separate identity from my parents and all the stuff they chose to give me. Accepting the gifts made me who I was, showing me what my likes and dislikes were, all without my choosing. The longer I was in recovery and aware of my tendency to make people happy by accepting their gifts, the more I was starting to really think about what I was being offered, enabling myself to make my own choices. The more I said No to unwanted items, the more I became Christina and not just a shadow of my mom and dad. The more I declined, the more I became myself. I was starting to learn and apply that my opinions mattered, not for the sake of others, but for my own sake.
Three years ago I started to break up with my co-dependency on a surface level, odds and ends, books, clothes, things that did not matter much in the grand scheme of life. But now, 2016, my natural state of take not give continues with intimacy and affection. Three years of breaking away from a superficial level of co-dependency has brought me to a new and deeper place to examine, give and take in my marriage.
It is no secret to those who know us; Nathaniel is the giver in our relationship. He gives me time, attention, affection and thought. He often thinks of, and acts upon, my needs and desires over his own. He is a giver from the heart, yet sometimes it is to a fault.
To a fault because when I try to give to him, say for example, he desires to serve weekly at church and I say, “Sure, honey go for it.” He will often slide back worried he will take away time from something I want to do. This makes giving difficult and a tug-of-war instead of a gift. So, I back off and go about my business, taking his gift instead of being able to give mine.
I end up feeling selfish and he ends up feeling co-dependent. The past few months we have been exploring the concept of give and take in our relationship, looking at each person’s point of view while working on staying present as we listen to the other person.
In our exploration, five things stood out to me:
Wanting to give is not enough. I must make room in my life to give freely. I have to step back from my wants to allow Nathaniel to step into his.
Love is not always synonymous with giving. I love my husband, but my lack of giving is not rooted in my love for him. Because it is not, I have to dig up and examine the real root.
Growth occurs outside my comfort zone. I am comfortable taking, it is second nature for me, but in order to deeply develop my marriage I need to walk willingly where it is uncomfortable.
Roles and rule are meant to be broken. Staying in my role of taker keeps me subconsciously bound to the rule, I don’t have to give. This unspoken rule shows up in lots of places in my life and it is overdue to be broken.
Those who are overly generous can’t expect to take as their heart wants, and those who take in excess can’t expect to give easily.
Which are you…the GIVER or the TAKER? Few lie evenly in between, pick a side most heavily weighted and explore it!
If you give, give, give…WHY?
If you take, take, take…WHY?
What areas of your life do you see your GIVE/TAKE personality show up the most…Chores/Kids/Work/Sex? WHY?
When you do not know “WHY”, ask yourself, “When was the first time I noticed this behavior?” Explore that.