Giving to Get Something

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned in my life is not to be my mother. Most women idolize their mothers and want to be just like them, but not me.

For the 25 years that my parents have been married, my mother continually has expected to receive something every time she gives something. This pattern extends beyond her marriage and into her relationships with those around her as well. For example, if I visit and she picks me up from the airport, then she expects me to clean her house – which is usually in great need.

This behavior is very common today. We hear couples constantly complaining about how they did XYZ for their partner, and they expected more in return. This mentality creates a scoring game in your relationship. It also sets a bad precedent. Like everything that you do for your partner has no ulterior motive. Maybe you do something nice because you want to make a big purchase, or because you want to go out on the town, or because you’re just hoping that they will get you something that you want.

But relationships are about doing something to get something. They should be about doing something because it’s what you want to do. One of the ways that I have broken this particular habit in my life is by focusing on love languages. My boyfriend’s two primary love languages are gifts and physical touch. Mine are quality time and physical touch. When it comes to gifts, I do spend quite a bit of money on him. Someone once said to me how can you spend $500 on basketball tickets or $300 on a watch when he doesn’t give you anything in return?

My simple response was: it’s not about the money or the gift.

Doing something for your partner should be about doing it because it’s what you want to do because you know it will make them happy. And you should expect nothing in return. I can’t get excited over basketball tickets or watch, but he can. I get excited about a weekend together where we are not interrupted by the constant ringing of his phone from his work. It doesn’t cost anything, but it means the world to me. As a result of the way we both meet each other’s needs, we are happier, and we are not keeping score.

Relationships should be a competition, and they shouldn’t be about exploiting what you can do for your partner to get them to do something for you. In order to remove this particular habit from your relationship, you should start by identifying each other’s love languages and accepting them. There was a time when I was the woman who wanted to know why no one ever got me gifts like I got them. But the reality is that gifts don’t really matter to me. As soon as I accepted that, I stopped expecting that I should get something for everything that I gave. And I’m much happier for it.

The second step is to communicate better about what your needs are in a relationship. We shouldn’t feel like we have to make a big purchase so we can go out for a night on the town with her girlfriends. Instead of using this as your platform for getting what you want, simply talk about what you want and need. Couples who communicate better about their needs, such as time with friends, figuring out how to fit a new hobby into their budget, or even just personal time alone, are longer and happier in the long run.

Making this simple change in your relationship might not seem like a big deal, but it can have big results. Don’t let your relationship be all about giving to get. Let it be about doing the things that you love and that make your partner more in love with you. Once you remove that stigma that comes with gifts, you’ll discover how much less stress and more happiness you can surely have when you’re in love.