LEARNING HOW TO RECEIVE
For some of us, it is really hard to receive. We are way more comfortable being the giver, the caretaker, the one who puts everyone else’s needs first. So when someone offers us a gift, a compliment or help, it makes us feel uncomfortable. We may even reject the gift, saying “it wasn’t necessary to get me anything”. We may deflect the compliment and return the attention to the giver: “that’s not true, but I think you are looking great today”. By brushing away the gifts that others offer us in our relationships, we create an obstacle to intimate and fulfilling relationships.
What makes relationships fulfilling for both partners is what I call the giving-and-receiving dance. In this dance, both partners have equal importance. This means that both partners have a voice, both partners have needs they need fulfilled, and both partners have gifts they can offer. The dance is simple.
Step one: each partner voices their needs as a request.
“Will you dance with me?” has many forms. In a marriage, it could be:
- “Will you take me on a date this week?”
- “Will you surprise me with a gift?”
- “Will you take the kids so I can have some time alone?”
- “Will you compliment my cooking?”
- “Will you give me a passionate kiss as you walk through the door?”
We all have needs that can only be fulfilled by another person. But our needs are not always the same. Expecting another person to know what needs are important to you or assuming that you and your partner have exactly the same needs does not work. In any relationship, we have to be aware of our needs and then ask for our partner to fulfill it.
Step two: each partner is given an opportunity to respond.
The response we all deeply desire is “yes, of course I will dance with you”. In an ideal relationship, your partner is equipped with the skills, knowledge and desire to fulfill your needs. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes there isn’t time to dance right now. Sometimes, your partner does not know the dance moves and instead offers excuses:
- “I have no idea where to take you on a date. You pick somewhere.”
- “If there’s something you really want, why can’t you just buy it yourself?”
- “I have had a tough week at work. I really don’t have the time or the energy to take the kids off your hands.”
- “I’d tell you if I didn’t like your cooking. No complaints is a compliment!”
- “You know I am not the touchy-feely type.”
I think that for some of us, we are so used to not having our needs fulfilled, we have learnt that it is safer not to ask. We may have also learnt to believe that the reason our needs have not been met in the past is because something is defective about us in some way. So we put our energy into taking care of everyone else’s needs, hoping that one day we will have our needs met but deeply believing we are not good enough.
If someone does offer to fulfill a need, we are so used to taking care of everyone else and denying our own needs, we reject it. In doing so, we set up relationships in which the giving-and-receiving dance is off. We are the only ones doing the giving and our dance partner (whether it is a lover, friend, or family member) is the sole receiver. While this is great for our dance partner as their needs are met, it is exhausting and unfulfilling for us.
The acknowledgement that you may find it hard to receive is the start of a journey towards more fulfilling relationships. It is so important that you also get a break, regenerate yourself and discover your own needs. Now it is time for you to learn how to receive.