"What if you do thoughtful things for your partner and they show no love or graditude in return?"
Let's explore this somewhat complicated question with more questions:
- At what point is reciprocity expected in a love relationship?
- For how long do we continue to give when we are getting nothing in return?
Why am I doing this?
Sometimes the answer can be surprising. If the answer is "so that I will get something in return" or "so that she/he will..." then it is time to do a little soul searching. Yes, it is human nature to do nice things for others so that in turn they will do nice things for us--this is how a big part of society functions peacefully and politely. But what about giving just for the sake of giving and for no other reason than you know that it will make the other person happy? This is love at a higher level. This is the kind of love that each of us craves in our relationships.
A young couple I saw recently was experiencing conflict in this area. The wife was angry because she had done several very nice, thoughtful things in a short period of time for the husband. He had thanked her at the time and seemed to enjoy it, but as the week went on and he did not reciprocate in kind, she grew more and more irritated and resentful. "I did (this), (this) and (that) for him and he hasn't done one thing for me." The husband was surprised and saddened. He had sincerely appreciated her actions and was planning something special for her but now his feelings of happiness and love for her turned into feelings of obligation--"like I owe her..." and wariness of her motives in the future-- "what am I supposed to do whenever she is being nice to me?" As the wife examined her heart and understood that her actions were not completely altruistic toward her husband but mostly about her and her expectations, she was able to make changes in her attitude the next time she decided to do something "nice".
On the other hand, if you feel that you are doing quite a bit to maintain and grow the relationship and getting very little in return, it is OK to step back (not with meanness or resentment) and allow your partner the opportunity to "miss" your loving actions. Most of the time this is all that is needed for the other "to wake up" and realize all the sweet, kind, loving things you have done and to step in to do more of his or her part. This is a good check and balance system in any relationship to avoid any one partner from feeling taken for granted or that they have made too many "withdrawals" and not received enough "deposits".
Thanks for your thought provoking question EBP! Readers, do you have anything to add?