I ran into my ex-boyfriend this past weekend. He pulled me aside and apologized for the way he treated me when we were together, acknowledging that I gave him my all and he gladly took it without giving much in return. Although I was grateful for his apology, I can’t pretend I am blameless in the downfall of our relationship.
I am a giver by nature, but I’ve learned that this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
You have to fill your cup. You then give away the overflowing, but you keep a cupful for yourself. ~ Wynonna Judd
Too often, I forget this wise lesson. Instead, I give away everything in my cup until I am left with nothing but a dry, brittle cup. This is something I am still working on and why I know I’m not ready for another romantic relationship yet. I need more practice giving from my overflow and keeping my cup full.
But even more than that, I am working on learning to receive. I think we as women tend to be over-givers (or, in reality, over-doers); we do everything for everyone and then wonder how we got so resentful – or in even worse, sick. That’s what happens when we keep giving from our cups instead of our overflow. In her book Born to Receive, Amanda Owen actually distinguishes between giving and receiving and do-ing and taking. In my relationship with my ex, I was the do-er and he was, for the most part, the taker. This is not a healthy relationship, for obvious reasons. But I can’t blame him for being a taker because I was a do-er, rather than a giver.
Owen explains it like this: in an ideal relationship, there is an equal flow of giving and receiving from both parties. No one feels depleted or resentful because they are both giving from their overflow and allowing their partner to give back to them in return to ensure their cup stays full. In unhealthy relationships, one person tends to do more for the other person at their own expense (that is, they are giving from their cup, not from their overflow) and the other person takes, but does not give much back (so the do-er’s cup never gets replenished). While this may make it seem like the taker is just a jerk, that’s not always the case. People who tend to be do-ers often have a problem receiving. Thus, what could be a giving-receiving relationship becomes a doing-taking relationship because the doer doesn’t know how to receive. Guilty!
Receptivity is a two-fold process for me: 1) I have to ask for what I want, and 2) I have to sit back and allow it to come to me and not try to control how it comes or try to give it back! Case in point, a good friend of mine gave me the $25 she owed me and I tried to give it back to her in case she needed it for something else. But that wasn’t fair to me or to her. My ‘offer’ to give her back what she owed me was, in essence, me rejecting her gift. How would you feel if you gave someone something that was valuable to you and they said “no thanks?” Exactly. Receptivity should benefit both the giver and the receiver. Otherwise, it’s not truly giving from your overflow.
So how do you learn to receive? Step one: you’ve got to learn to ask for what you want/need (note that I said ask, not demand – I’m guilty of getting so resentful that I start demanding rather than asking. A word of advice: demanding doesn’t work!). You can’t expect your partner/friend/mother to be a mind reader. In her book Queen’s Code, Alison Armstrong explains that to get your needs met, you have to know how to ask for what you want. To do this, you have to know exactly what you want and why you want it (in other words, what will it provide for you). Then in the ask, you inform the person from which you want to receive this whatever-it-is what you need and what it will provide for you. This is something I definitely need to work on! Step two: you have to receive this and relinquish control over how it comes to you. For example, if you do the cooking in your household but would rather have your partner do the dishes, you might say, “When I end up doing both the cooking and the dishes, I find myself getting resentful because I feel like my efforts are not valued. I don’t mind cooking dinner every night because I enjoy cooking but I would appreciate it if you would do the dishes for me. By doing the dishes, you make me feel appreciated and valued.” Then you have to let go of how and when the dishes actually get done. Your partner is not you and may not do the dishes to your liking, but getting mad at someone for doing what you asked them to do is not a good way to encourage them to keep doing it in the future! 🙂
Here’s my challenge for myself (and for you, if you’re interested). I am going to practice asking for what I need and receiving it in whatever form it comes in September. We’ll call it the Month of Receptivity Challenge. If you’re up for it, leave a comment and we’ll get a receptivity group going on Facebook!