Marriage: Givers, Takers, and Other Kinds of Lovers
Life is relationships. You spend part of every day with someone. Learning how to relate well to others is the most important developmental task we all must master. Get this right and you have the potential to enjoy your life fully. Get this wrong and you will spend a ton of time alone and isolated, devalued and distanced, unhappy and unloved. Why?
Because so much of our daily activity and emotion centers on people. They mean the most to us…boyfriends and girlfriends, parents and children, and husbands and wives. These are our special people; they preoccupy our time, engage our hearts, and define our lives.
And the secret to life is to be a master of relationships while being a servant of people. How so?
Through 3 decades of coaching, counseling and consulting in the area of marriage and family, I have observed that there are 3 core styles of interaction. Simply put; they are givers, takers and the other kind of lovers, which I call relaters. Let me explain.
Givers are those who by disposition or choice put others before themselves. Their mantra is “I am here for YOU!” It is commendable to want what’s best for the other person…a valued characteristic today. The Bible says it is better to give than to receive, right? After all, self-denial is so rare. I have said for years that you haven’t begun to live until you begin living your life for other people. Keep putting others first. But I have seen a danger in this orientation when you take it too far. When self-denial becomes askew, you can under value your opinion, stifle your feelings, and deny your needs. You cancel yourself, lose sight of fair boundaries and may feel responsible to keep everyone happy. Wrong. This is not a balanced way to live though it is often seen as noble. The problem is that you have become compliant, subservient, and too accommodating. By not being true to who you are, in time the real you disappears or becomes resentful. You may have lost you.
Takers, much easier to spot, are those who by nature or by design put themselves before others. Their perspective is clear, “You are here for ME!” Life revolves around them no different than the newborn that has no choice but to cry and manipulate to get their way. We all have to grow beyond this. Life isn’t about YOU. Go figure. Takers have what I like to call “ingrown eyeballs” – they see only their wants, whims and wishes! They are blind to the concerns of others. They are often ‘blamers’. It’s always someone else’s fault. This self-centered style sees those close to them as pawns on their chessboard that can be controlled, moved around at will, and even find expendable. By using people – being a taker – you remove any real chance of deep connectedness or lasting happiness. You end up driving away those closest to you… your friends and family. The Bible warns us about this selfishness. Remember this? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3,4).
This is the “Other” kind of lover. Relaters choose to work hard together to make the “me” into “we”. The tune is simply “I am here for US!” It’s a duet where each simultaneously seeks to meet the others needs. It’s a relational version of “Dancing with the Stars” where the real winners always work in synch and balance and bring the best out of each other. They are moving in step to see who can love and serve the best. It is giving your life to meet the needs of the other without out denying or downplaying your own needs. It’s giving full respect while maintaining self-respect. It is loving others as you love and value yourself. Jesus said that. Each takes responsibility to both care and to share; to understand and to unveil; to seek to know as much as be known. Like two rivers coming together, within a few miles their uniqueness is almost indistinguishable. It’s the thrill and the challenge of two becoming one, another amazing challenge. It’s not the cancelling of one. It’s two people negotiating, complementing, and strengthening the relationship at all costs. It is relational mutuality.
The choice is yours…a giver, a taker or the other kind of lover. Choose wisely. But remember, you’ll never regret doing relationships right… God’s way. I look forward to hearing your comments!
© Dr. Dave Currie – July 2013