Do you do things for your children without them even asking & feel anger at them when they still do not show gratitude? Do you help your loved ones and then feel deeply insulted when they act out? Do you help others to make yourself feel better about yourself? Do you give relentlessly from an empty pot in order to please your boss only to feel resentful when you start to feel walked on?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions then a) you are probably human & b) 9 times out of 10 you have entered into an imaginary emotional contract that you have created upon the moment you decided to give them something with a subconscious expectation of receiving something in return.
In any type of relationship, if you give anything (love, time, material gifts etc) with the subconscious expectation of receiving something in return (love, time, material gifts etc) then it is very likely that unless you have previously agreed that there would be an exchange with the person receiving, you could be disappointed.
An example may be that when you relentlessly give to your boss beyond your own usual boundaries hoping that they will reward you & then in fact they do not thank you or even take it for granted, your reaction is “How dare they?!!! I worked my butt off for them and this is how they thank me?”
Another example is that you may think that you are subconsciously securing love by giving lots out through gifts or treating the other. Then when that person perhaps has a change of heart, doesn’t feel their deeper needs met or simply acts out against your boundaries, then you might feel betrayed & feel as if they have been ungrateful.
Giving with the expectation of receiving is like entering into a business contract. Only in this instance we have set up the terms without allowing the other person to see them and signing it on their behalf. In business this would be illegal and simply would not wash. However, for some reason, in the world of relationships people can willingly bind the other into an invisible contract that they did not even agree to, or were even aware of. Then when the other does not abide with the invisible terms of the contract, the giver can feel wronged and upset.
There are a few useful things here to examine within ourselves before giving.
- What is it I am giving to this person for?
- What do I hope to achieve through this giving?
- What will it feel like when I give to them?
- Although in my world, this shows my love and devotion, does this feel like an important need has been met for them?
- Am I aware of their needs and wants?
- Does this violate my own wants and needs?
- Am I doing this to feel some sort of validation?
If you are giving anything to receive validation, love, approval etc. then do not give because what you do give will come with an imaginary emotional contract which is very likely to leave you feeling the scorned one.
If you are giving and it violates your own needs and wants then again, do not give. You will resent yourself and that person. Do not waste energy, instead find a different way to show your affections.
If you are in a relationship where you are giving but you don’t actually know their needs and desires, then before you start expending valuable energy then make sure it is to something that the other values. For example, the other communicates that one of their top needs is to have intimate time every day, material possessions are very unimportant to them. You buy them a watch & feel great (because these are in fact your needs) but they actually only really want kisses and hugs because that makes them feel good & hey presto you have yourself a bit of a stinky situation because again, you haven’t lied out the terms of the contract.
Of course you do not always know the needs and wants of the other. However, in these situations, it is always best to say that you are not sure how what they value, but you want to show them affection/give them something because it feels good for you to see them happy.
When giving it is really best to give simply because it feels good for you to see that person feeling good. In the yoga world we often do acts of devotion and service but never for self interest. This is a pure intention from the heart.
Giving with pure intention is the most wonderful gift when it comes from the heart, without expectations and with a real sense of enjoyment for what it gives to the person receiving. Next time you want to give, do it because it feels good to see someone happy and content. Do not waste your energy blindly and especially if it is not from a place of fullness, contentment and love.