So often in my work we talk of navigating relationships with others. People seem to aspire to a concept of unconditional love. And something in this doesn’t resonate with me. Here is what I add to the dialogue.
First, I love love. I aspire to love with every breath I take. I think of John Lennon “Imagine all the people living life in peace..” I think of Marianne Williamson “Make love your bottom line.” I think of my yoga practice and our end salutation of Namaste – “The light in me honors the light in you”.
This is my version of unconditional love. It makes me look for the good in others, see the good and honor that goodness.
But this isn’t the end of the story. It is unsustainable to love without balance and reciprocity. The balance is self love.
The reciprocity is others matching your love.
Self love, as a therapist, I could say this could be the one biggest thing I see missing in us. The self criticism, low self opinion, the relentless inner critic is rampant and wreaks havoc on people. Where does it come from, perhaps our culture.
Perhaps grading children with numbers and scores, perhaps constant ads bombarding adults telling us we need this “fill in the blank” to be good enough or worthy.
Louise Hay is a pioneer for affirmations, and people may question it, but I say do it! Affirm yourself, tell yourself nice things, and compliments, see your virtues, see what you aspire to and set an intention to add that into who you are.
Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better.” And I truly believe all of us are doing our best. Some days our best is staying in bed, having a pajama day of reading, watching a movie, taking a nap. (That’s a great day by the way for self care, I do that once a month for sure). Some days our best is losing our composure and stepping out of the room for a breath or several hours.
When we watch a baby learning to walk and fall down, it’s so adorable. We cheer and watch the sweet little one take a couple steps, fall down, laugh, smile, get up and repeat. We don’t criticize them or think anything bad of them. Why do we think so bad of ourselves when we fall down? Let’s all laugh, smile, and say something kind like “live and learn” or “It’s all good”. That’s self love.
Now for reciprocity. Relationships are sustained on reciprocity. If you want to give selflessly, great, do that please. But not forever, unless in the form of charitable giving. (Charitable giving is awesome for all of us, and it has guidelines too, biblically it is recommended at 10% and also written not to exceed 20% of your resources).
For relationships which are not charity, we need reciprocity. I teach my clients about “matching”. Matching is seeing what others are giving to you, and keeping your efforts in some approximation of matching theirs. There are times in relationship where one person is up, and the other is down, and then vice versa. It is so great to have a friend you can call when you are down that is there for you, holds compassion, empathy, support, and love for you. These are cherished gems to hold on to. But so often people tell me about a “friendship” where their friend doesn’t reciprocate. They see the relationship is with a person who isn’t reciprocating time and time again. Reciprocity is kind, to others and ourselves.
Match the efforts of others and you will find yourself in healthy, satisfying, mutually beneficial relationships at work, in love, and in friendship. No harm in backing off your efforts. Think of tennis. A nice volley is very delightful.
If you wonder about a friendship, sit down and think about what you give and what they give. Look for some reciprocity over time. If you see little, then back off and give your friend
the chance to give more. If you see yourself taking a lot, make some deposits into the friendship. If you see no reciprocity, it’s ok to move on, let go and make room for letting in more dynamic loving relationships❤