Tag Archives: reciprocity

Reciprocity 3: Reality Check

When I began this blog, I made a deal with myself to stop pleasing people. http://ourdailycrime.com/letter-of-resignation/   I hope you don’t think this decision led to happily ever after. Aside from a couple of notable exceptions, I’m not making friends and influencing people among my nearest and dearest. Still, I’m determined to grow and heal, whether it pleases others or not.

Lately, though, I’m getting bored with myself. I’m bored with my one-dimensional, civilized blogging. I’m bored with living up to the most mealy-mouthed, simpering word in the English language: Nice. I’m tired of hiding my rage, my passion and myself. This blog lacks vitality. It’s too fucking nice. It’s naïve, in the way women who try too hard are naïve. Women like me.

I can do much more than nice.

So, here’s this week’s post.

Reciprocity is a fine, fancy-sounding concept, but it’s not much use in the real world. The real world is all about Fuck You.

In the real world, men own women; parents own children; addictions, technology and the media own all of us and the biggest narcissists and bullies run the world. The real world runs on the power to control other people. This is because most people can’t control themselves, so naturally they take it out on everyone else. If we’re standing too close, it doesn’t matter who we are. Don’t kid yourself. Child, parent, lover, spouse, oldest and most loyal friend—it all counts for nothing and reciprocity is NOT in the equation.

If you don’t believe this, just look at the way we treat our home, poor old weary Mother Earth. Everything we need is here. Everything is provided. What do we do? Take a crap on her and poison her and then complain because she doesn’t give us enough.

Gratitude? Dream on. Thankfulness? You must be kidding.

Reciprocity, connection, boundaries—sure, sure. But in the real world, if we rise from our sweet-smelling bed every day, brush our teeth with milk and honey, say a cheerful good morning and work as hard as we can at loving and supporting others with the hope we’ll get it back, we’re not very bright. You know what we’ll get back at the end of the day from most people?

Fuck You, that’s what.

Because we’re human. We’re not inexhaustible. We want to be loved, too. And eventually we’ll piss someone off. We’ll say the wrong thing, or we’ll be wearing the wrong color shirt, or (most unforgiveable of all) we’ll forget for a moment that we are not the priority.  That’s when it happens.

An explosion.

Unforgettable words.

A scene.

A thrown dish.

A fat lip.

Fuck You.

And it’ll be our fault, because they haven’t had their coffee yet, or they’re hung over, or they hate the job they’re about to go to, or they didn’t get laid last night, or we’re failing our job to make their world a better place. We disappoint, we have a boundary, we say no, we dare to ask for something, we fail to comply. We make them crazy and we make them treat us like a piece of shit. As far as they’re concerned, we can take our love and shove it up our ass.

And if we’re stupid enough to persist in trying to understand, trying to placate or sympathize with a bad mood or a hard experience, trying to alleviate their pain, then we really will deserve what we get, which will be another

Fuck You.

AND if we think our willingness to forgive and repair will be reciprocated by theirs, if we think taking responsibility for whatever we did wrong (even though we’re clueless about what it was) will cause them to do the same, if we excuse and minimize and tell ourselves they didn’t (couldn’t) mean what they said, then we deserve every name, every accusation, every curse and every blow we take, because we’re stupid, we’re pathetic, we’re in denial and people like that get destroyed.

What is it about “fuck you” we’re failing to understand?

But don’t listen to me, sisters. Go ahead, spread that love around. If you keep demonstrating reciprocity and everything else you want, they’ll get it. They’ll love and value themselves the way you do. They’ll love and value you and your relationship. You’ll be able to make peace, keep it glued together, avoid further catastrophe if you try hard enough.

Sure you will. Good fucking luck with that.

