The Importance of Reciprocity in Friendships

12/30/2017 01:26 am ET

I am a giver and an empathic person. I love taking care of people in my life and often place their needs above my own to my own detriment. Sometimes (in friendships and romance) this results in me being self-sacrificial. I don’t mean to do this, but I just love making people happy and seeing them achieve their dreams; that brings me joy. The trouble is when there is an imbalance in the friendship and I don’t realize at first. Sometimes I will do many kind things for a friend and they are gracious and appreciative. Those are the friends who I value and adore, because they love me and acknowledge my kindness. They see who I am and they love me for me as much as I love them for them.

On the other hand, there have been friendships where I am giving so much of myself and I’m not getting much in return. All it takes is for the person to be grateful and show me that they care. I don’t want anyone to throw a parade for me, I just want my friends to show me that they love and appreciate me. And it’s not about gifts or favors, that isn’t what makes me feel valued. What makes me know that I am loved by a friend is when they go out of their way to tell me that I’m valuable to them, they show loyalty to me, and they carve out time to spend with me. One of the most important ways to have a close friendship is to spend time with one another sharing stories, telling deep dark secrets and laughing about inside jokes you share together. I also am particular about the people I get close to, because I am a weird person and it takes me time to feel like I can truly be myself with people, especially because of my idiosyncrasies. I’m not labeling myself, necessarily, but I am definitely quirky.

When a friend doesn’t match my efforts in the friendship, it makes me feel resentful and sad. I feel devalued in the relationship and it has nothing to do with my inherent value as a person, this is specific to this dynamic. When a person doesn’t make an effort to show you that they care about you, the friendship starts feeling one-sided. I’ve experienced this personally and I’m never sure what the “right” thing to do is in these sort of relationships. I suppose the best thing I can do is to stop giving so much of myself in a relationship where I’m not getting back the same level of care and concern in return, but that’s easier said than done.

As I mentioned, I care deeply about people and when I have to stop that and fight against my nature it feels “wrong.” Yet, I don’t want to be taken advantage of either. So I’m not sure what the solution is. I’m making a conscious effort to assess the balance of each of my friendships. The most healthy friendships are ones where there is reciprocity.

What about you? Do you give “too much” in friendships or do you feel your relationships are balanced?

Healthy friendships are reciprocal.
Unsplash 2017
Healthy friendships are reciprocal.
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