I've come to a realization this year (one of many). I have realized that I am one of those people you could call a "giver." I tend to do most of the giving in my relationships, whether they be family, friends, whatever. I've always been that way. It gives me a sense of purpose and makes me happy to better the lives of other people in any way I can.
But that's not always a good thing...
It is a good thing when the giving is reciprocated and/or appreciated. When it's a two-way street. But if it's not, and your giving is going into a black void, then it becomes a draining, daunting, disappointing situation.
Let's say you have a friend, and you've known her since high school. You two have lots of great memories together, have had tons of laughs, great "girls night outs" and happy times, and any time she's ever needed anything, be it a listening ear or someone to watch her pets while she was out of town or somebody to hang out with when she was lonely, you were always there to happily fit the bill. But over time, you began to notice that whenever you needed that same listening ear, or company when you were down, etc., that friend was very rarely, if ever, there to reciprocate.
It's hard to break that sort of thing because it requires an acknowledgement on your part that the friendship was and is one-sided. It can be painful to admit that if you stopped the giving, your friend would all but disappear. So we tend to hang on. We hold tight to those people because we don't want to know that we were simply serving some use to them. That makes us have to face the fact that the relationship wasn't really a healthy exchange between two whole people; it was one person giving and one person taking.
So we lie to ourselves. We continue to completely drain ourselves in a dark, overwhelming ocean, and then we swim to the surface to take a breath. Then, while we're above the murky waters, we soon sense the absence of the person, and that makes us sad. So we dive back in. We start to give again, if only to make that person happy so she'll return to us.
But it just winds us up in the same, damaged spot, leaving us in a confused lurch whenever we require reciprocation of our time and energy.
I can count on one hand the people I can truly rely on. And you can bet the bank that they can rely on me, too. I wish it were different--I wish I had a dozen people I could really label as "friend." But most of them, even family I grew up with from childhood, are only takers.
When two people can truly be there for one another at all times, not just the bad, not just the good, but through it all, then you have a rare gift. Sometimes it's the people who wouldn't immediately come to mind who are your true "besties." People like my mother come to mind. She is someone who has been there for me since birth, and so often I take her for granted. But I know if she were to leave this world, I would be truly devastated. I would feel a real loss. So I try to make sure I don't take her for granted and that I do all I can to give love back to her.
As I've gotten older, I've also found my new friendships to be quite short-lived because I notice the signs of someone who is a taker very quickly, and I recognize when the flow of energy is off. These people I quickly place on the back burner until they decide to give in return. Most of them stay there indefinitely.
It's not a matter of being selfish. People like me are notorious for feeling guilty about being selfish when we decide to stop giving to takers. But it's not selfish. It's giving to yourself because you recognize yourself as an amazing person who is worthy of receiving just as much energy as you put out. Yes, it's hard. But you've gotta shake off the guilt and start living! And the best way to do that is to make a promise to yourself that you'll give, but you won't give too much or be the only one giving, and you'll nurture those relationships that are truly two-way streets.