Women like me are in a very small cage made out of niceness. We’re constitutionally unable to do anything but be nice and try harder. We’ve been VERY well trained. We won’t make a scene. We’ll be an adult. We’ll forgive anything. We’ll never take our pain out on someone else, because we don’t want to make someone else feel the anguish we feel. We conspire to prioritize the needs of others. We don’t talk about our own despair and isolation. We don’t blame anyone outside themselves for our difficulties, we just soldier on as well as we can, feeling guilty about our stress and failure and meekly accepting blame for everyone else’s shit and if, one day, we are hurt or frustrated beyond bearing and we DO explode, well, then there’s outrage and injury! Then there are trembling lips and tears! It’s for everyone else to put a needle in their arm, or powder up their nose, or soak their lives in alcohol. It’s everyone else’s right to melt down, lose control, self-destruct, say hateful things and generally behave like 3-year-olds. Women like me are for blaming, forgiving, cleaning up the mess and taking responsibility. We are NOT recipients of forgiveness.

Reciprocity, my ass.

Yeah, reciprocity is great, if you can get it. So’s a good fuck, a great job, a loyal friend, a new Subaru and a vacation in the Bahamas. In the meantime, wake up and live in the real world. Take your finger out, pull up your socks and move on. Live or don’t live. Love or don’t love. Look for reciprocity.  It’s out there.  Some people are adult enough to participate in it.  Never let it go if you find it.  But prepare for

Fuck You.

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Reciprocity 2: What It Is

Last week I talked about balance as a first step to understanding reciprocity. This week I want to refine my focus and discuss the term itself.

A few years ago I was in the car, either listening to an audio book or the radio. I was in the off phase of a painful and confusing on and off relationship. Whoever I was listening to asked the question: “Is he crying about you?”

This was a real Aha! moment for me, because I myself was crying all the time and the answer to the question was no. I didn’t even need to think about it. I’d given him all the power. He was calling the shots. I wanted to be with him but he didn’t want to be with me—at least for the moment.

That was my first introduction to reciprocity. It didn’t come with context, language or tools, but that question was like a piece of grit in my eye and it continues to pop up in all my relationships.

Before we discuss it further, let’s define reciprocity. A 3-second internet search yields: “Exchanging things with others for mutual benefit.” Good enough.

What I understand now is that reciprocity is at the core of healthy connection and relationship. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, it matters. I see the presence of reciprocity as an indicator of equality. No one has power over anyone else. The playing field is level. Giving and receiving happen in balance. We see the needs of others as being as important as our own. Reciprocity is the old Golden Rule in action.

It sounds so easy. In fact, it is easy. A reciprocal relationship is a delight. Trust and respect are present. Drama and trauma are absent. Both parties show up with an intention to create healthy connection. Communication is loving, respectful and honest. Both parties take responsibility for their words, actions and choices. When we walk away from a reciprocal interaction we feel valued, understood, respected and connected—and so does the other party.

Reciprocity in relationships cannot be achieved if both parties are not internally balanced, which is why I started with balance last week. This is like boundaries. If we can’t manage our own boundaries within ourselves, we won’t have effective boundaries with others. If we don’t function well enough to self-care, make choices that reflect our priorities, and control our time and energy in a balanced way, we can’t create healthy, reciprocal relationships.

“Exchanging things with others” is not limited to concrete things. In fact, a commercial exchange doesn’t imply reciprocity at all. Reciprocal exchange means he heats water for my tea while I’m in the shower and I dry his socks in the dryer instead of on the line because he likes them soft. Reciprocity implies an equal but not identical contribution of time, energy, expression and caring. In many ways, it’s a subtle kind of dance. It’s a gift of ourselves to others.

Reciprocity is flexible, affectionate, creative, curious and cooperative. Reciprocity says: “What can I do? What do you need? What would be useful? What would create connection? Reciprocity requires that we allow ourselves to be seen and we’re open to receiving as well as giving. It requires that we communicate about what we want and what we can give.

Sadly, I think many people have never experienced a truly reciprocal relationship with a human being, although many of us have with animals. If that’s true of you, then there’s an important question to explore.

