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  • Fe Robinson

Only offer what you can freely give

So much of human relating is transactional. We live in an economy where most everything has a price. We expect to pay to receive things, and to be paid when we give things away. You might think it has ever been thus; before money we bartered and exchanged, but there was still a transactional element to these exchanges after all.

This is all well and good out there in the economy, but what about in your relationships, your families and friendships? Are these also the domain of transactional exchanges? For health and happiness I hope not. If we are each counting our gives and gets we’re not in the realm of love, we’re in a much less giving space.

And yet, we all from time to time experience a relationship where we seem to give, and give, and give, and little comes back the other way. You may even be in the habit of giving and not notice that a relationship or relationships have become chronically lop-sided. This too is not healthy, love is a mutually felt and expressed thing, when unrequited or abused it’s not love in its true sense. Equally it is not loving to take and take, there are two sides to this coin.

Tell-tale signs of lop-sidedness or transactional relationships include you finding yourself measuring what is being given and received, resenting what it is that you do give when you don’t get what you anticipated in return, or expecting things and resenting not getting them. When you notice these things it’s a good signal that reflection is needed. What is the basis of the relationship? What are your feelings? How are you expressing them? How does the other feel and how are they expressing those feelings? Is this healthy? Is it balanced?

A useful rule of thumb in relationship is to offer only what you can freely offer, without expectation. You may still often put yourself out and make choices to prioritise the other, but you do this because you genuinely and congruently want to, not because you have to. Likewise, it’s healthy to appreciate what the other can offer, not to expect what they are not able to give. When you approach relating these ways, there is no resentment to build, because nothing is insisted on in return for what is offered. This leaves you free to notice the dynamics that are arising, to notice what is offered and how without agenda.

In this spirit of acceptance and love, far more is generally shared, offered and received, it is a generative space. Most times this free giving offers space to delight in the mutuality of love and regard. You can enjoy the gifts freely given to you, delight in your own unfettered giving, and experience the increased energy you both get when you engage. Where this virtuous cycle is not in play, again, time to reflect, to dialogue and explore, to experiment, and perhaps even to depart.

Feelings are messages, letting us know our holistic response to what is happening to us. Welcome them, listen, explore and appreciate them. Back in the day, way before we had our very human sense of transactions and trades, they were all the information we had on which to survive.


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