Is it you or is it them?

What’s been true for me is that it’s both. I’ve only lately begun to truly self-care and develop a sense of being valuable in the world. Most of my life has been defined by my sense of failure. What this means is that I’ve been a people pleaser, which is to say inauthentic and without good boundaries and balance. Naturally, that created problems, as well as attracting all kinds of people into my life who were also dysfunctional.

I have no power to change the behavior of others, but I can certainly learn and grow myself. Having language and context for aspects of relationship is enormously helpful. Being able to ask the question “Is he/she crying about me?” forces me to take a wider view and keep an eye on reciprocity. It empowers me.

It’s a great mistake to assume everyone wants reciprocity. I always forget that piece. I can’t quite get my head around the fact that some folks have no desire to be in a relationship like this, but I know it to be true. I can’t explore that effectively, having a great longing for it myself, so I’ll leave that aspect alone, except to note that it’s not effective to make up stories or have expectations and assumptions about another’s desire or intention in this arena. Reciprocity doesn’t exist without mutual consent and a willingness to share power. The good news is that after you run into the absence of reciprocity (for whatever reason) enough times, you stop trying to force it.

It’s also worth noting that there are many different forms of relationship, and lack of reciprocity doesn’t mean there’s no value in the connection. Not at all. The quality of our relationships declare and define themselves pretty quickly, it’s just that sometimes we’re so focused on our determination that things be a certain way, we don’t pause to consider what is actually present—and what is not. Denial is a powerful thing, and we can stay stuck in it for years.

Reciprocity is a high standard. If you decide you want it, many possible relationships will be disqualified in the early stages. On the other hand, if you accept nothing less than reciprocity in close relationships, the ones you do find will be joyful and vibrant, and you won’t have to cry alone in the first place, let alone wonder if your partner is, too.

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted



Reciprocity 1: Balance

This week I want to turn my attention to reciprocity. Again, this subject is much bigger than one blog, so I’m going to break it into smaller pieces, just as I did with boundaries. For me, reciprocity describes a specific aspect of a larger subject: Balance.

Balance is, according to a quick internet search, “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” I’m constantly running into articles, blogs, books, opinions and speakers who talk about balance. It’s an important concept these days:  Balancing family and jobs, balancing creative life with paying-the-bills-life, balancing technology with face-to-face connection, balancing our diet (and our bathroom scales), balancing our exercise, balancing our time and our checkbooks. With so much discussion out there, I wonder why many of us are so remarkably bad at it.

I think finding balance requires two things. The first is clarity—the willingness to look honestly at our lives and our choices. The second is taking responsibility for the fact that we can make choices.

I don’t know a soul who finds either one of these easy, and I also don’t know anyone who always feels great about the balance in their lives, in spite of what they may say.

Note in the definition above the language “correct proportions.” What are the correct proportions? You tell me. Are you happy? Are you healthy? Do you find your life meaningful? Do you enjoy your home, your relationships, your work, a good night’s sleep? If the answer is no, and you want things to be different, I suggest you work with the idea of balance.

It so happens I came across a great exercise for this years ago in a book called Home Sanctuary by Nicole Marcelis. I was just out of an abusive marriage and this book became an important part of reclaiming myself, my life and my home. In it, there’s a chapter on balance.

The exercise asks you to make a pie chart and consider each piece of your life, calculating how much of the pie that piece takes up. Yes, you include sleep. You can make a pie chart for a day, a week, a month, or any increment of time you choose. Then, if you like, you can take each piece of that first pie chart and make another pie chart. If one of your pieces is parenting, for example, you might break parenting down into playtime, laundry time, cooking and food time, taking walks, reading aloud, visiting doctors, etc.

This exercise has absolutely no value (except to let you play with big pieces of paper and crayons) if you’re not willing to do it honestly. I, for example, am a solitaire junkie. I can play solitaire on this laptop for hours. Literally. Whenever I’m upset, or bored, or trying to regulate my feelings, I play solitaire. I feel like it soothes my anxiety when all the cards fall into neat little piles. I tell myself (and others) I’m planning what to write, or making a grocery list or writing an email, but that’s just bullshit. I’m playing solitaire and I’m feeling numb.

A game or two of solitaire is not a problem. I don’t feel ashamed. An hour or two is getting out of control. Three or four hours and I’m hiding it from my family. I do feel ashamed. I have a partner, a blog, a job, and I’m writing a book. I live in a beautiful place and love to be outdoors. What’s up with sitting for hours playing solitaire? Something is wrong. I’m out of balance.

Don’t be a weasel with this. Watching TV with your mate does not count as quality relationship time. Watching TV with your kids is not great parenting time. Don’t lie to yourself about your relationships. Connection time has to be connecting for everyone involved. Family mealtime is nothing but a sham if someone spends it on their tech device or you’re glued to the TV. (No, news isn’t different than a sitcom!) That goes in your tech or TV slice of the pie. You have to come clean with yourself in order to make real changes.

The thing about balance is that it’s dynamic. What’s balance for this day won’t be the same for another day. As we stand upright we’re using countless muscles, nerves and our senses to maintain our balance and proprioception. Balance in our lives is the same way. It’s so easy to get off balance, but the good news is one can regain it nearly as quickly.

But only if you’re willing to be honest and claim your power to make choices.

This exercise is fascinating. What I realized was I didn’t really know what I was doing with my time. When you actually count the hours you spend doing whatever you’re doing, it can be a real eye opener. When you’re finished playing with paper and crayons and you look at your life through the lens of these pie charts, then it’s time for some hard questions. Does the way you choose to spend your time reflect your priorities? If you say your family is your priority and 80% of your pie chart is spent working (yes, commuting counts!), then you’re out of balance and you’re also not being honest. If you love the outdoors and want to be exercising more but you don’t because you’re couch locked in front of the TV, you’re out of balance. (Watching Planet Earth doesn’t count.)

The exercise is entirely flexible. It works with any resource, not just time. For example, you can do it with energy. Is there a connection or relationship in your life that demands all your energy? Are you getting as much as you’re giving? Are there other relationships that nurture and reward you that you’d rather be spending time in, but you can’t because you’ve got this vampire attached to your jugular vein?

How about money? Most of us have budgeted at one time or another. Tell me, friend, how much money do you spend on cigarettes? On drugs? On beer? On shoes? Cable TV? Can you buy food? Are your bills paid? Are you working at a job you hate because you need the money in order to support your habits—and are those habits making you happy and healthy?

We all have the same 24 hours in any given day, and we all choose what to do with those hours. This is not so much about making “right” or “wrong” choices as it is about realizing we are making choices. Nobody makes us watch four hours of TV every evening. If we’re longing to do creative work and we tell ourselves and the world we haven’t time for it, all we’re really saying is we lack the will to make it so. Why not be honest and say we’re too afraid to try, or we’ve given our power to someone else, and they say we can’t, or we’re an addict and our addiction has our power?

If you made a pie chart of the kind of life you want to have, with the perfect balance for your needs, how different would it be from what your life is now?  What needs to happen to make changes?  What can you excise from your present chart in order to free up time/energy/money/life?

Make no mistake, this exercise takes an enormous amount of courage, but the payoff is powerful. I revisit it now and then, just because I like to keep track of what I’m up to, and I want to know my choices are reflecting my priorities. I also note that I’ve told people about this exercise, two who seemed to have no life outside of work and unhappy partners, and one who spent hours of screen time every day, both TV and computer, but talked about doing all kinds of fun things in the real world. I even loaned my book to one of them. None of them had time for clarity, change or choices.

Silly me.

Solitaire, anyone?

All content on this site ©2016
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted